Rare ALS by the “Father of American Geography” Referring to the Political Troubles of Virginia’s Governor Edmund Randolph and his Famous Vindication

Signed by Jedidiah Morse

$1250
Item: 1685
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MORSE, JEDIDIAH. (1761-1826). Colonial theologian, Native American scholar and geographer. Father of telegraph pioneer Samuel Morse, and often referred to as the “Father of American Geography.” ALS. (“Jedh Morse”). 2½pp. On two Folio sheets (formerly joined). Philadelphia, December 23, 1795. To his wife ELIZABETH ANN FINLEY BREESE MORSE (1761-1828).

I arrived in this city yesterday at 1 o’clock a.m. Went directly to Mr. Hazard’s where I am now writing and was made very happy by your letter of the 13th which was waiting for me. Was very sorry to hear of the death of the children you mention. They must have been sudden. Tell the afflicted parents I sincerely condole with them. Am very glad to hear that you and the children and family and people in general are well. Thank Dr. Larkin for his friendly toast – he is a good man and they are good people who drank it – my regards to them. Dear little Edwd does he then think of his Papa and go up in the study to find him? I can easily conceive how you must feel by my own feelings – I often think most tenderly of you and them. I long for a time to come when I shall meet you. May God preserve us all to this desirable event. I do not I trust forget to pray for you – and often feel a pleasure in the belief that though we are absent, in body we can yet meet at the throne of grace, in spirit and in heart. I shall not fail to visit Grandma Finley – I dined here yesterday – drank tea last evening at Dr. Green’s – and am to breakfast with him this morning – where I shall finish my letter. I saw Rev. Mr. Baleh – soon after I came into town – he was right glad to see me and shook hands as heartily as ever. I saw poor Miss Sproat, who has ever since her arrival in this city been in a continued scene of trouble – the sickness and death of her only Brother, and an accidental lameness of her dear little Nephew, of whom she is dotingly fond, have occupied her whole attention and for me a sufficient apology for her not writing us. Mr. Blythe has gone. He went some time ago. You request me to look out for a maid. They are I assure you with much more difficulty obtained this way than with us. You will not therefore expect me to be successful in procuring you one. I am now writing in Dr. Green’s study. All well here and at Mr. Hazard’s and desire love to you. I am going with Dr. Green to Congress this morning and am obliged to conclude as it is time we were going. Tell Mr. Putnam I will if possible write him next Post. I have not yet possessed myself of the information I wish to communicate. Tell him, however, that Mr. Goodhue says there is a decided majority of Democrats in Congress. Others think it doubtful, however, as a number appear neutral. Both parties however act with caution as if afraid of each other. The prophecy is there will be a peaceful session. ‘Randolph’s Vindication’ is considered here as a vindication of the President and a condemnation of Randolph himself – without the merit however, of desiring either. Mr. Pickering intends to answer Mr. Randolph. I enclose a copy of Randolph’s Vindication to Judge Russell – which may gratify him. Till I write you again – adieu. Remember me very affectionately to all friends – love to the dear children and to the rest of the family, I am, as ever, your very affectionate husband…”

Jedidiah Morse

Morse, a Charlestown, Massachusetts pastor, is best known for his work in the field of geography. As a teacher, he found a need for geography textbooks, especially ones with information about the new United States. “When in 1784… the textbook Geography Made Easy became an instant best-seller, its financial success came as such a surprise to the author Jedidiah Morse that he nearly quit his theological studies in order to become a professional geographer. Morse did become a minister, but geography books provided a significant if not primary income for the rest of his life. Far from being idiosyncratic, Morse’s vocation as a minister-geographer reflected the pervasive overlap of geography textbooks and devotional literature. Geography was located between sacred and secular literacy, positioning it among the ultimate best-sellers in the early Republic. In the rural as well as the urban northern United States, records indicate that, for more than three decades, only the Bible and Noah Webster’s spelling books were more popular than geographies… Jedidiah Morse’s best-selling textbook series—consisting of Geography Made Easy, The American Geography, The American Universal Geography, and Elements of Geography, [published the year of our letter] lasted for several decades and reached more than twenty editions,” (The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Maps, Literacy, and National Identity, Brückner ).

As governor of Virginia, Edmund Jennings Randolph (1753-1813), in 1787, presented the famous “Virginia Plan” to the Constitutional Convention while serving on the committee to draft a United States constitution. During George Washington’s (1732-1799) presidency, he became America’s first attorney general, and succeeded Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state. However, in August 1795 the British Navy intercepted correspondence that revealed Randolph told the French minister that Washington’s administration was hostile toward it. When Washington demanded an explanation, Randolph resigned. He attempted to defend his character by publishing A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation, mentioned in our letter, which included a statement from the French minister in his defense. After retiring from public life, he served as an attorney in Virginia and, in 1807, defended Aaron Burr against charges of treason.

Randolph was succeeded as secretary of state by Timothy Pickering (1745-1929), who served under Washington as an adjutant general in the Continental army who represented Massachusetts in Congress as a member of the Federalist Party. Our letter mentions fellow Federalist Congressman from Massachusetts, Benjamin Goodhue (1748-1814), who is commenting on the Democratic-Republican Party founded by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in 1792 to oppose Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Party, and controlled the presidency for the first quarter of the 19th century.

Morse was married to Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese with whom he had 10 children, among them Samuel F.B. Morse, American artist and inventor best known as the creator of the eponymous telegraphic code.

Written on two separated folded sheets with some paper loss at the edges. Wax seal tears on the signature page. Addressed on the verso’s address panel to “The Rev. Jedh Morse” (thus incorporating a second signature). Light staining, otherwise in very good condition, though some of the writing is light. Off the market for nearly 50 years and rare.

Rare ALS by the “Father of American Geography” Referring to the Political Troubles of Virginia’s Governor Edmund Randolph and his Famous Vindication

Signed by Jedidiah Morse

$1250 • item #1685


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