Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Binns to Thomas Jefferson, 27 July 1819

From John Binns

Philada July 27–1819.


I have the honor, by this mail, to send for your inspection a proof of a Splendid edition of the Declaration of Indepe[n]dence for which I issued proposals more than three years ago and which I have had under the graver all that time. It is, as you will perceive not yet finished. Over the portrait of Genl Washing[ton] is to be engraved the Arms of the United States. The vacant me[dals] are to be filled with the Arms of the States of which the names a[re] engraved on them. The name of the author of the Declaration is not yet completed nor is the certificate engraved of the Secretary of State of the United States as to the correctness of the copy of the Declaration & the accuracy of the Signatures. when these things shall be engraved the plate, according to my plan, will be finished. I respectfully ask of you any suggestion as to any improvement you may deem advisable. It shall receive from me the most respectful consideration and I shall not hesitate, from any regard to expence, to adopt it. I have thought it best to dedicate the plate to the People of the United States. My reasons are many & I doubt not that you will approve of the principles which prompted me thus to dedicate to the people rather than to any individual however connected with the instrument, however gifted or however respectable & respected. The first complete copy of the Declar[. . .] which shall be printed I shall send as a small, but sincere testimonial of my esteem & veneration for its author.

I have the honor to be Sir,
With sentiments of Esteem & Respe[ct] Your fellow Citizen

John Binns.

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Binns; edge torn; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Aug. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, on deposit ViU: TJP); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Charles Vest, 29 Nov. 1820, on verso; addressed in the same clerk’s hand (trimmed): “[. . .] Jefferson Esqr [. . .] of the United States [. . .] Bedford Springs Pennsa”; address partially canceled and redirected in an unidentified hand to “Montecello [. . .]lle [. . .] Cty”; franked.

John Binns (1772–1860), editor, was born in Dublin, Ireland. He moved to London in 1794 and was arrested multiple times for activities associated with his political radicalism. In 1801 Binns immigrated to Pennsylvania and settled in Northumberland with other British political dissenters, including Joseph Priestley and Thomas Cooper. There he established and edited the Republican Argus, 1802–07. In the latter year Binns moved to Philadelphia and established the Democratic Press, a prominent newspaper in state politics that he edited for more than two decades. However, his longstanding, vehement opposition to Andrew Jackson eventually lost him much of his political influence, and he discontinued the publication in 1829. Binns and Benjamin O. Tyler argued publicly in 1818 over the quality and priority of their competing engravings of the Declaration of Independence. Binns served as a Philadelphia alderman, 1822–44. He published a manual for Pennsylvania justices of the peace in 1840 and an autobiographical memoir in 1854. Binns died in Philadelphia (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Binns, Recollections of the Life of John Binns [1854]; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 2:886, 901; Binns to TJ, 13 Apr. 1804 [DNA: RG 59, MLRPL]; Tyler, Declaration of Independence. A candid statement of Facts, in answer to an unwarrantable denunciation of my publication of the Declaration of American Independence, Made by Mr. John Binns … In his Paper of the 9th and 18th of April, 1818 [Washington, 1818]; Binns, Binns’s Justice. Digest of the Laws and Judicial Decisions of Pennsylvania, touching the authority and duties of Justices of the Peace [1840]; Philadelphia Public Ledger, 18 June 1860).

The unfinished proof of the Binns print of the Declaration of Independence that he sent TJ at this time has not been found. For the final version of the print, see TJ to John Barnes, 23 Mar. 1820, and note.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John Quincy; as secretary of state search
  • Binns, John; identified search
  • Binns, John; letter from search
  • Binns, John; publishes Declaration of Independence search
  • Declaration of Independence; published search
  • Declaration of Independence; TJ as author of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books and Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Declaration of Independence search
  • Washington, George; portraits of search