Thomas Jefferson collection (1780-1881)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Shannon Wait, February 2011
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Thomas Jefferson collection
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1780-1881
Extent: 54 items
The Thomas Jefferson collection contains 54 miscellaneous letters written by or to Jefferson, 1780-1826, and an 1881 letter from Jefferson's granddaughter, Septimia Meikelham, concerning him.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

M-230 et al.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation

Thomas Jefferson Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The items are arranged chronologically.


Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, Virginia, the third of ten children of a farmer and surveyor, Peter Jefferson, and his wife, Jane Randolph. In 1757, after the death of his father, Jefferson inherited 5000 acres of farmland and numerous slaves. A 1762 graduate of the College of William and Mary, he then studied law under George Wythe and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767. Jefferson worked as a lawyer for many of Virginia's most prominent families, and in 1768, began construction of his mansion, Monticello. In 1772, he married Martha Wayles Skelton, the daughter of planter John Wayles and Martha Eppes, with whom he had two children who survived infancy: Martha and Mary.

In addition to work as a lawyer, Jefferson represented Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and in 1774, he wrote a set of resolutions opposing the Coercive Acts. The next year he served in the Second Continental Congress and in June of 1776 was appointed to a committee to draft a declaration to accompany a resolution of independence from Great Britain. The committee chose Jefferson to write the document, and on July 4, 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson served in numerous other political roles, first in the new Virginia House of Delegates (1776-1779) and then as Governor of Virginia (1779-1781), member of the Congress of the Confederation (1783-1784), minister to France (1785-1789), and Secretary of State under President George Washington (1790-1793). From 1797-1801, he served as vice president under John Adams, and then was elected to two presidential terms, which he held from 1801-1809. During his presidency, the United States began and won the First Barbary War, secured the Louisiana Purchase, and banned the importation of slaves. After his presidency, Jefferson focused much of his attention on the founding of the University of Virginia, which opened in 1825, and on book collecting. His donation of approximately 6000 volumes to Congress in 1815 formed the foundation of the Library of Congress. He died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Thomas Jefferson collection contains 53 miscellaneous letters to or from Jefferson, dated 1780-1826, as well as an 1881 letter concerning him, written by his granddaughter, Septimia Meikleham. The letters address numerous topics, including fundraising in Europe for the American Revolution, various scientific subjects, the Louisiana Purchase, trade, and political appointments. For more information, see the inventory located under the "Detailed Box and Folder Listing" heading.

Subject Terms

  • Académie royale des sciences (France)
  • France--Foreign relations--United States.
  • Louisiana Purchase.
  • Science--History--18th century.
  • United States--Foreign relations--France.
  • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
  • United States--Politics and government--1783-1865.
  • United States presidents.
  • Churchman, John, 1753-1805.
  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1732-1807.
  • Mazzei, Filippo, 1730-1816.
  • Paine, Thomas, 1737-1809.
  • Nash, Melatiah, 1767 or 8-1830.
  • Scales, William, 1741-1807.
  • Story, Isaac, 1749-1816.
  • Swift, Joseph Gardner, 1783-1865.
  • Tatham, William, 1752-1819.
  • Tracy, Elisha, 1766-1846.
Genre Terms:
  • Correspondence.
  • Documents.

