Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Matthew C. Groves, 9 November 1804

9 Nov. 1804

Dr. Sir

the extreme politeness and Condescention Your excellency has Manifested in enclosing my paper to Robert Patterson Esqr at Philadelphia. for his opinion of A System which I had the honor of presenting to your excellency. for the discovery of the longitude at Sea. By drawing the eclipse of the Satallites of Jupiter. And your goodness in forwarding that opinion to me to be done under cover of your letter and Signature. Justifies my feelings at the moment I wish for the freedom I have taken. Independent of the Raptures I embrace for the freedom I enjoy when I dare presume to Adress the first magistrate of a free people. And one of the greatest and best of men, without being under the necessity, of using the means of bribery, and Corruption—The errors which I have Commited if they deserve to be termed such. in engaging in this Study originated from the firm beleif that the almighty Creater of the universe would not make So great a picture of this globe & deep sea. without having some signs or tokens in the firmament by whose means we his Creatures may be enabled to find our way. And what led me yet more to the assurance of that beleif was. that as he had fixed the Sun, as one positive Sign. by whose Means the Mariner is enabled to Measure the distance run by a ship either north, or South, by lattitude. This the Same almighty power. had fixed Some other positive Sign. yet undiscovered, to measure the distance run by a Ship either east or west by Longitude—

Your excellency will Observe by the printed paper enclosed (The Originals of which I have in writing) the pains I have taken, And the Opinions I have had to Support me. all which are insisted. that of Robert Patterson excepted. that Gentlemans Opinion being the only one Opposed to So many I thought prudent Not to include it—

The merchants in this place observing the pains I had taken, to promote the publick wellfare Opened A generous Subscription with the usual Spirit of Bostonians in my favour; by which means I was enabled to reach London. On my arrival I was disposed to bring the business to A speedy Conclusion. And Made Application to have an interview with some of the Commissioners of the board of Longitude. In this my innocent heart had betrayed me. I was Soon made to understand that I must bribe the Secretary. body Servent. and all the tribe in livery about hand before I Could gain Access to the master. Struck with horror at the detested Idea. I waited Six weeks to the first of december Last, and presented my papers to the board of Longitude—

The Board Consists of Twenty members. The first lord of the admiralty is President. Two out of the number are Acting members only. N. Maskalin. and Sir Joseph Banks. To these two persons. every nautical project is left at A Commitee to Repeat to the board their opinion of the practabillity or impractibillity of the System proposed. Unfortunately Sir Joseph Banks was so ill with the gout. which rendered him unable to attend the board or the philosophic Society of which he is president. on Takeing this unfortunate disappointment into Consideration. and by the advice of friends. I gave A power of Atorney to a friend in London. with directions to take out A paper Called A Caviot from the patent office. This paper Costs one pound Sterling, which Secures. the invention to the individual for one Year. during which time he makes improvements upon his invention. And if the thing is useless, or impractable, he looses the pound only. If practable and he takes out the patent. he pays one hundred Guineas—

I do Not hesitate when I inform Your excellency that this Study Was too powerfull an Object for my intelleck to Support. The exertions Which I made to gain it by the revolution of the earth. was the Rock upon which I Split. and which was the Cause of all my misery. Being perswaded So much from the Testimony, which my feelings, pronounced to Support within me. that one of my Cast of mind, Could Not move upon the Surface of this globe, and be so Stupid, as to be unable to measure the distance Sometimes want of Sleep would bring the most powerfull enemies upon me. Millions if possible of regular and Confused Ideas. Accompanied I am perswaded with traces of mental derangements. Could I but limit the number of Ideas. or banish them at pleasure. I Should have enjoyed Some intervals of rest. The reverse was the Case, If I went down my Cellar, or on the house top, I Could not escape, under these terrible impressions. the reins given to imagination, where the Senses Could not find any object to rest upon. Occasion’d the mind, at times to wander to far from the Camp, amongst enemies. I now have the pleasure to inform your excellency, that this mind is Sprung by the elastic force of its Nautural powers, within the barriers of its own limits, beyond the powers of insult—

