Thomas Jefferson Papers

William James Macneven to Thomas Jefferson, 18 December 1821

From William James Macneven

New York 18th Decemr 1821.


I have the honour of forwarding to you a copy of a very good chemical work, which I flatter myself I have improved, and of a very Useful chemical table of my own. They may perhaps be worthy of a place in your library, yet I can Scarcely deem them of Sufficient importance to occupy your attention; but they afford me an opportunity, which I willingly Seize, of testifying my profound veneration for your Character & expressing my heart-felt wishes for your long life & wellfare.

I remain most respectfully
your obedt humle Sert

Wm Js Macneven

RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson”; mistakenly endorsed by TJ as a letter of 18 Dec. 1822 received 10 Jan. 1822, but correctly recorded in SJL; with Dft of TJ to Macneven, 12 Jan. 1822, beneath endorsement. Enclosures: (1) William Thomas Brande, A Manual of Chemistry, 1st American ed., with “Notes and Emendations” by Macneven (New York, 1821; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 6 [no. 292]). (2) Macneven, A Tabular View of the Modern Nomenclature, and System of Chemistry (New York, 1821).

William James Macneven (1763–1841), physician, educator, and Irish patriot, was born in County Galway, Ireland. He began studying medicine in Prague and received a medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1783. The following year Macneven commenced practicing medicine in Dublin. There he also supported Catholic emancipation and in the 1790s became a leader in the United Irish movement, for which he was imprisoned from 1798 until 1802. After his release Macneven took a walking tour of Switzerland and published A Ramble through Swisserland, in the Summer and Autumn of 1802 (Dublin, 1803). Hoping to participate in an invasion of Ireland, he joined the French army as a captain in the Irish Brigade, but he became disillusioned and moved permanently to New York City in 1805. Macneven published Pieces of Irish History (New York, 1807) and became a leader in the Irish American community. He also resumed his medical practice and in 1808 was appointed professor of obstetrics and the diseases of women and children at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (later part of Columbia University). In 1811 Macneven transferred to the chemistry professorship, which he held until 1826. He coedited the New-York Medical and Philosophical Journal and Review, 1808–11, was a founding member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of New-York in 1815, wrote an important early work on chemistry entitled Exposition of the Atomic Theory of Chymistry (New York, 1819), and in 1823 became a member of the American Philosophical Society. In 1826 Macneven helped found the new Rutgers Medical College in New York, where he was professor of therapeutics and materia medica until the school closed in 1830. Active in Democratic politics, he supported DeWitt Clinton and in 1834 withdrew his endorsement of Andrew Jackson. Macneven retired from his private medical practice in 1839 due to poor health (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, repr. 1968, 20 vols. in 10 description ends ; ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; Richard Robert Madden, The United Irishmen, their Lives and Times [2d ser., 1843], 2:209–33; Byron Stookey, “William James MacNeven,” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 41 [1965]: 1037–51; Thomas, Columbia University Officers and Alumni description begins Milton Halsey Thomas, Columbia University Officers and Alumni, 1754–1857, 1936 description ends , 284; Transactions of the Literary and Philosophical Society of New-York 1 [1815]: v; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 17 Oct. 1823 [MS in PPAmP]; New York Tribune, 14 July 1841).

Index Entries

  • A Manual of Chemistry (W. T. Brande) search
  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • A Tabular View of the Modern Nomenclature, and System of Chemistry (W. J. Macneven) search
  • books; on chemistry search
  • Brande, William Thomas; A Manual of Chemistry search
  • chemistry; books on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Macneven, William James; and W. T. Brande’sA Manual of Chemistry search
  • Macneven, William James; A Tabular View of the Modern Nomenclature, and System of Chemistry search
  • Macneven, William James; identified search
  • Macneven, William James; letter from search