Thomas Jefferson Papers

Charles Willson Peale to Thomas Jefferson, 21 August 1819

From Charles Willson Peale

Belfield Augt 21st 1819.

Dear Sir

on the receipt of your letter I hastened to the City to seek the Inkstand you wanted, I believe no nearer to your direction could be had in the City, than I have sent, I put two of them in one package and delivered it at the Post office, directed to you at Montecella. That most likly to answer, probably may be sunk deeper by cutting out some of the wood beneath, and a little grinding down of the top may also be needfull1 to get it to ⅞th of an Inch. If neither of those sent will answer, our next resourse must be to some Glass works.

If so, please to inform me, and I will make a pattern to get it blown.

My late Portraits are much better than those I formrly painted, such is the opinion of the public—yet I cannot resist my inclination for mechanical labours so much as I ought, but too often I want things made that I cannot get workmen to execute; Thus it has been this Summer, My wind mill to pump water for my Cattle, had its sails worn out and the wood work shackling, The principle being good, determined me to make the Arms of Iron & the sails of Tin—This labour was heavy on me, but I have accomplished it with others equally difficult, to my satisfaction.

This I call happiness, the Idler cannot be happy.   Now returning to my Pensil, I shall finish a Picture which I began in the Spring; The retreat of the American Army over the Delaware at night, in 1776. depicting some of the horrors of War. I thought it the most hellish scene2 I have ever beheld. The bauling execrations the pensil cannot give. I cannot hope to give more than3 hints for reflection. The late transactions of Europe must powerfully tend to enlighten man kind to their true Interests, may the example be a powerful monitor to my Country, is the prayer of

your friend

C W Peale

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr Thomas Jefferson Montecella”; endorsed by TJ as received 8 Sept. 1819 but recorded in SJL as received two days earlier. PoC (PPAmP: Peale Letterbook); edge trimmed.

shackling means rickety or ramshackle (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). Peale’s painting of the retreat of the american army over the delaware is not known to have survived (David C. Ward, Charles Willson Peale: Art and Selfhood in the Early Republic [2004], 150–3).

1Reworked from “top also needfull.”

2Manuscript: “sceme.”

3Preceding two words interlined.

Index Entries

  • building materials; tin search
  • cattle; water for search
  • Delaware River; and Revolutionary War search
  • household articles; inkstands search
  • inkstands; for polygraph search
  • iron; mentioned search
  • mills; wind search
  • paintings; and C. W. Peale search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; and polygraph search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; as artist search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; letters from search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; on windmill sails search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; portraits by search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; The Retreat across the Delaware search
  • polygraph; and C. W. Peale search
  • Revolutionary War; C. W. Peale’s painting of search
  • The Retreat across the Delaware (C. W. Peale) search
  • tin; windmill sails made of search
  • windmills search