UVa Library Press Releases 1997 - 1998
JEFFERSON-JACKSON LETTER HIGHLIGHTS RARE AUTOGRAPH
COLLECTION TRANSFERRED TO U.VA. LIBRARY
Contact: Michael Plunkett, director of Special Collections at (804) 924-3998 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
An advice-filled letter signed by former presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson highlights a collection of historic autographs recently placed at the University of Virginia by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Among the 13 items are documents bearing the original signatures of former presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln (accompanied by an original Matthew Brady portrait photograph), William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor and Harry S. Truman. Also included are the autographs of King Louis XIV and the Marquis de Lafayette of France; Francis Scott Key, who wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner"; John Hancock, famous signer of the Declaration of Independence; and Lord Fairfax.
"The Victor V. Martin Collection is an exceptional group of documents acquired by an individual dedicated to assembling a collection of autographs of significant and important people," said Michael Plunkett, director of Special Collections for the U.Va. library system. "The collection not only presents itself as an interesting and distinguished group of letters that will display and exhibit well, they contain engaging and notable insights into the individuals themselves. The dual letter of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson demonstrate this well.
"We are especially gratified that the United States Army Corps of Engineers recognizes the importance of the University of Virginia Library as a research institution by placing them here."
The collection was the personal passion of the late Victor V. Martin, a 41-year employee of the Army Corps of Engineers' special counsel's office. In 1953, Martin deposited the collection in the Engineer Museum, then located at Fort Belvoir, Va. When the museum moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., the collection remained in the custody of the Corps' Office of History in Alexandria until it was transferred to the University in June. Martin died in May 1962.
Office of History, determined that the collection lay outside the scope of the Corps' holdings and began searching for a more suitable repository. His search led to U.Va., where the items could be secured and preserved while remaining available to researchers.
The documents are in good condition, Plunkett said. Many had been framed. At U.Va., they have been taken out of their frames and preserved between sheets of acid-free paper.
The Jefferson-Jackson letter, addressed to the young Thomas Jefferson Grotjan, is perhaps the most fascinating item, Plunkett said.
In it, Jefferson offers his advice to his namesake, apparently in response to a request from Grotjan's mother. Writing from Monticello on Jan. 10, 1824, an elderly Jefferson advises:
"Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself and your country more than life. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence, and the life into which you have entered will be the passage to one of eternal and ineffable bliss."
He concludes, "And if to the dead it is permitted to care for the things of this world, every action of your life will be under my regard. Farewell."
In a later addition to the letter, dated June 9, 1833, Jackson writes "Although requested by Mr. Grotjan, yet I can add nothing to the admirable advice given to his son by that virtuous patriot and enlightened statesman, Thomas Jefferson."
It was not unusual for Jefferson to receive requests for advice, said Rebecca Bowman, a research historian for the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello. "People did write to him and seek advice on lots of things," including inventions, politics, gardening and recommended reading for children, she said.
Also in the collection is a 1790 document formally appointing Nathaniel Barrett of Massachusetts as U.S. consul to France, which bears the signatures of both Jefferson, then secretary of state, and Washington, then president.
The items have been catalogued and are accessible to scholars, Plunkett said. No plans have yet been made for exhibiting them.
An index of the collection is attached.
For information on the Martin collection, contact Michael Plunkett, director of Special Collections for the U.Va. library system, at (804) 924-3025, or via e-mail at email@example.com. Dr. Martin Gordon, curator of the Research Collections in the Office of History, may be reached at (703) 428-8172, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Television reporters should contact our TV News Office at (804) 924-7550. If you need additional assistance, please contact Dan Heuchert in University News Services at (804) 924-7676, or via e-mail at email@example.com.
The collection of autographs, compiled by Victor V. Martin, consists of 13 documents dated between 1694 and 1945.
Martin acquired original letters and documents containing autographs of U.S. presidents, as well as kings, persons of nobility, statesmen and other famous persons.
