Thomas Jefferson Papers

Jefferson Phelps to Thomas Jefferson, 15 January 1822

From Jefferson Phelps

January 15th 1822      
Parkersburgh Wood County Va

Reverenced Sir

I am urged by the compelling hand of necessity to submit to a course which my sense of dignity will not justify, a course which perhaps cannot be justified by a true sense of propriety; but it is one which, if it should meet with your approbation will greatly contribute to my interest, although it is not consonant to that dignity which is generally considered the most laudable & prominent characteristic of man: I am a young-man arrived at the age of twenty in indigent circumstances, desirous to advance in Science and Literature; but all opportunities for extending my inquiries1 are cut off by the misfortune of bad management of my Father, the perticulars of which I shall not trouble you with; I have laboured under many disadvantages since I arrived at the years of discression, being obliged to become an instructor & a pupil alternatly to enable me to prosecute my studies thus far: I have acquired a tolerable knowledge of the Latin Language & am a good English Grammarian my other enquiries are rather superficial—If you can in your wisdom & benevolence take me under your Patronage & afford me opportunity of improvement the returns which I shall be enabled to make will be sentiments of gratitude & sedulous endeavours to improve at least—These favors are not solicited under consideration of any right or claim that I can have to your patronage either on account of name-sake or any other consideration, but that I may render myself worthy of your promotion—I advance no more, but wish to hear the event of my letter, & hope that you will pardon this assumed privilege & perhaps unbecoming intrusion: I subscribe myself with much esteem & respect Sir your excellency’s

most obedient servant

Jefferson Phelps

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 7 Feb. 1822 and so recorded in SJL.

Jefferson Phelps (1801–43), attorney and public official, was born in Wood County (later West Virginia), where he was a deputy sheriff in 1822. After studying law he moved to Covington, Kentucky, where he worked as an attorney until his death. Phelps represented Campbell County in the Kentucky House of Representatives for four terms, 1830–31 and 1833–35. A political supporter of Martin Van Buren, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 1837 (Stephen C. Shaw, Sketches of Wood County [1878], 43–4; Report of the Directors of the Lunatic Hospital, at Williamsburg, Jan. 25, 1822 [(Richmond, 1823); bound with JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends (1822–23 sess.)], 5; Lewis Collins and Richard H. Collins, Collins’ Historical Sketches of Kentucky. History of Kentucky [1874], 2:438, 439, 773; Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky [1830–31] and [1833–34]; Richmond Enquirer, 7 Apr. 1837; Washington Globe, 28 Apr. 1837; Covington Licking Valley Register, 18 Nov. 1843).

1Manuscript: “inquries.”

Index Entries

  • education; English language search
  • education; Latin search
  • English language; study of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Latin language; study of search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Phelps, Hugh search
  • Phelps, Jefferson; identified search
  • Phelps, Jefferson; letter from search
  • Phelps, Jefferson; seeks TJ’s assistance search