Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to David Hosack, 12 July 1821

To David Hosack

Monticello July 12. 21.

I thank you, dear Sir, for the 2d edition of the biography of Dr Williamson. I suppose we have now the full information as to the letters of Hutchinson Etc Sr John Temple’s knolege of the offices, and their character might be necessary to suggest to Dr Williamson, a stranger, the means of accomplishing his bold enterprise.   I recieved a letter lately from mr Thompson, Collector of New York, informing me of a box of seeds from the king’s gardens at Paris addressed to me. I rather suppose you recieve one annually from the same place for your botanical garden, but was not certain. I desired him therefore to present it to you if acceptable for your garden. my letter to him was of the 25th ult.   I salute you with great esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (PBm: Letters and Documents Collection); addressed: “Doctr David Hosack New York”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 12 July. PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of Henry H. Sherman to TJ, 3 June 1821; endorsed by TJ.

By an unidentified mode of transmission, Hosack had sent TJ a copy of the second edition of his work entitled A Biographical Memoir of Hugh Williamson, M.D. LL.D. (New York, 1821; probably Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends 5 [no. 166]; TJ’s copy in PPL, inscribed by Hosack [edge trimmed]: “Thomas Jefferson. L.L.[D.] with the respectful regards of the Author”). In this work Hosack asserted that, while in London in 1774, Williamson followed up on a suspicion that colonial officials had corresponded secretly with the British government by gaining access to a government office and purloining a cache of incendiary letters written late in the 1760s by Massachusetts governor Thomas hutchinson and colonial secretary Andrew Oliver to Thomas Whately, an assistant to Prime Minister George Grenville. Hosack claimed that Williamson subsequently delivered the letters to Benjamin Franklin. They triggered an uproar when they were published in Boston after Franklin sent them to an associate there. The documents suggested possible government responses to colonial protests against parliamentary rule. John temple, a British customs official friendly toward the colonies, was suspected at the time of complicity in the theft of this correspondence. No extant sources support Hosack’s claims about Williamson’s role, and the mode of conveyance to Franklin remains unclear (Hosack, Biographical Memoir, 50–1; Leonard W. Labaree and others, eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin [1959– ], 19:404–7n, 20:509n).

Index Entries

  • A Biographical Memoir of Hugh Williamson, M.D. LL.D. (D. Hosack) search
  • books; biographical search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; and T. Hutchinson’s letters search
  • Grenville, George; British prime minister search
  • Hosack, David; A Biographical Memoir of Hugh Williamson, M.D. LL.D. search
  • Hosack, David; and Elgin Botanic Garden search
  • Hosack, David; letters to search
  • Hosack, David; TJ sends seeds to search
  • Hutchinson, Thomas; correspondence of published search
  • Jardin des plantes et Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle; seeds from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • Oliver, Andrew; correspondence of published search
  • seeds; sent by TJ search
  • Temple, John; British customs official search
  • Thompson, Jonathan; as collector at New York search
  • Whately, Thomas; correspondence of published search
  • Williamson, Hugh; A Biographical Memoir of Hugh Williamson, M.D. LL.D. (D. Hosack) search