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Volume   1  
Thomas Jefferson collection,  1780-1881 [series]
  1780 April 20. Philip Mazzei LS to Thomas Jefferson; Paris, [France]. (3 pages)
Written to Jefferson during Mazzei's attempts, as his agent, to raise funds in Europe for the America's efforts in the Revolutionary War.
  1784. [Thomas Jefferson] Doc. to [David Hartley]. (2 pages)     Located in Gold Star collection; the mounted map was acquired with the David Hartley papers, the other with the Charles Townshend papers 
2 copies of maps, one mounted, of Jefferson's idea for the division of the western lands acquired by the United States folloiwing the 1783 Peace Treaty. Also includes a 22 page report written by David Hartley to Lord Carmathen on January 9, 1785, urging Britain to establish a trade alliance with the United States in part because of the potential of these unsettled lands.
Folder   : Oversize Manuscripts  
  1787 April 10. John Churchman ALS to Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris; Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]. ( 2 pages)     Enclosed in Churchman's letter to Jefferson dated June 6, 1787 
Concerning the "Variation of the Compass." He goes on to list conclusions regarding magnetism, latitude and longitude based on "a variety of observations, Reflections and Deductions."
Volume   1  
  1787 June 6. John Churchman ALS to [Thomas Jefferson]; Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]. (1 page)     Encloses memorial to Royal Academy of Sciences, Paris, April 10, 1787 
Requests that his enclosed paper is presented to the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris; "the Secretary of Congress has been obliging enough to propose writing a Line on my behalf … "
  1787 November 22. John Churchman ALS to Thomas Jefferson. (2 pages)     Encloses memorial to Royal Academy of Sciences, Paris, November 22, 1787 
Requests that "a Copy of the Memorial already received from me may be sent the first opportunity to each of the Governments or Learned Societies in Europe … " He hopes that "the Substance of the first Memorial may be … sent in the name of … Thomas Jefferson Esq."
  1787 November 22. John Churchman ALS to Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris. (2 pages)     Enclosed in Churchman's letter to Jefferson dated November 22, 1787 
Churchman's Memorial in which "he finds at the Royal Societys House in London by two weeks observations of the Variation of the Compass at different times of the day in the year 1779 … " the mean of observations. Believes the variation can be taken to sea provided that the right instrument is constructed, which would make it "easy to take the Latitude as well as the Variation of the compass by a mean of the observations from the North Star..."
  1788 September 2. Thomas Jefferson ALS to John Mason; Paris, [France]. (1 page)
Jefferson is happy to hear of the health of his father[George Mason], "and with great pleasure comply with his wishes that I should render you such services as may come within my line." Believes that Mason has taken a good position at Bordeaux and that trade between Bordeaux and the United States could be "advantageous." He hopes to see him in Paris soon.
  1790 October. Samuel Vaughan ALS to Thomas Jefferson; St. James's, Jamaica. (2 pages)
He cannot accommodate the recipient's request for mountain rice, "but I do what I can by sending you 40 Seed by two different opportunities." There is a lot of it in Hispaniola, and he encloses other agricultural products with the letter.
  1790 November 3. Samuel Vaughan ALS to Thomas Jefferson; St. James's, Jamaica. (1 page)
Has inclosed 20 more seed of mountain rice, "the first Parcel I sent a Month since, to the care of my Brother John. I am almost ashamed to send you so small a quantity but my former letter explains the Reason."
  1791 October 9. William Tatham ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Richmond, [Virginia]. (2 pages)
Expresses that he had wished to see him before Jefferson went to Alexandria "on the business of the Federal City." He believes that Jefferson's knowledge of his "singular situation" would be useful, especially with the Virginia Assembly meeting soon. Mentions information regarding the "S. Western Port."
  [1791] November 1. William Tatham ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Richmond, [Virginia]. ( 2 pages)
Informs Jefferson that he is sending him some maps. After discussing matters conerning Governor [Beverley] Randolph and Col. Monroe, "I expect a Committee of the House will be appointed today for the purpose of inspection, and no time or pains shall be lost on my part to render the whole as minute as possible."
  1792 December 31. William Pearce ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Paterson. (1 page)
Informing him that "the true Account of our Machine was published in the N York Daily Advertiser of the 24th." Gives a detailed breakdown of the machine, which cleans cotton.
  [17]93 October 24. Thomas Jefferson Doc. to Capt. Cutting. (1 page)
Engraved dinner invitation for Monday, January 24, [17]93 at 3:30 pm.
  1794 September 5. Thomas Jefferson Cy to George Hammond; Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]. (7 pages)
