Thomas Jefferson Papers

Henry Orne to Thomas Jefferson, 12 July 1820

From Henry Orne

Boston July 12th 1820


On an occasion which reminds us of the great authors of our independence, and more especially on an occasion when the principles are enquired into which lead to that independence, and by which it may be perpetuated, no American can forget the highly venerated author of the instrument by which that independence was declared. Impressed with a deep conviction that to no one is our country more indebted for the secure establishment, and increasing popularity of the fundamental principles of our national institutions, permit me to offer to you, sir, the accompanying feeble effort to render those principles more generally understood, and more profoundly cherished, by the great body of the American people.

That your services may be duly estimated by posterity, and that the decline of your life may be as tranquil and happy, as the meridian of it has been active and useful, seems, at this moment, to be almost the unanimous wish of the whole American people; but perhaps of no one, more than him, who subscribes himself,

With feelings of great respect, and profound veneration Your obediant servant.

Henry Orne

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 23 July 1820 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Henry A. S. Dearborn, 3 Jan. 1822, on verso; addressed: “Hon. Thomas Jefferson. late president of the U. States, Monticello, Virginia.” Enclosure: Orne, An Oration, pronounced at Boston, 4th July, 1820, at the request of the republican citizens of that place: in commemoration of American Independence (Boston, 1820), which hails the founding generation for obtaining “greater political advantages, than society has ever before enjoyed” (p. 3); states that the American people are honor bound to defend the institutions passed down to them and transmit them, unimpaired and uncorrupted, to posterity; argues that political equality is best safeguarded by the spread of education and a wider distribution of wealth; insists that a free press is vitally important as a counterweight to tyranny; quotes the “divine sentiment” in TJ’s First Inaugural Address that “Error of opinion may be tolerated with safety when reason is left free to combat it” (p. 18; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , 33:149); criticizes Massachusetts for electing its senate on the basis of wealth rather than population and for its retention of religious tests for office; posits that all “honest men” have “a political and religious duty” to oppose the expansion of slavery (p. 20); and looks forward to a day, “not far distant, when the diffusion of knowledge, the distribution of property, and the freedom of public opinion shall overturn all hereditary power, and erect the great temple of human liberty in every country, and in every age, on the imperishable basis of political equality” (p. 23).

Henry Orne (ca. 1791–1853), attorney, public official, and farmer, was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts. After attending Phillips Academy in Andover beginning in 1802, he embarked on a legal career in Boston. Orne was admitted to practice before the circuit court of common pleas in 1812 and the supreme judicial court four years later. He sat on the Boston common council in 1822 and was a director of both the North Bank and the Commonwealth Insurance Company later in the decade. Orne also saw service as a justice of the peace and a police-court judge in Boston. A longtime Republican and the author of several political works, he strongly supported Andrew Jackson’s presidential aspirations. Late in the 1830s Orne moved permanently to Maine, where he farmed, operated a saw- and gristmill, and owned real estate worth $10,000 in 1850. He died in Orneville, Piscataquis County (James Spear Loring, The Hundred Boston Orators appointed by the Municipal Authorities and Other Public Bodies, from 1770 to 1852 [1852], 393; Biographical Catalogue of the Trustees, Teachers and Students of Phillips Academy, Andover, 1778–1830 [1903], 48; Elbridge Gerry to James Madison, 2 Sept. 1808 [DNA: RG 107, LRSW]; Boston New-England Palladium, 20 Nov. 1812; Boston Gazette, 5 Dec. 1816; Boston Daily Advertiser, 10 Apr. 1822; Massachusetts Register and United States Calendar [1823]: 29, 197; [1827]: 29, 37, 178, 186; [1830]: 30; [1838]: 201; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 30 Sept. 1829; Sprague’s Journal of Maine History 1 [1913]: 131–6; DNA: RG 29, CS, Mass., Cambridge, 1820, Maine, Bradford, 1840, Orneville, 1850; Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 10 Jan. 1853).

Index Entries

  • An Oration, pronounced at Boston, 4th July, 1820, at the request of the republican citizens of that place: in commemoration of American Independence (H. Orne) search
  • Declaration of Independence; TJ as author of search
  • Fourth of July; orations search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; inaugural addresses of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Declaration of Independence search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; First Inaugural Address search
  • Massachusetts; Senate of search
  • Orne, Henry; An Oration, pronounced at Boston, 4th July, 1820, at the request of the republican citizens of that place: in commemoration of American Independence search
  • Orne, Henry; identified search
  • Orne, Henry; letter from search
  • slavery; opposition to search