Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Smith Barton, 4 January 1793

From Benjamin Smith Barton

Jan: 4th: 1793.


In consequence of your note, I have waited on Mr. Michaux. He assures me, that he will relinquish all thoughts of his journey to South-Carolina, and that he will engage in his scheme, as soon as you think proper. He seems much pleased with the prospect of having so valuable a guide, to Kaskaskia,1 as the one you have pointed out, and will be happy to have an opportunity of conversing with the Indian, whenever you shall appoint a time, for the purpose.

I have ventured, this morning, to be very explicit with my friend on the pecuniary head. He seems content to undertake the arduous task (for such it, undoubtedly, is) with a very moderate assistance in the off-set. This assistance he does not even ask for until his arrival at Kaskaskia, where, he thinks, it would be p[roper] that he should have the “power” of drawing for the sum of One hundred guineas. Upon his return, he supposes (provided he shall make discoveries of any interesting importance) he shall be entitled to something handsome. In consequence of some conversation which I had with my uncle (Mr. D. Rittenhouse), last evening, I ventured to tell Mr. Michaux that I did not doubt his expectation would be gratified.

I shall be happy to have an opportunity of conversing with the Indian, on the subject of the journey. Meanwhile, I remain, with great respect, Sir, Your obliged and very humble Servant, &c.

B: S: Barton

RC (MHi); one word partly torn away; endorsed by TJ as received 4 Jan. 1793 and so recorded in SJL.

Although clearly dated 2 Dec. 1792 and printed under that date in Vol. 24, it now seems clear that TJ’s note to Barton was actually written on 2 Jan. 1793. TJ obviously wrote this note when the French botanist André Michaux was in Philadelphia, but Michaux did not return to the city from a scientific expedition to Canada until 8 Dec. 1792, after which he waited another two days before first broaching the idea of a western expedition to members of the American Philosophical Society, to which TJ and Barton both belonged. Moreover, nothing in Barton’s response indicates that a significant amount of time had elapsed between TJ’s request that Barton confer with Michaux about his plans for western exploration and Barton’s compliance with it. Finally, the guide to Kaskaskia mentioned here and in TJ’s note was undoubtedly Jean Baptiste Ducoigne, a Kaskaskia Indian chief who arrived in Philadelphia with other Western Indians late in December 1792 for a peace conference with the President. In light of this evidence, there can be no doubt that TJ misdated his note to Barton (see note to Minutes of a Conference with the Illinois and Wabash Indians, [1–4 Feb. 1793]; and C. S. Sargent, ed., “Portions of the Journal of André Michaux, Botanist, written during his Travels in the United States and Canada, 1785 to 1796,” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, xxvi [1889], 89–90). Barton’s uncle, David Rittenhouse, was president of the American Philosophical Society.

1Preceding two words interlined.

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