Thomas Jefferson Papers

Ezra Stiles Ely to Thomas Jefferson, 14 June 1819

From Ezra Stiles Ely

Philadelphia June 14th, 1819.

Venerable Man,

Permit a young Philosopher, to present a veteran with a copy of his “Conversations on the Science of the Human Mind.” If you have leisure to read the little book, which I send you through the mail, I hope it will afford you some philosophical recreation. Were you not continually plagued with such things, I should solicit the expression of your opinion upon it.

Possibly it may be of some use, to the already celebrated University, of which you are the father. I am, dear Sir, a Presbyterian, a Calvinist, and a man of common sense: I can, therefore, respect and esteem a literary man, of distinguished talents, & usefulness to his country, however I may differ from him, even in important theological opinions.

Ezra Stiles Ely.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 20 June 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Peter S. Du Ponceau, 28 Dec. 1820, on verso; addressed: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson, Esq. Monticello, Albemarle Co. Virginia”; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 14 June. Enclosure: Ely, Conversations on the Science of the Human Mind (Philadelphia, 1819; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 9 [no. 458]).

Ezra Stiles Ely (1786–1861), Presbyterian clergyman and author, was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, and graduated in 1804 from Yale College (later Yale University). In 1806 he was ordained as the pastor of a small church in Colchester, Connecticut. Ely moved to New York City in 1810 to serve as chaplain to a hospital and almshouse (later known as Bellevue Hospital). Four years later he was installed as pastor of the Pine Street (or Third) Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, serving until 1835. Ely was the stated clerk of the Presbyterian General Assembly, 1825–36, its moderator in 1828, and author or editor of over a dozen religious works. Named a trustee of Jefferson Medical College in 1826, the following year he was instrumental in securing land and erecting a new building crucial to the Philadelphia school’s survival. Ely had become friendly with Andrew Jackson but earned his displeasure in 1829 when he wrote to the president criticizing the recent marriage of Secretary of War John H. Eaton and Margaret O’Neale Timberlake. Ely relayed injurious allegations regarding the young woman that were central to what became known as the Peggy Eaton Affair. In 1835 he moved to Marion County, Missouri, where he invested most of his wealth in a failed missionary attempt to found a Presbyterian city, college, and theological seminary. Ely eventually returned permanently to Philadelphia, where he served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in the Northern Liberties, 1844–52 (Dexter, Yale Biographies description begins Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, 1885–1912, 6 vols. description ends , 5:647–51; A Sermon, delivered by Ezra Stiles Ely, on the First Sabbath after his Ordination [Hartford, 1806]; Hughes Oliphant Gibbons, A History of Old Pine Street [1905], 175–97; Alfred Nevin, History of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, and of the Philadelphia Central [1888], 188–90, 304–5; James F. Gayley, A History of the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia [1858], 16–8; Jackson, Papers description begins Sam B. Smith, Harold D. Moser, Daniel Feller, and others, eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 1980– , 10 vols. description ends , esp. 7:101–4, 113–8; Curtis Dahl, “The Clergyman, the Hussy, and Old Hickory: Ezra Stiles Ely and the Peggy Eaton Affair,” Journal of Presbyterian History 52 [1974]: 137–55; Jim Boulden, “Betting on Land in Missouri: A Family Story,” New England Ancestors 10 [summer 2009]: 34–7; Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 June 1861).

Index Entries

  • books; on psychology search
  • Conversations on the Science of the Human Mind (E. S. Ely) search
  • Ely, Ezra Stiles; Conversations on the Science of the Human Mind search
  • Ely, Ezra Stiles; identified search
  • Ely, Ezra Stiles; letter from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books and Library; works sent to search
  • psychology; works on search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; TJ as founder of search