Thomas Jefferson Papers

John W. Taylor to Thomas Jefferson, 30 January 1821

From John W. Taylor

Washington January 30h 1821—

Honored Sir

There has been established in Union College, Schenectady, N.Y. an Α of the Φ.Β.Κ. Society—Chancellor Kent is now its President & I am one of its members—At the annual meeting last July it was greatly desired to have more knowledge of the history of the society than was possessed by any of the attending members—The honor of having introduced it into the United States from England was attributed to yourself—An ardent desire was expressed to ascertain the leading facts connected with its foundation, & progress there, & its establishment in this country—Several members urged upon me the duty of addressing you upon the subject—I have delayed compliance until now unwilling to trespass on your goodness by making what I feared might be considered an unreasonable request—If your engagements should prevent an answer to this letter, you will I doubt not, do justice to the motives by which it is dictated—Impressed from early youth with sincere veneration for your character & eminent services in the cause of liberty & science—Admiring that beneficent Philosophy which has been the governing principle of your life—and wishing you a prolonged enjoyment of signal prosperity & usefulness

I am Dear Sir Very truly your friend & servant—

John W. Taylor

My residence is at Ballston Springs N.Y. to which I shall return after the adjournment of Congress—

RC (ViW: TC-JP); postscript written perpendicularly in left margin; between dateline and salutation: “To Thomas Jefferson Late President of the U.S.”; endorsed by TJ as received 8 Feb. 1821 and so recorded in SJL. FC (NHi: Taylor Papers); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Taylor; lacking postscript; endorsed by Taylor.

John W. Taylor (1784–1854), attorney and public official, was born in Ballston, Albany County (later Charlton, Saratoga County), New York. He graduated from Schenectady’s Union College in 1803, studied and practiced law in Ballston Spa, and was admitted to practice in the New York Supreme Court as a counsellor-at-law in 1810. Taylor was appointed a loan commissioner for Saratoga County in 1808, and he represented the county in the state legislature, 1812–13. He served ten terms in the United States House of Representatives, 1813–33, with two stints as Speaker, 1820–21 and 1825–27. Taylor supported the prohibition of slavery in Missouri in 1819 and attracted attention by speaking out against slavery in Congress, and he supported a national bank and protective tariffs while opposing as unconstitutional federally funded internal improvements. After losing reelection in 1832 he continued to practice law in Ballston Spa. In 1840 Taylor was elected to the New York State Senate, from which he resigned in 1842 due to illness. The following year he retired to Cleveland, Ohio, where he died (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends digital edition, biography added in 2003; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; NHi: Taylor Papers; Edward F. Grose, Centennial History of the Village of Ballston Spa [1907], 238–44; A General Catalogue of the Officers, Graduates and Students of Union College, from 1795 to 1854 [1854], 13; Albany Gazette, 4 Aug. 1806, 22 Feb. 1810; New York Public Advertiser, 18 Apr. 1808; Ballston Spa Advertiser, 30 Oct. 1810; Franklin B. Hough, The New-York Civil List [1858]; Daily Cleveland Herald, 19 Sept. 1854; gravestone inscription in Ballston Spa Village Cemetery).

The Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (Α of the Φ.Β.Κ.) in the state of New York was chartered in 1817 (A Catalogue of the New-York Alpha of the Phi Beta Kappa [1852]). For the society’s original foundation, see note to Thomas McAuley to TJ, 19 May 1819.

Index Entries

  • Congress, U.S.; adjourns search
  • Kent, James; and Phi Beta Kappa search
  • Phi Beta Kappa Society search
  • Taylor, John W.; and Phi Beta Kappa search
  • Taylor, John W.; identified search
  • Taylor, John W.; letter from search