Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel B. T. Caldwell to Thomas Jefferson, 31 July 1819

From Samuel B. T. Caldwell

Leesburg Va July 31. 1819

Respected and venerable sir

Understanding that a printer will be wanted, when the central college at Charlottsville goes into operation, for the benefit or convenience of the institution, and not knowing to whom I could so well apply for correct information on the subject, as to yourself, I would beg leave to solicit you for such information as will enable me to assertain what encouragement would probably be held out in your county for a printing office and Bookstore. Would a weekly paper, literary or political, find adequate support? Is there a bookstore in or near Charlottsville? If not—would that be an elegible situation for a small establishment of that kind?

I am at present the editor and proprietor of a weekly paper, established here under the auspices of the late worthy and distinguished patriot and statesman, Gen. Armistead T. Mason, entitled the “Genius of Liberty,” to which I have added the book and stationary business. Since the unfortunate death of my worthy friend, Gen. M. I had resolved on moving to the western country; but, incidentally hearing that there will be a favourable opening for my business in Charlottsville, when the college goes into operation, and learning that the present pecuniary distress of our otherwise highly favoured country, bears with peculiar force upon our brethren west of the Allegany, I have resolved upon embracing that or the first opportunity that may offer for the enlargement of my business.

By giving me such information as may be necessary, or such as you may possess, without putting yourself to any particular trouble, you will confer a special and lasting favor upon one whose prayer will ever be offered for your peace and happiness

Perhaps I ought to apologize for thus abruptly breaking in upon the repose and tranquility of your declining years, with a subject in which you are so little interested; but, sir, I have nothing to offer, except the anxiety of a young man (just entering the world with limited means) to establish himself in a situation where he may reap the honest reward of his labors.

Should you not find it convenient to give the desired information, perhaps you can refer me to some one from whom I could derive it

Satisfactory testimonials of family, character and ability to conduct the business in which I engage will be furnished, so soon as it is determined that such an establishment is wanted & would be encouraged

Accept, Sir, the assurance of my highest esteem and most sincere regard

S. B. T. Caldwell

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 9 Aug. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Wilson Cary Nicholas, 11 Aug. 1819, on verso; addressed: “Hon. Thomas Jefferson, late President of the U States Monticello Albemarle, Va.”; redirected in an unidentified hand to “Poplar Forrest Bedford”; franked; postmarked (faint) Leesburg, [ ] Aug., and Charlottesville, 8 Aug.

Samuel B. T. Caldwell (1792–1866), printer, public official, and miller, was a native of New Hampshire who advertised his “Tayloring and Habit and Police [i.e., Pelisse] Making” business in Bedford in that state in 1809. He afterwards spent time as a legal clerk and a teacher in Newburyport, Massachusetts, before moving by 1816 to Leesburg. The next year Caldwell operated a book and stationery store there and worked as a printer, publishing a newspaper, the Genius of Liberty, until 1819. From 1827 to 1830 and again beginning in 1832, he served as the postmaster of Woodgrove in Loudoun County, and he represented the county in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1830–32. From 1839 until 1843 Caldwell owned a ferry and operated a tavern in Clarke County, and in 1848 he purchased a mill in Loudoun. He was listed in the 1850 census as a Loudoun County merchant owning real estate valued at $8,000, and ten years later he was described as a miller with real and personal property worth $22,050 combined (Caldwell diaries, 1811–20 [ViLeTBL]; Concord New-Hampshire Patriot, 19 Sept. 1809; Joseph H. Bragdon, comp., A Report of the Proceedings on the occasion of the Reception of the Sons of Newburyport Resident Abroad, July 4th, 1854 [1854], 98–9; Leesburg Genius of Liberty, 17 June 1817; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 2:1117; Axelson, Virginia Postmasters description begins Edith F. Axelson, Virginia Postmasters and Post Offices, 1789–1832, 1991 description ends , 115; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends , 356, 360; Clarke Co. Ordinary Bond Book [1836–52]; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1846–47 sess.], 73 [8 Jan. 1847]; Loudoun Co. Deed Book, 5A:223–4; DNA: RG 29, CS, Loudoun Co., 1850, 1860; Leesburg Mirror, 4 Apr. 1866; gravestone inscription in Leesburg Presbyterian Church Cemetery).

Index Entries

  • Caldwell, Samuel B. T.; as printer search
  • Caldwell, Samuel B. T.; editor ofGenius of Liberty search
  • Caldwell, Samuel B. T.; identified search
  • Caldwell, Samuel B. T.; letter from search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; bookstore proposed for search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; printing office proposed for search
  • Genius of Liberty (Leesburg newspaper) search
  • Mason, Armistead Thomson; death of search
  • newspapers; LeesburgGenius of Liberty search
  • Virginia, University of; Books and Library; bookstore proposed for search