Thomas Jefferson Papers

Frederick D. Tschiffely to Thomas Jefferson, [received 19 July 1822]

From Frederick D. Tschiffely

[received 19 July 1822]

Respected Sir,

Having an impediment in my speech, permit me to have the honor of addressing you in writing.

Not to intrude too long on your time, Sir, I shall be brief & concise.

In 1808 I was introduced in public Office by Mr Gallatin, with a salary of $310 pr annum; from that I rose gradually to one of $1,400. On the 15 of March 1821, the Commissioner of the General Land Office dismissed me, by order of the Secretary of the Treasury, & thereby deprived 8 children, soon a ninth one, and a wife of bread.

No reason or cause have ever been assigned for this harsh treatment.

Mr Meigs’s letter of dismissal is one of recommendation.

My respectful, twice repeated, applications to the President of the United States, for an investigation or redress, have not even been attended to.

Unable to procure any longer employment in the City of Washington, I left my family 3½ months ago, in search of bread & in order to lessen the expense at home.

Some friends have taken care of 4 of my children—my wife supports the others by needle work.

I have not succeeded in my pursuit—have no hope left, & travelling on foot & often destitute of food, my existence is truly a wretched one.

The french and german languages, arithmetic &ca are familiar to me. I wish but for the means to earn an honest living.

Would you, Respected Sir, be pleased to honor me with your counsel & advice?

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, Sir, your obdt servant,

F. D. Tschiffely

RC (MHi); undated; endorsed by TJ as received 19 July 1822 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with Dft of TJ to Nicholas B. Pryor, 16 Oct. 1824, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, Esqr Present.”

Frederick David Tschiffely (1780–1839), public official, educator, and translator, was born in Bern, Switzerland. Having attained the rank of captain in the Swiss military, he immigrated to the United States in 1805, settled by 1809 in the District of Columbia, and became a naturalized citizen in 1814. An accomplished linguist, he taught French, Italian, and German and worked as a translator in Alexandria for a time. Finding it difficult to provide for his family, Tschiffely, with the assistance of his fellow Swiss native Albert Gallatin, secured a clerkship at the United States Treasury by 1810. He worked as a clerk at the General Land Office in Washington, 1811–21, and printed land patents for that office from 1815. Following his dismissal in March 1821, Tschiffely went back to teaching, did some translating, advertised his services in Washington as “an Agent for transacting all kinds of public business,” traveled widely in search of gainful employment, and suffered from bouts of intemperance. Following a stint in Baltimore, he returned by early in the 1830s to Washington, where he died (John Gardiner to TJ, 18 July 1822; Ralph Beaver Strassburger, Pennsylvania German Pioneers [1934], 3:174–5; Alexandria Daily Gazette, Commercial & Political, 25 Mar., 26 June 1809; Michael Tepper, ed., New World Immigrants [1979], 1:260; Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, Transmitting a Statement of the Sums Paid to Each Clerk in the Several Offices of the Treasury Department … in the year 1811 [Washington, 1812]; Tschiffely’s naturalization record [DNA: RG 21, CCDCMB, 6 June 1814]; Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, Transmitting a Statement of the Names of the Clerks in the Treasury Department . . . during the year 1817 [Washington, 1818], 18; Washington Gazette, 22, 23 Mar. 1821; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 27 Mar. 1821, 17 June 1833; Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 2:545–6; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 20:26 [7 Dec. 1826]; For 1834. A Full Directory, for Washington City, Georgetown, and Alexandria [1834], 54; gravestone inscription in Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington).

Index Entries

  • Crawford, William Harris; as secretary of the treasury search
  • French language; study of search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and appointments search
  • German language; study of search
  • health; speech impairment search
  • mathematics; study of search
  • Meigs, Josiah; as commissioner of General Land Office search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); presidency of search
  • Tschiffely, Frederick David; as federal employee search
  • Tschiffely, Frederick David; family of search
  • Tschiffely, Frederick David; identified search
  • Tschiffely, Frederick David; letter from search
  • Tschiffely, Frederick David; seeks advice from TJ search