Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert I. Evans to Thomas Jefferson, 3 June 1819

From Robert I. Evans

Philada June 3. 1819.

Honoured Sir,

Deeply impressed with a sense of the dreadful atrocity of Slavery and it’s eventual evil consequences to the prosperity and happiness of the Nation, I am endeavouring with a consciousness of my inability to do that justice to the subject which its great importance demands to call the attention of the American People to it, through the medium of the National Intelligencer under the assumed signature of “Benjamin Rush.”

Knowing from your Notes on Virginia as well as from the whole tenour of your publick life what your sentiments on the subject are, I have taken the liberty of soliciting from you such hints relative to a plan for it’s total abolition as may have occurred to you in your reflections on the subject which you may suppose calculated to promote this great object. I am aware of your advanced age and your increasing love of retirement but hope the great importance of the subject will plead my excuse.

Entirely unknown to you and to the world, but convinced of the importance of your opinions, and beleiving with the rest of the american family that they are the property of your country, as one of them I feel a proportionate interest and have ventured to make this request.

If this application should be considered as impertinent be pleased to consign it to oblivion and seek for my excuse in the motive which has given rise to it—

With profound respect and gratitude for your services to your country.

I am your fellow citizen

Robert I. Evans

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 13 June 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (CSmH: JF); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to William Munford, 17 Oct. 1820, on verso; addressed: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson late President of the United States Monticello Va.” by “mail”; stamp canceled; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 3 June.

Robert I. Evans (1785–1822), merchant, was born in Philadelphia and apprenticed to a mercantile house by 1806. He partnered with Cadwalader Evans by 1811 as a flour merchant. In addition to writing pseudonymous antislavery pieces for the Washington Daily National Intelligencer in 1819, Evans was a founder and manager of Philadelphia’s Apprentices’ Library in 1820 and contributed financially to the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb the same year (Gwynedd Monthly Meeting, Society of Friends, Birth and Death Register, 60 [PSC-Hi]; Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for the Northern District, Society of Friends, Minutes [1804–12], 156 [PHC]; James Robinson, The Philadelphia Directory for 1811 [(Philadelphia, 1811)], 111; Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 9 Mar. 1811, 31 July 1822; Pennsylvania Library Notes 6 [July 1913]: 5–6; An Account of the Origin and Progress of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb [Philadelphia, 1821], 31; PHi: Vaux Family Papers; Evans’s estate settlement and inventory papers [Philadelphia Register of Wills], Administration file 190 [1822]).

On 22 and 29 May 1819 the Washington Daily National Intelligencer printed Evans’s letters signed as benjamin rush and arguing against slavery and its expansion, followed by over a dozen more appearing as late as 24 Nov. of that year.

On this day Evans sent similar letters to John Adams and James Madison (MHi: Adams Papers; Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 1:464–5).

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and antislavery movement search
  • Evans, Robert I.; identified search
  • Evans, Robert I.; letters from search
  • Evans, Robert I.; on abolition of slavery search
  • Evans, Robert I.; writings of, as “Benjamin Rush” search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; emancipation of slaves search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); opinion of sought search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); prints antislavery writings search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); and slavery search
  • slavery; opposition to search