Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Lord Somerville, 28 May 1798

From Lord Somerville

Board of Agriculture
32 Sackville Street
28 May 1798.


At the last Meeting of the Board of Agriculture, a very interesting letter from you, to Sir John Sinclair, was read, and I am requested to inform you, that the Board, are much obliged to you, for having communicated so many useful observations.—The letter was referred to a Committee, who may probably wish for some explanations, but I am desirous of immediately transmitting the thanks of the Board, and expressing how much we esteem the honour of your correspondence.—

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your very Obedient servant.


RC (MHi); in clerk’s hand, signed by Somerville; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqe: &c &c &c”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Sep. 1798 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Board of Agriculture Lb in University of Reading: Rural History Centre); in same hand; at head of text: “Jefferson Thos. Esqe. America.”

Born at Fitzhead Court in Somersetshire, England, John Southey, Lord Somerville (1765–1819), received an M.A. from Cambridge University in 1785. Upon the death of his uncle in 1796, he became the fifteenth Lord Somerville and was at once elected to serve as a representative of Scotland in the House of Lords. One of the founding members of the British Board of Agriculture, he served as the society’s second president from 1798 to 1800, succeeding Sir John Sinclair. Somerville was backed by William Pitt, who sought to reprimand Sinclair for his criticism of the government’s taxation policies in Parliament. A prominent agriculturalist, Somerville was a leading owner and breeder of merino sheep in England and the inventor of an improved plow (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 2d ed., New York, 1908–09, 22 vols. description ends ; Rosalind Mitchison, Agricultural Sir John: The Life of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, 1754–1835 [London, 1962], 173–4). Somerville’s publications included Facts and observations relative to sheep, wool, ploughs and oxen: in which the importance of improving the short-woolled breeds, by a mixture of the Merino blood is deduced from actual practice (London, 1803) and annotation in Robert Bakewell’s Observations on the Influence of Soil and Climate upon Wool (London, 1808). For the last, see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 797.

Letter from you: TJ to Sir John Sinclair, 23 Mch. 1798.

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