Thomas Jefferson Papers

William T. Barry to Thomas Jefferson, 15 June 1822

From William T. Barry

Lexington Kentucky 15th June 1822


It is with diffidence that I have presumed to send you the enclosed Circular. Your leisure is doubtless often interrupted by applications for the aids to be derivd from your tallents and enlarged experience. The importance of the subject1 must plead my apology. Accustomed as we are to look up to you as one of the Fathers of the people, and as the great benefactor of our common Country, we shall be proud to have your countenence in this important undertakeing: the sanction of your name will have weight with the people of Kentucky; they will attend to your suggestions as to the counsels of wisdom

Allow me Sir to use this occasion to say to you what I am prompted to do by my own feelings. It was my happiness to be born in Virginia after our country was free. I read in its history the distinguished part you acted in the memorable struggle by which that freedom was won; it was thus in early life, as I was taught to love my country, that I imbibed with the spirit of patriotism, a sentiment of profound regard for one whoes fame is identified with his countrys glory. In all the great events that have marked our political history the happy influence of your virtue & tallents are perceived. But the period of the greatist interest to me was that of ’98 & 1800. At that time I had groun up sufficiently to be enabled to understand something of the nature of our government, and the propriety2 of the conduct of those who administered its concerns. The part you then took in checking the mad carreer of aspireing ambition, and in vindicateing the rights of the people, against the encroachments of power, was not less distinguished in my humble opinion, than your conduct in the period of the Revolution. In the latter era the virtuous and enlightened Statesman preserved that liberty & independance which in the former had been atchieeved by patriotism & valour at the expense of so much blood & treasure. Yes Sir the republican principles3 that placed you at the head of the American government, and which continueed throughout your whole administration, will ever be hailed with joy by the friends of freedom; They will serve4 as a cloud by day & a pillar of fire by night, to guide this nation in time to come to the high destanies that await it. Conscious of the great debt of gratitude that the people of the United States owe you for your distinguished public services; and fired as my5 soul is with an inextinguishable flame of gratitude, I cannot suppress the generous impulse that prompts me, in this my first address to you & perhaps the only one that I shall ever have the pleasure of makeing, to express my admiration of your character, and the sincere wish I have for your happiness & prosperity. I am dear Sir what every lover of freedom would be proud to acknowledge with sentiments of profound respect

your friend & obdt. Svt.

W. T. Barry

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello Va”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 July 1822 and so recorded in SJL.

William Taylor Barry (1784–1835), attorney and public official, was a native of Lunenburg County who moved with his parents to Kentucky in the mid-1790s. After studying law at the College of William and Mary in 1804, he was admitted to the Kentucky bar and established a legal practice in Lexington the following year. Barry sat in Kentucky’s House of Representatives, 1806–07 and 1809–10, the United States House of Representatives, 1810–11, the United States Senate, 1815–16, and the state senate, 1817–20. He was also a trustee of Transylvania University, 1807–21, and its professor of law, 1820–24. The owner of ten slaves in 1820 and four a decade later, Barry was lieutenant governor of the commonwealth, 1820–24, during which time he pressed strongly but unsuccessfully for the creation of a system of free public education. He also supported Kentucky’s debtors in a series of clashes that culminated in his service as chief justice of the state’s highest tribunal, 1825–26, when the legislature temporarily ousted the incumbent. Barry was Andrew Jackson’s postmaster general, 1829–35. Appointed minister plenipotentiary to Spain in the latter year, he fell ill en route to his new post and died in Liverpool, England (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 ; William and Mary Provisional List description begins A Provisional List of Alumni, Grammar School Students, Members of the Faculty, and Members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary in Virginia. From 1693 to 1888, 1941 description ends , 7; Lexington Kentucky Gazette, 18 Dec. 1806, 15 Aug. 1809; Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky [1815–16 sess.]: 218, 219 [26 Jan. 1816]; A Catalogue of the Officers, Teachers, & Graduates of Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky [Lexington, 1826], 4, 5, 8; DNA: RG 29, CS, Ky., Fayette Co., 1820, Lexington, 1830; City of Washington Gazette, 19 Sept. 1820; Louisville Public Advertiser, 29 Jan. 1825; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 4:8, 9 [9 Mar. 1829]; Jackson, Papers description begins Sam B. Smith, Harold D. Moser, Daniel Feller, and others, eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 1980– , 11 vols. description ends ; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 13 Oct. 1835; gravestone inscription in Frankfort Cemetery, Frankfort).

Biblical references to a cloud by day & a pillar of fire by night leading the people of Israel appear in Exodus 13.21–2, Numbers 14.14, and Nehemiah 9:12, 19.

1Manuscript: “subjct.”

2Manuscript: “propiety.”

3Manuscript: “pinciples.”

4Word interlined in place of “be to us.”

5Barry here canceled “heart is.”

Index Entries

  • Barry, William Taylor; circular on education search
  • Barry, William Taylor; identified search
  • Barry, William Taylor; letter from search
  • Barry, William Taylor; on TJ search
  • Bible; Exodus referenced search
  • Bible; Nehemiah referenced search
  • Bible; Numbers referenced search
  • education; in Ky. search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; praised for search
  • Kentucky; education in search