Martin was special counsel for 41 years in the office of the Chief of Engineers. He was a major in the Army Reserve, and a member of the American Military Engineers, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Fossils Club, and the Anteaters Club. He was a native of Alma, Kansas, and was married to Wilhemina Hietmuller. He died in Washington, D.C. on May 11, 1962.
The collection was transferred June 9 to U.Va.'s Special Collections department by Paul K. Walker, Chief of the Office of History, on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- A single letter bearing the signatures of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson,
to Thomas Jefferson Grotjan. Jefferson wrote from Monticello on Jan. 24, 1824
at the request of the recipient's mother, who named her son after him. He advises
the young Grotjan on the positive feelings and actions one should have toward
God, one's parents, one's neighbor, and one's country, and further advises him
to be just and true.
Jackson was later asked to add his thoughts. Writing from Philadelphia on June 9, 1833, he comments on the "admirable advice given ... by that virtuous patriot and enlightened statesman" and recommends following that advice, which contains the "purest morality" and "noblest sentiments."
- A note from, and photograph of, Abraham Lincoln. The note - "Let these men
take the oath of Dec. 8, 1863 & be discharged A Lincoln Feb. 8, 1865" - concerns
his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which offered pardon to Confederates
who took a loyalty oath. The note is accompanied by an original Matthew Brady
photograph of Lincoln.
- A 1790 document signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson appointing
Nathaniel Barrett of Massachusetts as U.S. consul to France.
- A letter from Harry S. Truman to Martin, written from the White House on
Nov. 21, 1945. Truman sent with pleasure a signed letter to add to Martin's collection
of "original letters written by every President from George Washington to Franklin
D. Roosevelt." (Note: The Corps of Engineers says it has turned over to U.Va.
all of the letters it had in its possession.)
- A letter from then-Lt. Col. Zachary Taylor to William Lee of the U.S. Treasury
Department, dated April 27, 1828. It concerns the receipt of a draft drawn on
the Bank of the United States by the Treasury on account for recruiting service
in Louisville, Ky. between March 15, 1824 and April 30, 1826.
- Letter from William Henry Harrison to a Col. Meiggs, dated July 29, 1795,
from his headquarters in Greeneville, Tenn.
- A letter from Louis XIV, King of France, to his son the dauphin, commander-in-chief
of the army in Flanders. Dated April 28, 1694 - making it the oldest item in the
collection - the letter requests that the dauphin use Monsieur d'Auvray as a brigadier
general in the army.
- A letter from Marquis de Lafayette to Lt. Jonathan Ford Morris, dated Dec.
27, 1777. Lafayette, writing "at camp" to Morris in Morristown, N.J., expresses
concern about the injuries suffered by Morris' father, Maj. Joseph Morris, and
offers a good French surgeon and one of his own servants to care for the elder
Morris, who later died from his wounds.
- A deed from Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron, dated March 1, 1773, granting
to David Ross and Company of the Province of Maryland a tract of land on the Potomac
River in Berkeley County.
- A letter from Francis Scott Key, dated Nov. 18, 1834 from Georgetown, Va.,
to Hagner, Gratist & Thornton. He requests a mee @their board to discuss compliance
under a resolution of Congress to award on the claims of Farrow and Harris.
- A document signed by John Hancock on Sept. 18, 1788, appointing John Choate
as justice in Essex County, Mass. for a seven-year term.
- A letter from Tobias Lear, secretary to George Washington, to Col. Samuel
Hodgdon. Lear, writing from Philadelphia on Oct. 17, 1792, authorizes Hodgdon
to furnish 600 stand of arms out of the public stores under his care, considering
the situation on the frontier of Carolina and the fact that arms could not immediately
be procured for that state.
- A request, dated Feb. 22, 1797, from Lt. Charles Martin to the commissary at Fort LeBouef seeking one gallon of whiskey for non-commissioned officers under his command to celebrate President George Washington's birthday.