Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Vaughan, 8 May 1802

From John Vaughan

Philad: May 8. 1802

Dear Sir,

Your favor enclosing D. Griffith on Longitude was recieved, & the acknowledgement for it is now enclosed—we have been attentive of late to make the acknowledgement immediate.

We are very desirous of possessing, for the Society, Copies of the two enumerations or Census, & know not how to do it but through your kindness; I would further take the liberty of enquiring whether the Insertion of them in the 6th Vol, would not be interesting & important—

I enclose an Extract of a letter from Mr Dunbar to me which is interesting—he is like yourself a warm friend to the encouragement of Science & letters, it would be fortunate for the Country, if these ideas became more prevalent—

I have sent the Vaccine Virus to Mr Dunbar, & shall send more; but in order to multiply the chances of his recieving it, it would be an agreeable circumstance if your Physician could also send him a Supply by Post.—The Vaccine Innoculation gathers strength hourly, no respectable practitioner opposes it.

I remain with respect Your obt Servt

Jn Vaughan

D Sir

Since writing above, a french pamphlet has fallen into my hands, relative to purifying water—It appears, that, James Smith, in the year 6. (Three years ago), exhibited the effect of his machinery for that purpose at Brest, but before he had disclosed the secret he disappeared—without disclosing his1 Secret—

The Commission, which had seen his Experiments, reported favorably to the Minister—who in reply, Stated that 1780—The marine had adopted a Machine invented by Bouibe, destined to purify Ship Water—after a trial had been made in a long Voyage of the Ship Diademe 1783. Bouibe communicated his Secret & it was adopted; nevertheless, it soon fell into disuse, the reason unknown—

Year 6. The Minister directs a Comparison between Bouibe’s plan & Smiths—Bouibe & Smith being both absent this order remained unexecuted until the year 8—when finding one of Bouibe’s machines, & collectg all the information they could relative to Smith’s, particularly from Thaumur (who had assisted Smith) & who had analysed the purified waters—the minister gave above Directions. Year 8. floreal. Lescallier, Membre de l’Institut, arrived at Brest with Barry (ancient Commissy of Marine)—they investigate, & at last succeed, in discovering, Smith’s method, & try a Variety of experiments, which all prove Satisfactory—& decidedly give the preference to Smith’s method, which was adopted by the French & Spaniards.

Take a Cilinderical Wooden Vessel (dimensions annexd) let the Inside be well burnt so as to be charred—6 Inches from the bottom have a crossbarred moveable frame, resting on small shoulder pieces, & supported in the middle by a Strong pin, calculated to bear a Considerable weight, cover this with a thick cloth or2 woolen Strainer, put a layer of Oak Bark (Ross taken off) ground so as to be open & Stringy, & crossed—then have a second circle on which a Double hair cloth is to stretched—then fill in gently the mixture viz half the Bulk3 of charcoal, pounded, & half the bulk of good limestone pounded, to within a foot of the Top, then 3 or 4 Inches Sand, then a Wooden Cover full of holes, & a Straining Cloth on that, on this pour the water in ten minutes, comes out purified—When the Limestone is ground, it is to be sifted, & washed in another sieve; it is to be washed until the Water comes off clear—In washing the Charcoal, there sinks to the bottom, an insoluble Sediment which is to be mixed with the washed charcoal–It is curious, that in Varying Experiments Salt water was put in & fresh water came out; they were on the point of sending an express to the Chief Consul—but after a time the water came from it brackish & afterwards Salt—The fresh water proved to be, the moisture adhering to the Substances, when the first water passed thro’, which was driven out by the Salt Water pushing on—Thus far I have got in the book which is published by Barry; Smith is Since returned, obtained a Patent & again exhibited at Brest, & obtained the approbation of Institut &c

