Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Bakewell, 9 May 1803

From William Bakewell

New Haven 9th. May 1803


Your esteemed favor would have been answered immediately, but for the absence of two of our firm. It was not with any pecuniary view that we sent the Malt liquor, perhaps a little vanity might combine with our principal motive, which was to shew that we who have lived under the English Government, (during that Parliament, which in the words of Mr. Fox, “added more to the burthens, & took more from the liberties of the people than any of its predecessors,”) can duly appreciate the value of a Constitution, which as now practically administered, would have been deemed a Utopian romance, but that mankind may “read this history in a nations eyes.”—

If, Sir, motives of delicacy in your public situation, render it unpleasant to you to accept even the value of ten dollars, (which is the price of a barrl of this Ale,) please to defer the matter till we hear from a person in Baltimore whom we desired to settle our accot for Mr Smith’s National Intelligencer. Was it not trespassing on your time, we would solicit a few lines of information relative to the state of Virginia, which did not enter into the plan of your “notes.” Since our last we have been induced to change our views, & propose (one of us at least) to purchase & cultivate a Farm in such part of the U States as appears most eligible. In the communications to the English board of agriculture, Mr Strictland speaks highly of the climate & soil near the blue ridge in Virginia. Genl Washington in his letters to A. Young, recommends the country near the Potowmac. We have heard much in praise of the Shenadoah valley, but are told the price of land is much higher than that of equal quality in other parts of the state. Could you spare a few minutes from your more important concerns, to say what part unites in the greatest degree a good soil, a temperate & healthy climate, & if possible a near water conveyance & some society of the better kind; you would do us a service infinitely beyond the trivial matter in question.

Had we known any one on whose judgment we could have depended, we would not have troubled you with this inquiry, & hope you will excuse the liberty we have taken on this occasion—With sentiments of the highest esteem, I remain for Self and Partners, Sir, Your obedt Servt

Wm Bakewell

RC (DLC); addressed: “The President of the United States Washington City”; franked; postmarked 10 May; endorsed by TJ as received 13 May and so recorded in SJL.

your esteemed favor: TJ to William, Benjamin, and W. L. Bakewell, 15 Apr.

English politician and orator Charles James fox remarked in his address to the electors of Westminster on 21 May 1796, that the last Parliament had “added more to the burthens, and taken away more from the rights of the subject, than any Parliament ever did in the annals of our history” (Jordan’s Complete Collection of All the Addresses and Speeches of the Hon. C. J. Fox, Sir A. Gardner, and J. H. Tooke, Esq. at the Late Interesting Contest for Westminster, 3d ed. [London, 1796], 5–6).

history in a nations eyes: “And read their history in a nation’s eyes” from the 16th stanza of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard.”

our last: William, Benjamin, and W. L. Bakewell to TJ, 8 Feb. 1803.

purchase & cultivate a farm: Bakewell moved with his family in the fall of 1803 to the Fatland Ford farm near Norristown, Pennsylvania (Arlene Palmer, Artistry and Innovation in Pittsburgh Glass, 1808–1882: From Bakewell & Ensell to Bakewell, Pears & Co. [Pittsburgh, 2004], 17).

William Strickland (strictland), a Yorkshire agriculturalist and naturalist, wrote an assessment of American farming practices after a tour of the United States in 1794 and 1795 that included a visit to Monticello. His findings, Observations on the Agriculture of the United States of America, including sections on Virginia climate and soil, were published in London in 1801, in response to queries posed to him by the British Board of Agriculture (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 819; Vol. 28:372n).

George washington exchanged several letters with English agricultural reformer Arthur young about animal husbandry and the sanguine prospects for farming near the Potomac River. Bakewell may have been familiar with Washington’s letter of 5 Dec. 1791, published in London in 1801 in Letters from His Excellency General Washington, to Arthur Young, Esq. F.R.S.: Containing an Account of His Husbandry, with a Map of His Farm; His Opinions on Various Questions in Agriculture; and Many Particulars of the Rural Economy of the United States. TJ had forwarded his own “Notes on Virginia Lands” to Washington for Young in 1791 (Washington, Papers, Pres. Ser. description begins W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Philander D. Chase, Theodore J. Crackel, Edward C. Lengel, and others, eds., The Papers of George Washington, Charlottesville, 1983- , 57 vols., Confed. Ser., 1992–97, 6 vols., Pres. Ser., 1987- , 16 vols., Ret. Ser., 1998–99, 4 vols., Rev. War Ser., 1985- , 21 vols. description ends , 8:431–2, 9:253–7; Vol. 20:716–7; Vol. 24:98–9n).

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