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5   Thomas Jefferson  $5000 $17000 $18700 5 You must login to place a bid.

#5 - Thomas Jefferson

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In a solemn testament to friendship, Jefferson declines to publish the private letters of the late Benjamin Rush
Description                           Estimate: $35,000+          

Beautifully penned ALS signed “Th: Jefferson,” one page, 8 x 9.75, August 17, 1816. Written from Monticello, a letter to prominent Philadelphian doctor and horticulturalist James Mease, in full: “I have duly received your favor of the 7th inst. requesting me to communicate to you such letters from the late Dr. Rush to myself as I possess on political, religious, & miscellaneous subjects, with a view to their publication. I possess but few such; but these were of extraordinary confidence; insomuch that, on his death, I requested from his family a return of my letters to him on subjects of this character, which they kindly and honorably did return. Had I died first, I think it probable he would have made the same request from my family, & with the same view, that of preventing the publication of his letters, or their getting into hands which might expose him, living, or his character when dead, to obloquy from bigots in religion, in politics, or in medicine. When we are pouring our inmost thoughts into the bosom of a friend, we lose sight of the world, we see ourselves only in confabulation with another self; we are off our guard; write hastily; hazard thoughts of the first impression; yield to momentary excitement; because, if we err, no harm is done; it is to a friend we have committed ourselves, who knows us, who will not betray us; but will keep to himself what, but for this confidence, we should reconsider, weigh, correct, perhaps reject, on the more mature reflections and dictates of our reason. To fasten a man down to all his unreflected expressions, and to publish him to the world in that as his serious & settled form, is a surprise on his judgment and character. I do not mean an inference that there is anything of this character in Doctor Rush’s letters to me: but only that, having been written without intention or preparation for publication, I do not think it within the office of a friend to give them a publicity which he probably did not contemplate.

I know that this is often the form in which an author chuses to have his ideas made public. When the occasion, the subject, the chastened style evidently indicate this, it may be a good evidence of intention, as direct expression, but in the present case, the occasions were special, the persons and subjects most confidential, and the style the ordinary careless one of private correspondence. Under these circumstances, I hope, my dear Sir, you will see in my scruples only a sentiment of fidelity to a deceased friend, and that you will accept assurances of my great esteem and respect.” Reverse of second integral page addressed and franked in Jefferson’s own hand, “free, Th: Jefferson, Doct. James Mease, Philadelphia.” In fine condition, with professional restoration to seal-related paper damage near the free frank hinge; the letter itself displays handsomely.

While compiling an epistolary volume of Rush’s views on religion and politics, Mease, who had studied under the physician at the University of Pennsylvania, appealed to Jefferson for the release of his relevant correspondence. Jefferson, as this letter shows, politely declined the invitation, and for sound reason. In 1813, a publication of private letters threatened to damage his restored relationship with John Adams; encouraged by their mutual friend Benjamin Rush, the pair had reconciled a year earlier after nearly a decade of silence. Mirroring the content of this letter, Jefferson famously denounced the public dispersal of private letters as ‘an instance of inconsistency, as well as of infidelity,’ and deemed them ‘a confidential communication of reflections…from one friend to another…and never meant to trouble the public mind.’ A fabulous letter related to the principles of privacy and publication—a relevant topic no matter the period—augmented by Jefferson’s eloquent prose and beautiful penmanship. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.

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