Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) to Henry Dearborn re: recommending W.Duncanson for Librarian of Congress

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06826 Author/Creator: Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) Place Written: Monticello Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1807/04/21 Pagination: 1 p. 21.3 x 18.1 cm

Jefferson, writing to his Secretary of War, discusses nominations for various posts, particularly W. Duncanson for Librarian of Congress, because of his distressed condition. "He was in the worst days of terror, one of the 4 or 5 who alone stood their ground as republicans in Washington and Georgetown. [....] He is warm in temper, and on account of some communications with Col. Smith in Miranda's affair and perhaps some acquaintance with Burr, might, I fear be rather unpopular with the members [of Congress]; but my confidence is that he vowed to be, & has been, an honest man in all his purposes. I am a little puzzled therefore between doubt & inclination." John J. Beckley, Clerk of the House, had served as first librarian until his death two weeks before this letter. Jefferson's doubts about Duncanson's judgment eventually swayed him as he withdrew Duncanson. Patrick Magruder was appointed in November to serve as Clerk of the House and Librarian.

Monticello Apr. 21. 07.
Dear Sir

I return the nominations of [illegible] and [illegible] approved. I send you also a letter from a mr. Shaw who asks emploiment [sic], & one from a Lieut. Sebastian to whom I will ask you to give an answer, if one be proper. your letter of the 11th. 12th. & 16th were received yesterday only, by the missing certainly of more than one mail. With respect to the office of librarian, I have thought it best generally to give it to the clerk of the H. of R. who being dependant on the house is of course [illegible] to be complaisant to the members in the present case I strongly disposed to depart from the rule [struck] in favor of W. Duncanson. he was in the very worst day of terror one of the 4 or 5 who alone stood their ground as republicans in Washington & Georgetown. he is I think a very honest man, came here and very wealthy one, [struck] has been swindled out of his whole property, & is nor real distress. He is warm in his temper, and on account of some communications with Col. Smith in Miranda's affair and perhaps some acquaintance with Burr, might, I fear, be rather unpopular with the members: but my confidence is that he would be, & has been, an honest man in all his purposes. I am a little puzzled therefore between doubt & inclination. Affectionate salutations.

Th: Jefferson
The Secretary at War
( gen. Dearborn)

Order a CopyCitation Guidelines for Online Resources