A letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Delaware doctor will be added to the list of prize possessions in the special collection of the UD library.
The name John Dickinson is synonymous with Delaware’s role in the American revolution, and now, researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered more information on how his death impacted Thomas Jefferson.
While processing the archives of the Rockwood Museum which were recently given to the UD Library earlier this year, UD grad students Amanda Daddona and Matt Davis found a 200-year-old letter penned by Thomas Jefferson after learning of Dickinson’s death. In the letter, dated February 24, 1808, Jefferson says of Dickinson, “A more estimable man, or truer patriot, could not have left us.”
UD’s Vice Provost for Libraries Susan Brynteson says while there are lots of Thomas Jefferson documents in various collections around the country, it’s especially exciting for the library to find his letter mourning the death of a Delaware patriot. “It was really quite thrilling, and then to have it with this very specific Delaware tie makes us very proud of the state of Delaware.” She says the letter also gives insight into the humility of Thomas Jefferson. In the letter, Jefferson calls himself a “junior companion” of Dickinson during the early part of the American revolution. Jefferson adds, “It has been a great comfort to me to have retained his friendship to the last moments of his life.”
The process of going through the remainder of the Rockwood archives will continue into next year, and while there’s always the prospect of another major historical finding, “I don’t think one encounters many Thomas Jefferson letters in one’s lifetime,” says Brynteson.
The Jefferson letter will now be placed in the University’s special collection. Brynteson says it will take its place beside other major historical documents in the collection including a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln, a copy of the 13th Amendment, also signed by Lincoln, and a number of first edition books.