MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) _ A four-sentence letter from Thomas Jefferson to Gen. John Stark, congratulating the ''venerable patriot'' on his good health at age 77, goes on the auction block Friday in New York.

Christie's auction house said the letter was expected to sell for at least $30,000.

''That's a conservative estimate,'' said Christopher Coover, Christie's specialist in American manuscripts.

The president, who had never met the New Hampshire general, wrote from his home at Monticello on Aug. 19, 1805. He said he was prompted to write by a newspaper story that reported the general in good health.

The note was kept by Stark family members. It recalls Stark's Revolutionary War victory at Bennington, Vt., as ''the first link in that chain of successes which issued in the (British) surrender at Saratoga.''

Jefferson saluted Stark as a ''venerable patriot'' and wrote of his ''fervent prayers'' that the general continue to enjoy his days and assuring that, ''whenever they end, your memory will be cherished by those who come after you as of one who has not lived in vain for his country.''

An unsigned draft of Stark's reply will be included with Jefferson's letter.

Stark was born in 1728 and grew up in the Manchester area. He served with Rodger's Rangers during the French and Indian War and saw action at Crown Point and at Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War.

Stark, the father of 11 children, died in 1822, a few months shy of age 94 and 13 years after he penned the phrase: ''Live free or die - Death is not the worst of evils.''

''Live Free or Die'' is now New Hampshire's state motto.