Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Sanderson to Thomas Jefferson, 19 August 1820

From John Sanderson

Philada Augst 19th 1820


I have taken the liberty of addressing to you the title page, & some specimens of a work I have just put to press in Philada—A copy of which I shall convey to you, entire, as the numbers or half vols are completed. The first will be published in a few weeks, & the others successively, at entervals of six months. The whole will probably be contained in ten nos

I wished very much to consult you on the subject of this publication before the present time, & especially to request from you some notice of Mr Geo. Wythe; but from the respect which I felt was due to that repose so long sacrificed to the interests of others, I abstained from it. On a nearer view, however, of the difficulty, the importance & sacredness of the task I have undertaken; I now venture to solicit your attention & advice.—I might have addressd you on this subject through the intervention of one of your friends, but have chosen rather to rely upon the usual benevolence with which you have at all times patronized the literary1 attempts of your countrymen, for my recommendation.—

I am at present collecting whatever incidents are within my reach of the life of Mr Hancock, whose biography with the Introduction is designed for the first number. In describing the character of those to whom we are indebted for the best of all human blessings, I feel urged by my warmest inclinations as2 well as interests to use no expressions unworthy of them; I need not, therefore, declare to you the gratitude I should owe to your kindness for any information, (& particularly of Mr Hancock) that may promote interests of an undertaking, for which I feel at present3 the most anxious & religious solicitude.

With great respect, I have the honor to be, Sir, Your Most Obt. Svt.

John Sanderson

RC (DLC); between dateline and salutation and repeated adjacent to closing: “Thos. Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Aug. 1820 and so recorded in SJL.

John Sanderson (ca. 1783–1844), educator and author, was born near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and schooled privately by tutors. Although he moved to Philadelphia during the first decade of the nineteenth century in order to study law, by 1811 he had joined John T. Carré in a pedagogical partnership that would last until at least 1822. When Sanderson was not teaching classics, the English language, and French literature, he wrote prolifically for both newspapers and periodicals. In addition, between 1820 and 1822 he edited and saw into print the first two volumes of the Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, a project that was completed by others later that decade and totaled nine volumes (Philadelphia, 1820–27; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 5 [no. 152]). Sanderson took a break from teaching in 1835 and went on a year-long trip to France. Drawing on this sojourn, he produced Sketches of Paris: in Familiar Letters to His Friends (1838), which went through several editions over the next decade under the variant title of The American in Paris. After his return from Europe, Sanderson was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1840 and taught Greek, Latin, English, and belles lettres at the Central High School of Philadelphia from the same year until his death in that city (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Peter S. Du Ponceau to TJ, 3 Jan. 1821; Clermont Seminary. … Disciplinary Rules to be strictly observed in Said Seminary [Philadelphia, 1811]; Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser, 8 Sept. 1817; The Philadelphia Directory and Register, for 1822 [Philadelphia, 1822]; Robert Desilver, The Philadelphia Index, or Directory, for 1823 [(Philadelphia, 1823)]; Desilver’s Philadelphia Directory and Stranger’s Guide, 1830 [1830], 168; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 17 July 1840 [MS in PPAmP]; Franklin Spencer Edmonds, History of the Central High School of Philadelphia [1902], 53–4; Philadelphia North American and Daily Advertiser, 6 Apr. 1844; gravestone inscription in Presbyterian Cemetery, Pottsville, Pa.).

Sanderson’s profiles of George wythe and John hancock appeared in the second and first volumes, respectively, of the Biography of the Signers.

1Manuscript: “literay.”

2Manuscript: “&.”

3Manuscript: “presnt.”

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (J. Sanderson) search
  • books; biographical search
  • Declaration of Independence; signers of search
  • Hancock, John; andBiography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (J. Sanderson) search
  • Sanderson, John; Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence search
  • Sanderson, John; identified search
  • Sanderson, John; letters from search
  • Wythe, George; andBiography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (J. Sanderson) search