Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Beale Bordley, 21 February 1800

To John Beale Bordley

Feb. 21. 1800.

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mr Boardeley and thanks him for the volume he was so kind as to send him. mr Boardely having lost the model of a mould board formerly sent him Th:J. asks his acceptance of another, and offers many wishes for his better health.

RC (Henry C. Davis, Columbia, South Carolina, 1947). Not recorded in SJL.


John Beale Bordley (1727–1804), a native of Maryland, had several farms, the largest being a sixteen hundred acre estate on Wye Island on the Eastern Shore where he carried on experimental farming and made a successful transition from tobacco to wheat as his main crop. He was also a lawyer and member of the Maryland bar. After his marriage to Sarah Fishbourne Mifflin in 1776—second marriages for both—Bordley began spending more time in Philadelphia. He became a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1783 and was among those who contributed to the controversial Michaux expedition a decade later. In 1784 he published A Summary View of the Courses of Crops in the Husbandry of England and Maryland. The following year Bordley was a principal force in the establishment of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, serving as its vice president until 1791, the year he moved permanently to Philadelphia. Bordley and others from the Philadelphia agricultural society led an unsuccessful effort to incorporate a state agricultural society in 1794 (ANB; description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends Olive Moore Gambrill, “John Beale Bordley and the Early Years of the Philadelphia Agricultural Society,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877– description ends , 66 [1942], 410–39; Simon Baatz, “Venerate the Plough”: A History of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture 1785–1985 [Philadelphia, 1985], 3–4; APS, description begins American Philosophical Society description ends Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 116, 298, 844; above in this series, Vol. 25:82–3n).

Bordley probably sent TJ his volume published in Philadelphia in 1799 entitled Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs. It included reprints of his Outlines of a Plan for Establishing a State Society of Agriculture in Pennsylvania and Country Habitations published in Philadelphia in 1794 and 1798, respectively (see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends Nos. 708, 715, 719). For TJ’s acquaintance with other agricultural pamphlets by Bordley, see TJ to Madison, 5 Feb. 1795. TJ also owned Bordley’s 1789 publication calling for the decimalization and standardization of weights and measures, On Monies, Coins, Weights, and Measures Proposed for the United States of America (see Vol. 16: 603, 605, 608; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3758).

Letters from Bordley to TJ of 13 and 18 Sep. 1800, both recorded in SJL as received on 2 Oct., have not been found.

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