Thomas Jefferson Papers

William E. Richmond to Thomas Jefferson, 10 December 1819

From William E. Richmond

Providence Decr 10. 1819

Honoured Sir,

You will, I trust, excuse me for troubling you with the enclosed prospectus of a Journal, which I have undertaken to edit, as it will explain to you the nature of the information which I am about to request of you.   I am aware of the weight of the duty which I have undertaken, and feel my own deficiency. I have therefore, presumed to apply to the few persons in this Country who have made a study of those important topicks which relate to Political Economy. It is unfortunate for us, that they form no part of the Publick Education of our young men, and that they most commonly leave College, as ignorant of the sources of political power as they entered it.   Having undertaken, I wish to discharge, the duties of my station with some degree of utility to the Publick. I have therefore resolved, by a regular course of reading to qualify myself. You will, Sir, confer an obligation, by referring me to such European books as may best suit my purpose.

I am already informed, that Political Economists in Europe are divided into two classes, with respect to the object of enquiry; and that one class make their object Revenue for the support of government, while the other consult only the prosperity of the people. The latter appears to me the only legitimate object; and the former must be considered invidious. The French Economists under the old regimé must have been of that class, or their enemies, the English could not have obtained so great an ascendancy over that truly powerful nation. Mons. Neikar, was perhaps of the other sect. Some persons, have doubted the honesty of Adam Smith’s bold and specious theory, especially when the British Ministry have always encouraged its circulation, in direct opposition to their own conduct as regards manufactures.1 For one, I am disposed to think it a trick upon the world, to discourage other nations from a Manufacturing Policy and leave British Fabricks the markets of the whole world; but as I am a young man, inexperienced in political economy I feel somewhat diffident of the opinion. If, Sir, you have time & inclination to honour me with a reply, be pleased to give me your thoughts with respect to Dr Smith.

I am persuaded, that your solicitude for the welfare of the great nation over whose destinies you so long presided to the satisfaction of your fellow citizens, will dispose you to consider this application of a Stranger with indulgence, as it is made with the desire that it may be useful to the Community.

With great respect, I remain Sir Your humble Servt

Wm. E Richmond

RC (ViW: TC-JP); with enclosed prospectus on verso; addressed: “Honle Thomas Jefferson Monticello (Vir)”; franked; postmarked Providence, 13 Dec.; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Dec. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Prospectus and subscription sheet for a semiweekly paper to be published by Miller & Hutchens and called the Manufacturers’ Journal, and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser, 26 Oct. 1819, citing the need for such a publication due to the capital invested in manufacturing, the population thus employed, and the use of raw materials in the process; asserting “the desire of supporting and increasing the coasting trade of the country, and of diminishing the great disproportion between our Imports and Exports”; proposing to influence the development of a “Manufacturing Policy in the Government; to render this conviction habitual and permanent, by a deliberate and patient investigation of the natural resources of the country and of those of other nations, by a comparison of our own policy with theirs, and by an estimate of their different results; these are the means, by which we hope to render, at least, a partial service, to the nation, and to those of our fellow-citizens, whose fortunes are embarked in Manufacturing Establishments”; noting that the paper will publish current prices for raw materials, machinery, and manufactured articles, current prices for raw materials at shipping ports and of manufactured articles at markets, and accounts and descriptions of new inventions; observing that party and local politics would not be within the scope of the paper but that “General Politicks form a more useful and liberalizing subject of discussion, and render more vivid some of the best feelings of our nature. The support of that system of domestick and foreign politicks, which has obtained the approbation of all parties, and is emphatically denominated ‘The American Policy,’ will occupy our attention”; and pledging to print the publication on a “fine medium sheet, every Monday and Thursday morning, at three dollars per annum,” with advertisements to be inserted “on the usual terms” (broadside in ViW: TC-JP).

William Ebenezer Richmond (1786–1873), attorney, author, and editor, was born in Providence, Rhode Island. After a classical education and some early training in medicine, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1816. Richmond edited the Manufacturers’ & Farmers’ Journal, and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser, when it began publication on 3 Jan. 1820. He resigned after one year but continued to contribute articles to it. A leading member of the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry, Richmond served as its secretary, 1820–22, and as a member of its standing committee, 1822–48. He was a charter member of the Rhode Island Historical Society in 1822. Richmond died in Providence (Brown University Catalogue description begins Historical Catalogue of Brown University, 1764–1904, 1905 description ends , 546; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 2:1013; Rhode Island Historical Society, Proceedings [1873–74]: 62–3; [1910–11]: 13; Hartford [Conn.] Courant, 10 Mar. 1873).

mons. neikar: Jacques Necker.

Richmond wrote to John Adams the same day, also enclosing his prospectus (MHi: Adams Papers). Adams remarked in his 14 Dec. 1819 reply that “Upon the Subject of Political Economy at large—I know of nothing better than a Volume lately printed at Washington—written by Senator Tracy in France but never published there—well translated from a manuscript by Mr Jefferson—it contains the pith and marrow of the Science” (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers).

1Preceding four words interlined in place of “policy.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and Destutt de Tracy’s writings search
  • Adams, John; works sent to search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; A Treatise on Political Economy search
  • France; economy of search
  • Great Britain; manufacturing laws search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; translates Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Manufacturers’ & Farmers’ Journal, and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser (newspaper) search
  • manufacturing; encouragement of in U.S. search
  • Necker, Jacques; and political economy search
  • newspapers; Manufacturers’ & Farmers’ Journal, and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser search
  • political economy; collegiate education in search
  • political economy; study of search
  • Rhode Island; newspapers in search
  • Richmond, William Ebenezer; identified search
  • Richmond, William Ebenezer; letter from search
  • Richmond, William Ebenezer; sends prospectus to TJ search
  • Smith, Adam; economic theories of search