1 page, 4to, offset on 3¾ in. sq. portion of first page; remnants of mounting on verso, and a rectangular offset in upper portion. With original envelope and AUTOGRAPH FREE FRANK SIGNED ("FREE TH: JEFFERSON")." /> JEFFERSON, Thomas. Autograph letter signed ("Th: Jefferson"), TO ROBERT FULTON (1765-1815), Monticello, 17 March 1810. <I>1 page, 4to, offset on 3¾ in. sq. portion of first page; remnants of mounting on verso, and a rectangular offset in upper portion</I>. With original envelope and AUTOGRAPH FREE FRANK SIGNED ("FREE TH: JEFFERSON").|
  • Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1922

    Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana

    3 December 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 143

    JEFFERSON, Thomas. Autograph letter signed ("Th: Jefferson"), TO ROBERT FULTON (1765-1815), Monticello, 17 March 1810. 1 page, 4to, offset on 3¾ in. sq. portion of first page; remnants of mounting on verso, and a rectangular offset in upper portion. With original envelope and AUTOGRAPH FREE FRANK SIGNED ("FREE TH: JEFFERSON").

    Price Realised  

    JEFFERSON, Thomas. Autograph letter signed ("Th: Jefferson"), TO ROBERT FULTON (1765-1815), Monticello, 17 March 1810. 1 page, 4to, offset on 3¾ in. sq. portion of first page; remnants of mounting on verso, and a rectangular offset in upper portion. With original envelope and AUTOGRAPH FREE FRANK SIGNED ("FREE TH: JEFFERSON").

    "I AM NOT AFRAID OF NEW INVENTIONS OR IMPROVEMENTS, NOR BIGOTED TO THE PRACTICES OF OUR FOREFATHERS"

    Two of the greatest Americans of the early 19th century are linked here as Jefferson praises Fulton's new design for a torpedo, and launches into a celebration of the American spirit of innovation. "I have duly received your favor of Feb. 24 covering one of your pamphlets on the Torpedo. I have read it with pleasure. This was not necessary to give them favor in my eyes. I am not afraid of new inventions or improvements, nor bigoted to the practices of our forefathers. It is that bigotry which keeps the Indians in a state of barbarism in the midst of the arts, would have kept us in the same state even now and still keeps Connecticut where their ancestors were when they landed on these shores."

    He is glad that Congress appears to be backing Fulton's new weapon. "Your torpedoes will be to cities what vaccination has been to mankind. It extinguishes their greatest danger. But there will still be navies. Not for the destruction of cities, but for the plunder of commerce on the high seas. That the tories should be against you is in character, because it will curtail the power of their idol, England." An inveterate inventor and tinkerer himself, Jefferson closes by discussing a new hydraulic mechanism. "I would not give you the trouble of having a model made, as I have workmen who can execute from the drawing."

    Jefferson enthusiastically championed Fulton's work both during and after his presidency, in spite of the skepticism of many senior naval officials. They worried that Fulton's torpedo would be of little use without a viable submersible ship to deliver the weapon (a concern Jefferson shared). Congress appropriated $5,000 to aid Fulton's R&D, and six months after this letter he staged a demonstration of his torpedo in New York harbor. The unimpressed admirals decided to cut off his funding, forcing the inventor to turn his attention to the steam boat.


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    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN