Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Ezra L’Hommedieu, 3 April 1802

From Ezra L’Hommedieu

Albany April 3rd. 1802—


I have the honor of transmitting to you herewith certain Resolutions of the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture Arts & Manufactures, which you will please to lay before the Society over which You preside & request their concurrence in the proposed measure—You will oblige our Society by causing the result thereof to be communicated to the Secretary at this City

I am with great respect Your most obet servt

Ezra L’hommedieu
Vice Presdt. and President pro Tem:

RC (PPAmP); in an unidentified hand, signed by L’Hommedieu; at foot of text: “To Thomas Jefferson LLD. President of the American Philosophical Society and the Members of the same.” Recorded in SJL as received 12 Apr. with notation “sent to A.P.S.” Enclosure: two printed resolutions from the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures of the state of New York, Albany, dated 24 and 31 Mch. 1802, respectively, the first noting that the objects of the various societies in the U.S. for the promotion of the arts and sciences would be encouraged “were a general medium of connection and communication established between them” and, therefore, resolving “That the President be requested to write circular letters to all such Societies in the United States, inviting them to appoint Delegates annually, to convene, in a general meeting, at the Seat of Congress, and to continue their meetings, by periodical adjournments, during the times that Congress shall be in session—Which Delegates, when so met, shall choose their President, and form rules for the government of their proceedings, and make the improvement of Agriculture, and the diffusion of all such knowledge as may tend to that general end, their primary object”; the second resolution calling for all members of both Houses of Congress, being members of the society, to serve as exofficio delegates to meet with others “from the Societies in the different States at the Seat of Congress” (broadside in same; both resolutions signed by Benjamin DeWitt, secretary, as extracts from the society’s minutes; addressed: “To the American Philosophical Society at Philadelphia”; endorsed for the APS as read 16 Apr. Enclosed in Samuel L. Mitchill to TJ, 12 Apr. 1802; TJ to Caspar Wistar,13 Apr. 1802.

Born at Southold, Long Island, New York, Ezra L’Hommedieu (1734–1811) graduated from Yale College in 1754 and studied law, eventually establishing successful practices in Southold and New York City. An early protestor against oppressive British policies in America, he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1779 to 1783 and kept Governor George Clinton informed on the progress of the war. L’Hommedieu served in the New York state assembly from 1777 to 1783 and in the state senate from 1784 to 1792 and 1794 to 1809. A proponent of higher education, he served many years as a regent of the state university. L’Hommedieu was a charter member of the New York Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures, incorporated by the state in 1793, and contributed essays to the society’s publication. TJ was elected a member of the society in 1800 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Sixteenth Session of the Laws of the State of New-York [New York, 1793], 86–7; Transactions of the Society, for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures, Instituted in the State of New-York, 2d ed., 1 [1801], 57–71, 133–43, 231–45, 312–13, 328–9, 335–9, 364–6; Vol. 32:8, 10–11n).

In January 1801, fellow member of the American Philosophical Society Isaac Briggs introduced TJ to the idea of organizing in each state an agricultural society that would appoint delegates to meet annually in Washington. The following month, TJ appealed to another member of the APS and president of the New York agriculture society, Robert R. Livingston, to encourage existing state agriculture societies to select members “to meet in a central society.” Members who were congressmen would be good choices, as they could occasionally hold meetings in Washington on the business of the societies. At the 16 Apr. 1802 meeting of the APS, the resolutions from New York were read and referred to a committee, which was continued on 7 May (APS, Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 323; Vol. 32:501–3, 596–7; Vol. 33:199–200; TJ to Caspar Wistar, 13 Apr.; Isaac Briggs to TJ, 26 Apr. 1802). For the establishment of the American Board of Agriculture in 1803, see Vol. 32:503n.

SECRETARY AT THIS CITY: the New York society had two secretaries—Benjamin DeWitt at Albany and Samuel L. Mitchill (New York American Citizen and General Advertiser, 26 Feb. 1802).

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