Concerning the Jay Treaty (in the Melville papers attached to a copy of the Jay Treaty November 19, 1794).
  1795 August 17. Isaac Story ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Marblehead, [Massachusetts]. (4 pages)
Regarding geometry and square-roots. Includes "Revd. Joseph Willard … President of the University in Cambridge, Massachusetts [Harvard University]; & Vice President of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences."
  1796 May 28. William Strickland ALS to Thomas Jefferson; London, [England]. (7 pages)
Discusses peas that are cultivated in England and has sent him a box of seeds marked "Virginia." He discusses items pertaining to agriculture in England and the United States.
  1796 June 1. Robert Pleasants ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Richmond, [Virginia]. (1 page)
Desires to see steps taken towards providing for the education of black children, "a duty we owe to that much degraded part of our fellow Creatures … " He sends an essay "for thy consideration, with a request, that should thou approve the subject, thou will please to make such alterations or amendments as may appear to thee more likely to answer the desired purpose..."
Folder   : Oversize Manuscripts  
  1801 June 18. Thomas Jefferson DS; [s.l.]. (1 page)
Pass for the Boston ship Fame .
Volume   1  
  1801 July 8. Benjamin Riceland ALS to Thomas Jefferson; East Sudbury, [Massachusetts]. (1 page)
Sends 6 copies of "The Theory of Fevers" and 6 copies of "The Theory of Generations."
  1801 July 26. Calvin Jones ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Southfield, North Carolina. (2 pages)
"The importance of the Militia...will be duly appreciated by an administration that is unfriendly to a Standing military force." He has been working on training militia; the North Carolina legislature has passed a bill revising the system of laws governing militia and became law. "I believe the imperfections of these Laws cannot be completely remedied but by an act of Congress." He has enclosed a pamphlet to "assist in disciplining the militia."
  1801 August 1. Peyton Short ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Cincinnati, [Ohio]. (1 page)
Thanks him for a previous letter that he forwarded to Short's brother, and is "sorry you … thought it necessary to give me any explanation respecting the Seal."
  1801 October 27. Isaac Story ALS to "To the President of the united States."; Marblehead, Massachusetts. (12 pages)
Praises Jefferson as a man of erudtion and enjoyed his inauguration speech. He shares his past and sends an oration of his son. He encloses pages on the "Metempsychosis--doctrine" and states that "Two of your public Officers, Mr. Madison & Mr. Habersham were my Contemporaries at College."
  1803 June 6. John P. Whitwell and Andrew Oliver ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Boston, [Massachusetts]. (1 page)
Subscribers in Boston enclose a copy of a letter from themselves to the Secretary of the Navy [Robert Smith]; "The ground of this application, rests upon the commonly receiv'd maxim, That the Inhabitants of a City, possess a superior claim to the emoluments arising from the outfit of a Public Vessel, where she may happen to be station'd or constructed."
  1803 August 2. Thomas Paine ALS to John Breckenridge; Bordentown, [New Jersey]. (5 pages)      Located in the Gold Star collection, enclosed with Jefferson's August 12, 1803 letter to Breckenridge. 
Regarding the Louisiana Purchase, "making on the whole 15,000,000 dollars." Discusses the constitutional issues surrounding the purchase, as well as those who "say it is not worth slavery." He questions and discusses the form that the purchase should take when it is presented to Congress.
  1803 August 12. Thomas Jefferson ALS to John Breckenridge; Monticello, [Virginia]. (3 pages.)      Located in the Gold Star collection, enclosed with Paine's August 2, 1803 letter to Breckenridge 
Concerning the Louisiana Purchase; Jefferson lists the bounds of the land cession, the constitutional issues surrounding the purchase, and chastises those opposed to it. "I thought it my duty to risk myself for you. but we shall not be disavowed by the nation, and their act of indemnity will confirm & not weaken the constitution, by more strongly marking out it's lines."
  [18]03 November 27. Thomas Jefferson ALS to Craven Peyton; Washington, D.C.. (1 page)
Wishes for a note for 558 dollars to "be either postponed awhile or paid by monthly portions … " Inclosed in a small envelope with Jefferson's signature and stamped "FREE."
  1804 May 25. William Scales ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Brunswick. (2 pages)
He is on the side of "The Memorialist, [who] has brought forth in a Roll clear demonstrations against Locke and Newton, the two grand pillars of the learned world..." He implores Jefferon to attend to these demonstrations of theology, philosophy, and metaphysics. "If his Excellency declines please to lay the proposition before the Congress, and let them manifest a decline also, if they please."
  1804 November 4. William Scales ALS to Thomas Jefferson; n.p.. (3 pages)
