Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William S. Cardell, 27 January 1821

To William S. Cardell

Monticello Jan. 27. 21.


I have to make my acknolegements for the honor done me by the American academy of language & belles lettres, in appointing me an honorary member of their society, and I pray you to be the organ of rendering them my thanks. at my age and distance I can be but a very unprofitable associate but I sincerely wish them all the success which the object of the institution merits. the improvement & enlargement of the scope of our language is of first importance. science must be stationary unless language advances pari passu. there are so many differences between us & England of soil, climate, culture productions, laws, religion & government,1 that we must be left far behind the march of circumstances were we to hold ourselves rigorously to their standard. if, like the French Academicians it were proposed to fix our language, it would be fortunate that the step was not taken in the days of our Saxon ancestors whose vocabulary would illy express the science of this day. judicious neology can alone give strength & copiousness to language and enable it to be the vehicle of new ideas.

I pray you to accept the assurance of my great respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NNGL); addressed: “Mr William S. Cardell New York”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 30 Jan.; endorsed by Cardell. PoC (DLC); on verso of a reused address cover from Peter Cardelli to TJ. Printed in American Academy of Language and Belles Lettres, Circular No. III; to the American Members, and Patrons of the Institution, from the Corresponding Secretary (New York, 1822), 10.

1Manuscript: “goverment.”

Index Entries

  • American Academy of Language and Belles Lettres; founding of search
  • Cardell, William Samuel; and American Academy of Language and Belles Lettres search
  • Cardell, William Samuel; letters to search
  • English language; Anglo-Saxon (Old English) search
  • English language; improvement of search
  • French language; evolution of search
  • Great Britain; and U.S. search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Honors & Memberships; American Academy of Language and Belles Lettres, membership search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; neology search
  • language; neology search
  • United States; and Great Britain search