Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 25 January 1793

To Albert Gallatin

Philadelphia Jan. 25. 1793.


Mr. Legaux called on me this morning to ask a statement of the experiment which was made in Virginia by a Mr. Mazzei for the raising vines and making wine, and desired I would address it to you. Mr. Mazzei was an Italian and brought over with him about a dozen laborers of his own country, bound to serve him 4. or 5. years. We made up a subscription for him of £2000. sterling, and he began his experiment on a peice of land adjoining to mine. His intention was, before the time of his people should expire, to import more from Italy. He planted a considerable vineyard, and attended to it with great diligence for three years. The war then came on. The time of his people soon expired; some of them enlisted, others chose to settle on other lands and labor for themselves; some were taken away by the gentlemen of the country for gardeners, so that there did not remain a single one with him, and the interruption of navigation prevented his importing others. In this state of the thing he was himself employed by the state of Virginia to go to Europe as their agent to do some particular business. He rented his place to General Riedesel, whose horses in one week destroyed the whole labour of three or four years, and thus ended an experiment, which, from every appearance, would in a year or two more have established the practicability of that branch of culture in America. This is the sum of the experiment as exactly as I am able to state it from memory, after such an interval of time, and I consign it to you in whose hands I know it will be applied with candor, if it contains any thing applicable to the case for which it has been asked. I have the honor to be with great esteem & respect Sir Your most obedt & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

RC (NHi: Gallatin Papers): addressed: “Mr. Gallatin”: endorsed by Gallatin at a later date: “Jany. 25th 1793 Ths. Jefferson (first letter from him).” PrC (DLC). Tr (DLC): 19th-century copy.

With the exception of a brief note of 14 Jan. 1791 that will appear in a supplement planned for Vol. 27, this is TJ’s first letter to his future Secretary of the Treasury, the rising Pennsylvania Republican leader Albert Gallatin (1761–1849). The state’s House of Representatives had appointed Gallatin on 23 Jan. 1793 one of a committee of five to consider a memorial and plan from Peter legaux, a French immigrant who was a member of the American Philosophical Society, requesting approval for the “incorporation of a society for the promotion of the culture of the vine, and the raising of silkworms and silk.” On the very day TJ wrote the above letter the committee urged the House to authorize an “association of persons” to promote viniculture in Pennsylvania, and a bill to this effect, drafted by another committee composed of the same five legislators, was enacted into law in March 1793 (Journal of the First Session of the Third House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [Philadelphia, 1792–93], 119, 124, 129, 141; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xxvi, 738). TJ was already familiar with Legaux’s proposals, having been present on 18 Jan. 1793 when the American Philosophical Society had considered a text of Legaux’s plan respecting viniculture (APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, xxii, pt. 3 [1885], 174, 212).

Index Entries