Thomas Jefferson Papers

John T. Kirkland to Thomas Jefferson, 1 December 1821

From John T. Kirkland

Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 1 Dec. 1821.


The Corporation of this University desire to unite with other Institutions in presenting to Congress the Memorial, of which a printed copy is herewith sent.They have authorized me to subscribe it officially, to transmit it to the several Colleges, Academies, and literary Societies, and to request their concurrence by the signatures of their respective principals. If you shall approve the measure, we hope you will be able to act upon it in such season that the Memorial may be offered in the present session of Congress, before the Tariff shall be settled;—and that if a meeting of the body of the Directors or Trustees of your Institution cannot be had in time, you may be authorized by the executive Government or standing Committee of your Corporation to give your name. If you shall think proper to join in the application, you are requested to signify it to me by mail, by returning to me the Memorial with your signature, or by giving me permission to affix your name to the copy which shall be sent to Congress. When a sufficient number of names shall have been collected, I propose to transmit the document, with the names annexed, to one of our Representatives, to be by him presented to the National Legislature. The facts stated in the Memorial have been ascertained by the diligent inquiry of one of our Professors at the Custom-House in Boston, and by information from booksellers in the principal cities where books are imported. Should you approve the design, we beg leave further to suggest to you the expediency of writing on the subject to members of Congress from your State.

I am, Sir, respectfully, Your obedient servant,
John T Kirkland
President of Harvard University.

Printed circular (ViU: TJP); signed by Kirkland; addressed in an unidentified hand: “Thomas Jefferson Esq. Monticello Va.”; stamp canceled; franked; postmarked Cambridge, Mass., 6 Dec.; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Dec. 1821 and so recorded (with additional parenthetical notation: “circular”) in SJL.

John Thornton Kirkland (1770–1840), clergyman and educator, was born on the New York frontier in what would become Herkimer County, near where his father served as a missionary to the Oneida Indians. While young he moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, 1784–86. Kirkland enrolled at Harvard University in the latter year and graduated in 1789, having also served in a volunteer unit to help suppress Shays’s Rebellion of 1786–87. He spent the next year as a tutor at Phillips Academy, studied theology, and in 1792 returned to Harvard as a tutor in logic and metaphysics. In 1794 Kirkland was ordained as pastor of the Congregational New South Church in Boston, remaining there for sixteen years and guiding its transition to Unitarianism. As a member of the Anthology Society he contributed articles to the Monthly Anthology and in 1807 helped found the Boston Athenæum. In 1810 Kirkland was named president of Harvard University. During his tenure the school grew in prominence, increased standards for students and professors, and established law and divinity schools. Kirkland resigned in 1828. After a few years of travel in America and abroad, he settled permanently in Boston in 1832 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, repr. 1968, 20 vols. in 10 description ends ; Sprague, American Pulpit description begins William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 1857–69, 9 vols. description ends , 8:261–6; MH: Kirkland Papers; Biographical Catalogue of the Trustees, Teachers and Students of Phillips Academy Andover, 1778–1830 [1903], 11, 31; Harvard Catalogue description begins Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1925, 1925 description ends , 7, 85, 176; Josiah Quincy, The History of the Boston Athenæum [1851], esp. separately paginated section of “Biographical Notices,” 64–71; Boston Courier, 30 Apr. 1840).

one of our professors: George Ticknor.

Index Entries

  • books; tariffs on search
  • Congress, U.S.; and tariffs search
  • Harvard University; and tariffs on books search
  • Harvard University; G. Ticknor’s professorship at search
  • Harvard University; J. T. Kirkland as president of search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and taxes search
  • Kirkland, John Thornton; and tariffs on books search
  • Kirkland, John Thornton; identified search
  • Kirkland, John Thornton; letter from search
  • schools and colleges; and tariffs on books search
  • schools and colleges; Harvard University search
  • Ticknor, George; and tariffs on books search
  • Ticknor, George; as Harvard professor search
  • Virginia, University of; Books and Library; and tariffs on books search