To John W. Campbell Monticello, September 3, 1809SIR,
-- Your letter of July 29th came to hand some time since, but I have not sooner been able to acknowledge it. In answer to your proposition for publishing a complete edition of my different writings, I must observe that no writings of mine, other than those merely official, have been published, except the Notes on Virginia and a small pamphlet under the title of a Summary View of the rights of British America. The Notes on Virginia, I have always intended to revise and enlarge, and have, from time to time, laid by materials for that purpose. It will be long yet before other occupations will permit me to digest them, and observations and inquiries are still to be made, which will be more correct in proportion to the length of time they are continued. It is not unlikely that this may be through my life. I could not, therefore, at present, offer anything new for that work.
The Summary View was not written for publication. It was a draught I had prepared for a petition to the king, which I meant to propose in my place as a member of the convention of 1774. Being stopped on the road by sickness, I sent it on to the Speaker, who laid it on the table for the perusal of the members. It was thought too strong for the times, and to become the act of the convention, but was printed by subscription of the members, with a short preface written by one of them. If it had any merit, it was that of first taking our true ground, and that which was afterwards assumed and maintained.
I do not mention the Parliamentary Manual, published for the use of the Senate of the United States, because it was a mere compilation, into which nothing entered of my own but the arrangement, and a few observations necessary to explain that and some of the cases.
I do not know whether your view extends to official papers of mine which have been published. Many of these would be like old newspapers, materials for future historians, but no longer interesting to the readers of the day. They would consist of reports, correspondences, messages, answers to addresses; a few of my reports while Secretary of State, might perhaps be read by some as essays on abstract subjects. Such as the report on measures, weights and coins, on the mint, on the fisheries, on commerce, on the use of distilled sea-water, &c. The correspondences with the British and French ministers, Hammond and Genet, were published by Congress. The messages to Congress, which might have been interesting at the moment, would scarcely be read a second time, and answers to addresses are hardly read a first time.
So that on a review of these various materials, I see nothing encouraging a printer to a re-publication of them. They would probably be bought by those only who are in the habit of preserving State papers, and who are not many.
I say nothing of numerous draughts of reports, resolutions, declarations, &c., drawn as a Member of Congress or of the Legislature of Virginia, such as the Declaration of Independence, Report on the Money Mint of the United States, the act of religious freedom, &c., &c.; these having become the acts of public bodies, there can be no personal claim to them, and they would no more find readers now, than the journals and statute books in which they are deposited.
I have presented this general view of the subjects which might have been within the scope of your contemplation, that they might be correctly estimated before any final decision. They belong mostly to a class of papers not calculated for popular reading, and not likely to offer profit, or even indemnification to the re-publisher.
Submitting it to your consideration, I tender you my salutations and