Young Mr Peale has not been able yet to pursue his Expt.; I find this Commission, concieve this apparatus will make salt water, less Salt, but not fresh; The application of the Sponge, sand & charcoal, appears to be Smith’s, who uses no lime, The above Description was by the Commission—This method far Superior to Lowits (of which an acct. in Bordley on rural affairs new Edition) because he put 24 drops Vitriolic acid with 1½ onz Charcoal—which is expensive & wants renewing—Smith is a Scotchman, obliged to fly on acct of his political sentiments—left Brest Suddenly, in consequence of an order for all strangers4 to leave the Seaports—Smith in partnership with Cuchet, has established at Paris a Manufactory, of these Machines, one the size of a Tea Urn will give 10 quarts a day, are made ornamental & fitted to Vases, Urns &c—

 If any books are Sent for to France for the Library—This pamphlet of Barry’s should be procured—Michaux has published a Valuable work on American oaks with highly finished engravings—sold here for 10 Ds. bought by Dr Barton—

Makenzies Tour has appeared, printed here—

Forsyth on Gardening & fruit Trees is also in the Press, it contains his method of restoring Wood & bark to Wounded trees.—

Bouibe’s method, was a filtering Stone, in which a layer of Sand or ground Stone was placed, & a machine for raising, breaking & giving air to the Water, the water lost its5 bad taste of Every thing, except the taste of the Cask, & was never quite clear—Method less perfect & less Convenient, altho’ the Airing machine could be at will converted into a machine for raising water 40 feet, & be used as a fire Engine—Expence 600 Dolls—required 4 men, easily deranged & not easily repair’d—Smiths machine &c for a large Vessel would not Cost more than 12 or 15 Ds:

27 Inch Diamt

High 3 feet 7 Inch6

Circular board full of holes to let the water pass thro’, & upon this a Cloth or Woolen Strainer, loosely laid on, that it may be easily clean’d.
Limestone pounded, & Charcoal pounded, washed & mixed, in equal quantities by bulk Bark (oak) or Tan

Vacancy six Inches—The Cock to be fixed close to the bottom, & close to the Xbarr’d frame, air holes, that the water may be impregnated with Atmospherical air
above machine fit for the largest men of War & will give 225 pints of water in an hour

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States Washington City”; Vaughan addressed the letter before he wrote the postscript; endorsed by TJ as received 13 May and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Acknowledgment from the American Philosophical Society of the receipt of Dennis Griffith’s letter to TJ of 8 Oct. 1801 (see below); not found; see Griffith to TJ, 10 July 1802. (2) William Dunbar to Vaughan, Natchez, 21 Mch. 1802, expressing his interest in the discoveries of fossil skeletons of large animals; noting that his own region is lacking in such fossil evidence, he describes the soil and strata; he laments the lack of government support for the collection of information relating to natural science and astronomy, declaring that “it would seem that the speculations of the generality of our politicians, are confined within the narrow Circle of the Customs & Excise, while literature is left to weep in the back ground”; he hopes that this will change with TJ as president, “& that under his auspices & protection, Arts, Sciences & Literature may take a flight, which will at length carry them as far beyond those of our European brethren, as we soar above them in the enjoyment of national liberty”; Dunbar continues to make meteorological observations; he suggests that Vaughan send “some fresh Vaccine virus” to him by post, in case the batch that Vaughan sent on 10 Dec., which Dunbar has not yet received, proves “impair’d in its Virtue” from the long trip by sea (Tr in DLC; in Vaughan’s hand and endorsed by him).

YOUR FAVOR: TJ’s most recent letter to Vaughan, on 14 Jan. 1802, said nothing about enclosing the communication from Dennis GRIFFITH to TJ of 8 Oct. about a possible means of finding LONGITUDE (Vol. 35:411–12). If TJ wrote a separate note to Vaughan transmitting Griffith’s letter to the APS, the communication has not been found and he did not record it in SJL. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: the society received Griffith’s letter at a meeting on 7 May (APS, Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 323).

6TH VOL: the sixth volume of APS Transactions did not appear until 1809 and did not include the census reports.

