Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Peter Legaux, 24 March 1801

To Peter Legaux

Washington Mar. 24.1801.


This is the first moment, since the reciept of your favor of the 4th. inst. that it has been in my power to acknowlege it, and to thank you for the kind offer of a number of vines. by this time I presume the season is too far advanced for their removal, & consequently that I must decline till another year availing myself of your liberality. and even then I would confine it to a few only, & of the eating kind preferably, my absence from home and other circumstances excluding me from the possibility of becoming a winemaker. I am not able to say why Govt. Monroe has failed to answer your letter. it is probable he found himself unable to say any thing effectual, & in that case men who recieve more letters than they can answer, select of preference those which can be answered with effect.

The Botanico-meteorological observations shall be forwarded to the American Philosophical society. Accept assurances of my respect and high consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Facsimile in Harmers of New York Catalogue, sale 2858, 12 June 1990); at foot of text: “M. Legaux.” PrC (DLC); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

Botanico-meteorological observations: one of the tables that Legaux sent on 4 Mch. had this title. In it, for the growing seasons of 1787 through 1800 Legaux recorded information about temperatures, the dates on which grapes in his vineyard reached certain stages of maturation, and the dates on which other crops reached full development.

Writing to TJ in French from Philadelphia on 25 Mch., Legaux indicated that he needed to promote enrollment in the subscription that had opened in 1794 under the authority of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to form a company for the development of his vineyard. He hoped that TJ would join the subscription and act as the project’s sponsor—its “protecteur spécial”—so that viticulture and the production of wine, brandy, ether, and tartar could be among the benefits to America from TJ’s presidency (RC in DLC; at foot of first page: “Monsieur Le Président des Etats unis de Lamérique”; endorsed by TJ as received 28 Mch. and so recorded in SJL). Legaux enclosed a copy from the company’s subscription book of an authorization made on 16 Mch. 1801 by the state’s commissioners for the subscription. The authorization empowered Legaux to accept subscriptions at a minimum payment of $1 per share, with the remainder of the $20 price of each share to be paid when requested by the company’s managers following its incorporation. John Vaughan, Benjamin Smith Barton, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Caspar Wistar, Simon Chaudron, and Stephen Girard were among the 12 commissioners making that authorization. Legaux also enclosed extracts from the subscription book listing the names of subscribers since 1794, yielding a total of 210 shares and payments of $1,745 to date. Legaux observed that his venture was opposed by wine merchants and by others, including Pennsylvania Chief Justice Edward Shippen, Judge Richard Peters, and William Bingham: “the Medium Classe of the people appear more please of this improuvement than the richer.” In a final note Legaux stated that although several people who subscribed in 1794 had died or left the country, a moiety of their subscriptions had been paid, yet Bingham, who had put in for 5 shares, refused to make any payment, forcing Legaux to seek redress through the commissioners (MS in same; dated 25 Mch. 1801; in English, final note in French; in Legaux’s hand, signed by initials; at foot of first page: “Copie pour Monsieur Jéfferson President des Etats unis de L’Amerique”). On 12 Apr. Legaux wrote a brief letter in French from Philadelphia, covering a prospectus of the subscription plan for his vineyard and stating that it would be his great pleasure to fulfill the request made by TJ in the letter printed above (RC in same; at foot of text: “Monsieur Le Président des Etats unis de L’Amerique”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Apr. 1801 and so recorded in SJL). For Legaux’s efforts to gain support for his vineyard, see also Vol. 30:41–2.

Index Entries