If the mind may be Considered as A member of the body And Subject to its Conveniencies like the leg or arm. Consequently whenever it is overwhelmed with Oppression, either the mind, or body or both must inevitably give way. But if the mind possesses an ambitious Virtue, No Sooner is the oppression Compleatly removed, than it begins insensibly to recoil and Collect itself, to feed again deliciously upon the fair Construction of its original happiness. That man is happy who Can Support this Idea with magnanimity. It is he who Can look with delight, that perfect knowledge of that enchanting Image when beautifully impressed, which enables the elivation of a great mind to mount up, and to embrace the Sensations of that delicate Stroke, elegantly figured upon the imagination. which detaches One thing from the Other distinctly—

For the above reasons. your excellency will Observe. That I do not pretend to include the time I was engaged in this Study, to wear the same Complexion. either for health. happiness. nor Steadyness of habit. With the time previous to it. Nor with the present. Your excellency I am perswaded, would be assured of the prying remark. had I not declared it—As respects the Satallites of Jupiter. I had not possessed a nautical almanac twenty minutes, before I concieved of the Idea, of reducing the Satallites with the planet to the horizon for observation—I have left nothing unfinished respecting this last point. having lodged it for decission, at the highest point of human perfection—

I have the pleasure to inform your excellency, that I enjoy a great State of health, was I in any way of business at present I Should be happy. had money been my favourite pursuit. it is probable that my Circumstances would Not be So extremly limited. I have a wife and eight fine Children, which are dear to me. And this is all I have to boast of at the end of this ardirous, and afflicting pursuit—

Your excellency will please to observe, by the foregoing, that I Cannot be happy. And that I am perswaded, from the Severe experience which I have had. That there exists None but gentlemen, of fine feeling the Philosopher, and Such as are truly great. that are Capable of drawing Neat inferences, and Just Conclusions of a person of my discription So unpleasantly Situated. Your excellency may believe me when I assure you. that the politeness, and attention with which you treated the project and projector far exceeds any thing I have experienced on both Sides of the atlantick. Therefore I have not been So happy as to meet with any Gentleman; which Corresponds with the Above discription, Your Excellency Excepted—

Should Your excellency View my exertions, in the Same favourable point of View, as when I had the honour of an interview with you at the federal City, I think it my duty; While I feel the most painfull diffidence hovering About me. And again feel the most pressing Sensations. in behalf of myself and family. to Call up the feelings of the first gaurdian of Science in our Country. and to inform you. under present existing Circumstances. That if your excellency should be perswaded That this individual who entered the list So Spiritedly, Covered With enthusiasm, And a persiverance that never was exceeded, into the Service of the publick deserves to be Rewarded. And your excellency’s goodness Should be disposed to protect. to patronize, and rain up, upon the Common level, with his fellow Citizens. one who has Seen better days. and is now dependant upon an ungratefull and unfeeling world. And one who appears to be now Sinking in obscurity. haveing no Capital to Set up any business. And one whose honesty, and Varacity, will Support the most rigid Scrutiny, and on whomb misfortunes are falling rapid from the highest pinicle of Philentrophy. Should Your excellency be disposed to apoint this individual to fill up any office in the government. Which Your excellency may be pleased to bestow, which may enable him to move on with his family in Credit and decency. I Shall forget past misfortunes, and be the happiest man now living. The miseries I have Seen the people of england endure, under an arbitary, and A tyranical Government. And the Oppression which I have disengaged from A mind, worn down with Care. afflictions and anxiety, Cannot fail to Contribute to Support that happiness. No Man Dr. Sir, but do myself, The pleasure to Subscribe myself Your Excellency’s friend and Humble Servt

Matthew C. Groves

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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