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Samuel Henley

The Reverend Samuel Henley (1740-1815) was an English clergyman and teacher. In 1770, he came to Virginia upon appointment as professor of moral philosophy at the College of William and Mary. In May 1773, when the Virginia Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge was founded in Williamsburg, Henley was named as secretary. A politically active man, Henley was acquainted with Thomas Jefferson and other colonial leaders.1

Harboring loyalist sympathies, Henley returned to England in 1775. He left behind a valuable collection of books and prints in the care of Reverend James Madison. Thomas Jefferson became aware of the books and, learning that one boxful had been damaged, offered to purchase some of the volumes.2 Jefferson's original letter never reached Henley, but the subject was resumed after the Revolutionary War had ended. Jefferson was then able to make a second offer to Henley and to secure a number of books from his collection.3

Despite any political differences that might have estranged the two men, Samuel Henley remembered Thomas Jefferson fondly. "I shall ever look back with sincere pleasure on the friendship with which you honoured me," he wrote to Jefferson in 1785.4 Jefferson thanked Henley for his kind words, assuring him that "I considered no man personally as an enemy during the late revolution. I should have little merited the esteem with which you were pleased to honour me had I been capable of that. ... No-body wishes you more sincerely a long continuance of [life]."5

- Nancy Verell, 1/14/16

Further Sources

  • 1. While Henley lived in Williamsburg, Jefferson purchased books from him. See MB, 1:289, 1:347.
  • 2. Jefferson to Henley, June 9, 1778, in PTJ, 2:198-99. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 3. Jefferson to Henley, March 3, 1785, in PTJ, 8:11-14. Transcription available at Founders Online. See also MB, 1:608, 1:609.
  • 4. Henley to Jefferson, July 18, 1785, in PTJ, 8:304. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 5. Jefferson to Henley, November 27, 1785, in PTJ, 9:65-66. Transcription available at Founders Online.


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