Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Philippart to Thomas Jefferson, 17 February 1819

From John Philippart

Military Library, Whitehall, London 17th February 1819.


I trust my motive will be received by your Excellency as an excuse for this intrusion. I am desirous of recording authentic accounts of the most distinguished Princes, Statesmen, Public and Literary Characters of every Country in the same manner as I have written those of all the British Generals in my Work the Royal Military Calendar and in other publications which I have Edited. From the plan of the undertaking those individuals who afford assistance for the purpose of rendering it accurate cannot be regarded as their own Historiographers which would be objectionable.1 They simply narrate facts and leave the colouring to the Editor. If therefore you would be so obliging as to direct my being supplied with a sketch of your career I should have the greatest pleasure in paying to it every attention, and observe the utmost confidence towards the communication. It is my wish to accompany the Memoirs by such Documents and Papers as you may consider essential to the full accomplishment of the object I have in view: and also to embellish the Work with a correct Portrait of your Excellency if I can be honoured and obliged with one.

Should this meet your Excellency’s attention I will do myself the honor of communicating further on the subject.

I should be further obliged if your Excellency would be so obliging as to direct your reply and papers as you may be inclined to honor me with to be forwarded by a private hand or under a cover to your Embassy in this Country—

I have the honor to be With every consideration Sir Your most obedient humble Servant
John Philippart
Attached to the Establishm.
of HRH the Duke of Kent

RC (DLC); with signature and internal address in a different ink; at head of text: “Private”; at foot of text: “His Excellency Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 May 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

John Philippart (ca. 1784–1875), author, was born in London and received a military education as a young man. After working for a time in a solicitor’s office, he served as private secretary to John Baker Holroyd, 1st Baron Sheffield, 1809–11, and briefly thereafter as a War Office clerk. Philippart became a knight of the Swedish orders of Gustavus Vasa and the Polar Star in 1809 and 1813, respectively. He was elected a knight of the order of the hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem in 1830 and was the organization’s chancellor, 1831–75. One of the founders in 1856 of a dispensary that later became the West London Hospital, Philippart helped oversee its growth and development during his final decades. Although the work proposed above never apparently made its way into print, he was prolific as an author. Philippart wrote or compiled numerous pamphlets and reference works on the British army, including The Royal Military Calendar (London, 1815, and later eds.), Memoirs of Field-Marshal His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (London, 1819), and The East India Military Calendar (London, 1823–26). He died near London (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; Frederic Boase, Modern English Biography [1892–1921], 2:1494; The Knightage of Great Britain and Ireland [1841], xiv, 193; Illustrated London News 67 [1875]: 119).

Philippart sent almost identical letters to Henry Clay and John Adams on 30 Nov. and 7 Dec. 1818, respectively (Clay, Papers description begins James F. Hopkins and others, eds., The Papers of Henry Clay, 1959–92, 11 vols. description ends , 2:605–6; MHi: Adams Papers).

1Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; biographical materials requested from search
  • books; biographical search
  • books; biographical on TJ search
  • Clay, Henry; biographical materials requested from search
  • Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; biographies of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Portraits; requested from search
  • London; U.S. mission at search
  • Philippart, John; editsThe Royal Military Calendar search
  • Philippart, John; identified search
  • Philippart, John; letter from search
  • Philippart, John; requests biographical materials search
  • The Royal Military Calendar (ed. J. Philippart) search