Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Alexander Otis to Thomas Jefferson, 20 June 1820

From George Alexander Otis

Philadelphia 20 June 1820 215. Market Street.

The translator of de Pradt’s Europe for 1819. hopes it may find acceptance as an apology for addressing the revered author of the declaration of American Independence, & of the Notes on Virginia, and the twice elected Chief Magistrate of the only free Nation on Earth.

This Greatness already appreciated by Contemporaries, and destined to acquire increase of Splendour with the lapse of Ages, certainly fills him with a certain awe; but as it is united with the reassuring attribute of patron of literature and domestic industry, the writer is encouraged to Solicit the patronage of Mr Jefferson for the work in which he is now engaged, the translation of Botta.

He is the more confident of excuse for this great liberty, as his friend General Brown, on returning from a visit to Monticello, assured him that Mr Jefferson was desirous that our literature Should receive such an addition. The first Volume of the work is now forwarded: which if it Should be So fortunate as to meet the approbation of the most distinguished of Americans, it cannot fail of success.

One word of encouragement from such a source would be more precious to the writer than fame; and at the same time its presage. That Heaven may prolong the days of a fellow citizen So justly1 venerated is the earnest prayer

of his respectful humble Servant

Geo. A. Otis.

RC (MHi); at foot of text: “To Thomas Jefferson late President of the United States of America”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 July 1820 and so recorded in SJL.

George Alexander Otis (1781–1863), merchant, broker, and translator, was born in Scituate, Massachusetts. He moved by 1802 to Boston, where he established himself as a vendor of merchandise from England and India. Three years later Otis went into business with his father-in-law, Barney Smith. An accomplished linguist, he spent four years in Europe before returning in 1817 to Boston. Otis resumed his career as a trader there, attempted unsuccessfully to obtain a number of federal appointments, and published translations of three works: Dominique Dufour, baron de Pradt, Europe after the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. Forming the Sequel to the Congress of Vienna (Philadelphia, 1820; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 11 [no. 643]), Botta, History of the War, and The Tusculan Questions of Marcus Tullius Cicero (1839). He became a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1821. Otis later worked as a broker in Boston for a number of years. When his father-in-law died in 1828, Otis came into considerable wealth. Thereafter, he scaled back his business activities and devoted himself to the management of his estate and to his literary studies. Otis died in Boston (Vital Records of Scituate Massachusetts to the Year 1850 [1909], 1:280; Boston Columbian Centinel. Massachusetts Federalist, 25 Dec. 1802; Boston Democrat, 3 Apr. 1805; Boston Commercial Gazette, 11 Aug. 1817; Independent Chronicle & Boston Patriot, 15 Oct. 1817; DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1817–25; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 20 Apr. 1821 [MS in PPAmP]; The Boston Directory [Boston, 1825], 200; Stimpson’s Boston Directory [1832], 252; DNA: RG 29, CS, Mass., Boston, 1840, 1850; Boston Daily Advertiser, 25, 26 June 1863).

On this day Otis sent similar letters to John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and James Madison (MHi: Adams Papers; DNA: RG 59, MLR; Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 2:70–1).

1Word added in margin.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; works sent to search
  • Adams, John Quincy; works sent to search
  • Aix-la-Chapelle, Congress of (1818) search
  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • American Revolution; books on search
  • books; on American Revolution search
  • books; on history search
  • books; on politics search
  • Botta, Carlo Giuseppe Guglielmo; History of the War of the Independence of the United States of America (trans. G. A. Otis) search
  • Brown, Jacob Jennings; and translation of C. G. G. Botta’s history of American Revolution search
  • Brown, Jacob Jennings; visits Monticello search
  • Declaration of Independence; TJ as author of search
  • Europe after the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. Forming the Sequel to the Congress of Vienna (D. D. de Pradt; trans. G. A. Otis) search
  • History of the War of the Independence of the United States of America (C. G. G. Botta; trans. G. A. Otis) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; as president search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Declaration of Independence search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); works sent to search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Brown, Jacob Jennings search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); TJ as author of search
  • Otis, George Alexander; identified search
  • Otis, George Alexander; letters from search
  • Otis, George Alexander; translatesEurope after the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle (D. D. de Pradt) search
  • Otis, George Alexander; translatesHistory of the War of the Independence of the United States of America (C. G. G. Botta) search
  • Pradt, Dominique Dufour, baron de; Europe after the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. Forming the Sequel to the Congress of Vienna (trans. G. A. Otis) search