Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Thomson, 10 July 1807

Abingdon Virginia, 10th July 1807

I take the liberty of transmitting to you, Sir, by this days mail, the first pages of a little work, which I have undertaken to write in the midst of professional labors & great bodily infirmity—In doing this I am well aware, that I should subject myself in the estimation of some, to the imputation of gratifying my own vanity, at the expence of your time & trouble in glancing over, this ephemeral work. The habits and expectations of my former life, were such as would not justify the conclusion—Without arrogating much, I might, with truth say, that, my present situation resulted, from the wanton dissipation of time & of money.—Popularity & preferment were sacrificed to pleasure, they were offered & rejected. The characters I have attempted to delineate are the first effort of my mind, which I have ventured to give to the public. How far, it may entitle me to hope for future patronage in a more extensive work, which I now contemplate remains to be decided by those who will favor me with their opinions on it—. The delicacy of your situation, & the nature of the subject, will of course preclude, me, from the knowledge, of your sentiments.

For the last three years, I have been actively employed in collecting materials, for the history of the Western country, making the Allegahny & the waters of Ohio, the limits of my investigation—. I have obtained & committed to memorandums much authentic information—. The rapid growth, of the country, predicts its future importance in the American Republic—As yet little or nothing is known about it—. The question then is,

Whether the condensing the whole in such a shape as to serve at all events as a record, for some man, superior to myself in talents & in science to dilate & expand, would not be desirable? Should you, Sir deem this letter worthy your attention I will feel myself, honored by transmitting to you, the leading features of the work—Without pretending to deep research, in Natural history, or botany, yet having originally whilst in Europe, devoted some time to their study, I have retained a sufficient stock, to give a general account of the productions found in the country—With respect to the style I have taken the liberty, of subjecting to your view, a specimen, which I am free to acknowledge abounds, with such inaccuracies, as time & attention may tend, to chasten.

Whilst, Sir, it is true, that you are not bound, to express any opinions, as to the course which others may pursue, & that it is a matter of Judgment & discretion, with the individual who chuses, to write yet on this subject I believe you will feel a peculiar interest—. There is no branch of science, whose operation is more felt, on the morals of mankind, than that of history. I am far, from believing myself, capable of diffusing its advantages I should feel content, to deposit, my information, in the hands of any man, who could use it, with more reputation to himself and honor to his country than I anticipate—My circumstances in life, are not propitious to the present undertaking, whilst my health prevents the vigorous pursuit of the Law, I mention this circumstance as a reason, for my forming any plan of the kind—.

Permit me now, to mention, Sir, as some apology for this intrusion, that I have been formerly honored with your personal acquaintance, & perhaps, more known, from being the brother, of John Thomson of Petersburg, than any traits of merit in my own character—. I have the honor to be Sir, Yours with the highest sentiments of respect

Wm: Thomson


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