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Letters received by Sir William Simpson from John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon, and others

 Collection — Volume: 1
Call Number: MS G23


A collection of letters received by Sir William Simpson from John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon, and others in the first quarter of the 18th century. Individuals were writing from several places in England, including Somerset (Abbotts Leigh and Bath); London (Whitehall and Huntercombe); Hereford, Herefordshire; and from Brackenstown, County Dublin, Ireland.


  • Creation: 1707 - 1723


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of John Trenchard, 1662-1723

Trenchard was a gentleman in easy circumstances living near Bristol, England, who wrote controversial pamphlets advocating reform of church and state. In 1719 he met Thomas Gordon (born in Scotland in the 1690s), another reforming Whig; Gordon became his amanuensis. Together they founded the London Journal and published in it the extremely controversial and anonymous letters signed Cato from November 5, 1720 to July 27, 1723 (when the government took over the Journal in September 1722, Cato's letters were forced to move to the British Journal). The authorship of these letters was a cause celebre of the time; one of the putative authors was Lord Molesworth.

Trenchard and Gordan also produced a periodical called the Independent Whig, which began as a series of 2 pamphlets in 1719, turned into a weekly on January 20, 1720, and died on January 4, 1721. Both Cato and Independent Whig were popular (both were issued several times in book form) and distressed the government.

In the summer of 1722 Trenchard was elected Member of Parliament for Taunton. He died on December 17, 1723. Gordon married his widow, became a member of Walpole's government, produced new editions of Cato and Independent Whig, and classical translations.


1 volume : Binding: Materials of different sizes bound together in 19th-century. Label on inside of front board reads "Bretherton ligavit, 1848." Half milk-chocolate leather (calf?), with diamond-pebbled light-brown cloth. A 19th-century transcript usually precedes each item; the original has been removed from item 7; the transcript has been removed from item 14; otherwise nothing is missing from the 19th-century foliation. Foliation: leaves [i] 1-52 (19th-century numeration). ; Volume measures no taller than 45 cm.

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

Only items 4, 7, 9, 10, 12 and 16 are specifically addressed to Simpson; but it seems likely that all actually are, with the exception of item 2, which was probably enclosed in item 9.

Topics in letters from John Trenchard include his first wife's suicide; politics; current controversies and how far the authorship of Cato is known; Molesworth; Toland; publishing; libelling; his own election prospects; details of how he supplies friends with seized brandy, his own venison; and his search for a new wife at Bath.

Topics in a letter from Thomas Gordon to Trenchard describe his interview with an unnamed lord, a power in the government, about the seditious tendencies of Cato and the Independent Whig, and the offer of a post. Topics in a letter from Gordon to Simpson include a detailed account of Trenchard's illness, treatment, and death, as well as Gordon's own prospects, indicating that "Walpole and Methuen" may find him a position.

Also in the manuscript volume is a letter from Molesworth to Simpson, a chafing letter between "old friends now both invalids" and regarding his son's legal studies and the politics of Gordon and Trenchard. A letter from Anthony Collins (controversial deist philosopher) attacks Samuel Clarke and "muddled" mathematicians who misinterpret Hobbes' physics in their endeavor to prove the immortality of the soul by science, as well as discussing proofs by gravitation. A letter from Thomas Rawlins discusses Trenchard's marriage (first marriage) and the war in Flanders.

Lastly there is in the volume a treasury order for George Montagu, Auditor of the Receipt of Exchequer, to pay the official debentures of Sir William Simpson, newly made Baron of the Exchequer.

Physical Location

MS G23

Other Finding Aids

See the attached for a detailed list by numbered item:

Custodial History

Simpson; Benjamin Heywood Bright (MS 244); Bright died 1843; Sotheby sold manuscripts June 18, 1844. Sir Thomas Phillipps, 1844. MS 11763.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, Sotheby's, June 15, 1971.

Existence and Location of Copies

A digitized version of this volume, in pdf format, is available. Contact staff at or (785) 864-4334 for assistance.

Guide to the Trenchard-Simpson Correspondence.
Letters received by Sir William Simpson from John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon, and others
Finding aid prepared by alh, 1974; revised by ksc, 2006. Finding aid encoded by skt, 2006.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Trenchard-Simpson correspondence, MS G23, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States