Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Dennis Griffith, 10 July 1802

From Dennis Griffith

Elk Ridge Landing July 10th 1802


I had not the pleasure of receiving your complimentary note of the 9th ultimo with its enclosure untill yesterday: please to accept my Thanks for the attention you was pleased to favor me with. If the communication I made should ultimately prove useful, I shall be very glad indeed,—it is in safe hands; & the sorrow I shall feel from its not answering my expectations, will be mitigated by the motive that produced it, & doubly so, by the reflection, that our enlighten’d men shew a disposition to encourage effort, however feeble, by their polite attention to the authors of such communications.

Previous to the receipt of your favor I had written a few lines on the subject of a Botanical Establishment by our General Government, but reflecting on the critical grounds upon which we at present stand, and the propriety & necessity, perhaps, of applying for a time, all our resources to the extinction of our national debt, I had resolved to suppress the intrusion I had intended upon your useful time; considering also that a postponement of the begining might ultimately be the means of bringing such an establishment to greater perfection & at an earlier period than if attempted at this time—but as I hope it is probable that you may remain a long time at the head of our affairs, I thought it might not be improper to mention it as a memento: I find that you will not attend to it the less, from its proceeding from an obscure citizen.

Our country abounds with esculent & medicinal plants, & some excellent dyes. The aborigines knew members of them from necessity & experience in their respective Characters. Why should we not improve? Rags & paper are made from vegetable substances, and we may hope, I think, at least, that we may by judicious investigation find some of our native plants fit for the manufacture of that useful thing called paper, & perhaps some others—permit me to add that I have no sinister object in view in this suggestion, for in all the sincerity of truth I here declare that I beleive myself incapable of filling any appointment that might be made under such an establishment—

I am with sincere & due respect, your Obt. fellow Citizen

D Griffith

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 16 July and so recorded in SJL.

The NOTE from TJ has not been found and is not recorded in SJL. It no doubt accompanied the American Philosophical Society’s acknowledgment of the receipt of Griffith’s COMMUNICATION, which was a letter to TJ of 8 Oct. 1801 speculating about the possibility of using the positions of stars to find longitude. That letter was read at a meeting of the APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends on 7 May 1802. The meeting referred the matter to Robert Patterson and Benjamin Latrobe, who by 18 June apparently indicated that the subject did not require further attention (Vol. 35:411–12; Vol. 37:431–5).

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