Following up on my last post, I thought I'd transcribe and post the June 3, 1819 and October 2, 1819 letters that Robert J. Evans sent to Thomas Jefferson, seeking the latter's thoughts on how to eradicate slavery. Presumably Evans's letters to James Madison and John Adams were similar. The Sage of Monticello sent a non-substantive reply in November 1819, pleading illness and old age as his excuses.
Evans's first letter to Jefferson is dated June 3, 1819. The letter makes clear that the two men did not know one another:
His Excellency Thomas Jefferson
Deeply impressed with a sense of the dreadful atrocity of Slavery and its eventual evil consequences to the prosperity and happiness of the Nation, I am endeavouring with a consciousness of my inability to do that justice to that subject which its great importance demands to call the attention of the American People to it, through the medium of the National Intelligencer under the assumed signature of "Benjamin Rush."
Knowing from your Notes on Virginia as well as from the whole tenour [?] of your publick life what your sentiments on this subject are, I have taken the liberty of soliciting from you such hints relative to a plan for it's [sic] total abolition as may have occurred to you in your reflections on the subject which you may suppose calculated to promote this great object. I am aware of your advanced age and your increasing love of retirement but hope the great importance of the subject will plead my excuse.
Entirely unknown to you and to the world, but convinced of the importance of your opinions, and believing with the rest of the american family that they are the property of your country, as one of them I feel a proportionate interest and have ventured to make this request.
If this application should be considered as impertinent be pleased to consign it to oblivion and seek for my excuse in the motive which has given rise to it.
With profound respect and gratitude for your services to your country. I am your fellow citizen
Robert J. Evans
Not having received a response, Evans sent a follow-up letter on October 2, 1819:
Philadel[phia] October 2nd.1819.
His Excellent Thomas Jefferson
With that undissembled and profound respect, which every American should feel, for the illustrious author of the declaration of Independence; I ventured some months since, to address you on a subject, of the very first importance to this nation, and to the cause of liberty: - that of the untimate extirpation of Slavery from the land. As endeavours were making to awaken the earnest attention of our fellow citizens to it, through the medium of the National Intelligencer, under the assumed signature of “Benjamin Rush”; it was hoped by the writer, that as your opinions connected with it, were known to all the world, some useful hints calculated to promote the great object, the result of reflection, might be signally beneficial to our country, whose best interests, it is now generally acknowledged by all parties, you have uniformly consulted, and laboured to promote. To this communication I have not been honoured with a line in reply. Perhaps it did not get to hand. The tremendous importance of the subject will continue, till measures of an efficient character shall be adopted, to remove or avert the approaching disastrous effects. Will you be pleased to pardon the liberty again taken, of respectfully enquiring, whether any mode of successfully accomplishing so desirable a purpose, other than those, which have been already laid before the publick, has occurred to you. If there has, should it not be the property of your country?
With sentiments of gratitude & respect I am your obedient servant
Robert J. Evans