Condemns the Louisiana Purchase; "The people from whom you profess to receive your authority over them are like the owls, racoons, porcupines and Skunk … " Mentions the teachings of Locke, Newton, and Paine. Scales wishes to come and prove "all the charge, hereby delivered, and wave the whole country from that awfull deluge which is coming swiftly upon it, the way it is in..."
  1804 December 15. Samuel Overton ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Frankfort. (2 pages)
Mentions having "my person & property secured … you will not I hope Sir think that I write to you from my principle of Court favour."
  1806 July 22. Gabriel Nourse ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Sharpsburg, Maryland. (1 page)
He has enclosed "a small pamphlet and as I shall probably publish another edition. Should it meet your approbation a note significant of it will greatly oblige a friend & Brother Citizen." He further states that it was last published in Kentucky and "has since gone through two editions with additions."
  1806 October 12. William Schultz ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]. (3 pages)
Schultz has sought refuge from persecutions he experienced in Europe; he is grateful and wants "to be useful, and called into active operation the talents I possess. With the various branches of mechanicks I have rendered myself familiar."He has enclosed his plan for a machine "for the introduction of water into this city at a much cheaper rate than it is done at present, and to ask your protection for it."
  1807 July 10. William Thomson ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Abingdon, Virginia. (5 pages)
He sends the first pages of a work that he has undertaken "in the midst of professional labors & great bodily infirmity." For the last three years he has collected materials for "the history of the Western country, making the Allegheny & the waters of Ohio the limits of my investigation."
  1807 October 7. William Thomson ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Abingdon, Virginia. (3 pages)
"I have to solicit, your indulgence for innumerable errors … My language in some instances has been too acrimonious for men 'whose timid souls, shrink from the avowal of truth … '"
  1807 November 17. William Schultz ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]. (2 pages)
Mentions that Jefferson is the president of the American Philosophical Society; he writes him "upon the subject of publishing a translation of a value epitome of Philosophy, adapted to all classes of reasons … " He hopes Jefferson can be a patron for the work and says that it will be put to press once there are enough subscribers.
  1808 August 26. William Schultz ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]. (3 pages)
Provides a list of machines that he intends to take out patents for, including a mechanical pump and mechanical fire engine. He solicits Jefferson's aid as a potential patron, "being informed that your liberality has never been exelled to the lean of 500 dollars."
  1808 September 15. Elisha Tracy ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Norwich, Connecticut. (2 pages)
Regarding possible attempts to evade the "Embargo Law" [the Embargo Act of 1807]; "I extremely regret that the sing frigate Chesapeake should have furnished so many evidences of the political & moral depravity of the New England merchants." Mentions town meetings being held in Boston concerning the embargo.
  1808 October 25. Elisha Tracy ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Norwich, Connecticut. (1 page)
"I have received a Letter from the U.S. Attorney for … Connecticut, informing me that an attempt has been made to destroy that confidence which induced you to bestow an Office on him." He praises him as a friend of the administration but not gifted with certain courtroom talents.
  1808 December 9. William Schultz ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]. (2 pages)
Discusses a machine he has been working on, and a difficulty with friction that he has solved. He identifies himself as a Dane and is dedicated to impoving naval tactics, mathematic principles and inventing useful machinery. He hopes to come to Washington and share his ideas with Jefferson.
  1809 February 24. Charles F. Welles ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Athens, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. (2 pages)
Has enclosed two pieces of poetry, one being an invective against Jefferson and the other a reply written by a youth. He has taken notice because the slander comes from Charles Miner, a newspaper editor, "for the two last years the leading Federal member in our State Legislature & now an aspirant to a higher delegation," and shares how the neighboring people were pleased at the teen's retort.
  1811 October 24. Melatiah Nash ALS to Thomas Jefferson; New York. (2 pages)
Communicates that he is preparing a work on the solar system and stars. He requests scientific minds to assess it before it reaches publication and provide recommendations. There will be four pages for each month and it will be titled "The Columbian Ephemeris and Astronomical Diary." He wants Jefferson to share his opinion, which "is considered to great importance."