The FRENCH PAMPHLET was Manière de bonifier parfaitement, avec facilité et économie, au moyen d’un appareil simple et solide, les mauvaises eaux à bord des vaisseaux de guerre et de commerce, ainsi que dans tous les pays; mise en usage dans la marine de l’État vers la fin de l’an 8, printed in Paris in the Year 9 (1800–1). JAMES SMITH, who was from Glasgow, had learned about using charcoal for water filters in Scotland. He demonstrateed his filter at Brest for a commission of the French naval ministry—the MARINE—in 1797, and the next year obtained a French patent. Smith did not intend to keep his device a secret, but he was absent from Brest, due to an arrêté by the Directory requiring foreigners to leave French ports, when the ministry sought to compare his method to one created by the Sieur Bouïbe and tested by the French navy in the 1780s. Citizen THAUMUR, a pharmacist, had been a member of the earlier commission and undertook a reconstruction of Smith’s system. Daniel LESCALLIER, a career naval and colonial administrator, was a nonresident associate of the National Institute of France and the author of books and pamphlets on various maritime subjects. In 1810, the French government made Lescallier the French consul general for the United States. Étienne BARRY was a former commissary general of the navy and commissioner for the colonies (Manière de bonifier, 1–2, 5–12, 34–6, 72–4 126–7; M. N. Baker and Michael J. Taras, The Quest for Pure Water, 2d ed., 2 vols. [Denver, 1981], 1:38–9; Alexis Rochon, “Memoir on the Purification of Seawater, and on Rendering it Drinkable without any Empyreumatic Taste, by Distilling it in Vacuo,” Repertory of Arts, Manufactures, and Agriculture, 2d ser., 24 [1814], 368; Biographie universelle description begins Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne, new ed., Paris, 1843–65, 45 vols. description ends , 24:287–90; Amable Charles, Comte de Franqueville, Le premier siècle de l’Institut de France, 25 Octobre 1795–25 Octobre 1895, 2 vols. [Paris, 1895–96], 2:143–4; Biographie des hommes vivants, 5 vols. [Paris, 1816–19], 1:223).

Johann Tobias Lowitz (LOWITS), a chemist working in Russia, had performed experiments to demonstrate the utility of charcoal for deodorizing and clarifying water (Baker and Taras, Quest for Pure Water, 1:26–7, 38, 76n, 449–50). In the revised edition of his agricultural guide called Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs, TJ’s acquaintance John Beale BORDLEY briefly described Lowitz’s prescriptions for using charcoal and vitriolic acid to improve water quality (John Beale Bordley, Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs, 2d ed. [Philadelphia, 1801], 480; Vol. 31:387–8; Vol. 32:117–18).

FOR THE LIBRARY: that is, the Library of Congress. Vaughan, who was treasurer of the American Philosophical Society, had already obtained the Manière de bonifier for the society, along with a separate publication relating to Smith’s filtration device (APS, Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 320, 324).

The book by André MICHAUX on oak trees, Histoire des chênes de l’Amerique, ou descriptions et figures de toutes les espèces et variétés de chênes de l’Amerique Septentrionale, was published in Paris in 1801. TJ later acquired the book for his library (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 1084).

MAKENZIES TOUR: Alexander Mackenzie’s Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Laurence, through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans; In the Years 1789 and 1793: With a Preliminary Account of the Rise, Progress, and Present States of the Fur Trade of that Country, was first published in London in 1801. John Morgan published a Philadelphia edition in 1802. TJ considered the maps of that printing to be inferior, and he bought another edition in 1803 (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 4087; TJ to James Cheetham, 17 June 1803). Morgan also published the book by William FORSYTH, A Treatise on the Culture and Management of Fruit Trees (Philadelphia, 1802). The book was originally written for horticulturalists in Britain. Morgan’s edition included an introduction and notes by William Cobbett that adapted the work for use in America. In 1809, TJ recommended Forsyth’s book for the Library of Congress (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 808; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004–, 6 vols. description ends , 2:82).

1Vaughan underlined this word with two strokes.

2The diagram appears here in MS, at the top of a page. Vaughan apparently drew it there before he expected to continue this paragraph onto that page.

3Word underlined with two strokes.

4Preceding two words underlined with two strokes.

5MS: “it.”

6Line written perpendicularly alongside diagram.

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