  1814 April 30. Abraham Small ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]. (1 page)
Requests that Jefferson accept his book that he has enclosed; "My heart tells me it is but a poor expression of my veneration for you." He believes another edition is likely and hopes the Indian Department can be made known of it.
  1814 May 17. Th[omas] Jefferson ALS to William Short; Monticello, [Virginia]. (1 page)
Letter of recommendation for Mr. Rives.
  1815 March 31. William Wingate ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Haverhill, [Massachusetts]. (1 page)
Has enclosed a book to Jefferson; "I wish you carefully to examine its content, and let me know … your mind, whether it is permissable for to carry it into execution … " He would be among the first to read it.
  1815 June 23. Andrew C. Mitchell ALS to Thomas Jefferson; New York. (3 pages)
Presents a pamphlet "entitled the Second Crisis of America, of which I am the author requesting for it the honor of your perusal."
  1818 November 23. F.G.B. Smith ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Powelton, Georgia. (3 pages)
The front page includes a detailed diagram of his ideas to improve the printing press and asks for Jefferson's opinion. Includes a key explaining certain features on the drawing.
  1821 April 12. Tho[mas] Jefferson ALS to John Vaughan; Monticello, [Virginia]. (1 page)
"I have just received a letter from Mr [Joshua] Dodge which will save you the trouble of answering the paragraph in mine of the 8th. respecting him."
  1823 June 13. Thomas Jefferson ALS to John Laval; Monticello, [Virginia]. (1 page)
Acknowledges that he has received "the 4 vols. of Las Casas, & and have to ask the favor of you to send me a copy of the National almanac for this & the next years, and 2 copies of Phaedrus's fables in Latin for school boys, by successive mails, sending also my account which shall be promptly remitted."
  1823 July 26. P.W. Sproat ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania]. (1 page)
Encloses a copy of "the Savage Beauty a Novel recently written by me as a specimen of American Writing." [Sproat's book was published in 1822]
  1823 September 23. Hugh P. Taylor ALS to [Thomas] Jefferson; Lewisburg, Greenbrier [County], [West] Virginia. (4 pages)
References an earlier meeting between with him in which Jefferson communicated that he had documents relative to the early history of Virginia and the "N. Western states," and had no plans to publish them or have anyone else do so. He would like "the pleasure and the honour of using them for publication." He includes a list of questions pertaining to Indians.
  1824 July 6. General [Joseph Garner] Swift AL to Thomas Jefferson; New York. (1 page)
Third-person letter acknowledging the receipt of an earlier letter sent by Jefferson. He plans on sending a book on de L'Orme architecture to Col. [Bernard] Peyton and requests that Jefferson have Peyton return it. He also mentions Jefferson's letter concerning funds being appropriated "to endow the Lyceum of Natural History."
  1825 February 20. Thomas Jefferson ALS to Stephen Van Rensselaer; Monticello, [Virginia]. (1 page)
Thanks him for copies of the "Geological & Agricultural survey." He goes on to state that one of the copies will be placed per Rensselaer's request "in the Library of our University, which institution goes into operation on the 7th … " [the University of Virginia's first classes opened in March 1825]
  1825 February 20. Thomas Jefferson Facsim. of ALS to Stephen Van Rensselaer; Monticello, [Virginia]. (1 page)
Lithoprint facsimile of Jefferson's February 20, 1825 letter to Van Rensselaer.
  1825 December 30. E.B. [Ebenezer Bancroft] Williston ALS to Thomas Jefferson; Middletown, Connecticut. (2 pages)
Williston is preparing a collection of famous American speeches for publication and is having difficulty locating "the early Congressional debates … I shall be under very great obligations to you if you will have the goodness to designate some of the most distinguished Congressional speeches made before 1800 & inform me from what source I may obtain copies of them." [the book would be titled "Eloquence of the United States" and published in 5 volumes, beginning in 1827]
  1826 April 15. Thomas Jefferson AN to Bernard Peyton; Monticello, [Virginia]. (1 page)
"I correct my blunder of misdirecting my letter to mr Madison by inclosing it to him This day. I committed a similar one while in Paris by … directing two letters to two ladies out of which … I did not get to easily."
  1881 March 7. Septimia Meikleham ALS to Stilson Hutchins [n.p.] (2 pages)
Meikleham, Thomas Jefferson's granddaughter, regrets to inform him that "I could not repay you for the trouble, by giving you any information of value on the past history of our country. I was very young when my Grandfather died … " and could not understand the conversations that he and other statesmen had when they came to see him.
  [n.d.] [William Tatham?] Ms to unknown; n.p. (3 pages)
Contains the header, "The History of Virginia." Includes of other works, including maps of the American South by William Tatham.

Additional Descriptive Data


Peterson, Merill D. "Jefferson, Thomas." American National Biography Online.