Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to George W. Erving, 23 November 1809

To George W. Erving

Monticello Nov. 23. 09


An American vessel, the property of a respectable merchant of Georgetown, on a voyage to some part of Europe for general purposes of commerce, proposes to touch at some port of Spain with the view of obtaining Merino sheep to be brought to our country. the necessity we are under, & the determination we have formed of emancipating ourselves from a dependance on foreign countries for manufactures which may be advantageously established among ourselves, has produced a very general desire to improve the quality of our wool by the introduction of the Merino race of sheep. your sense of the duties you owe to your station will not permit me to ask, nor yourself to do any act which might compromit you with the government with which you reside, or forfeit that confidence on their part which can alone enable you to be useful to your country. but as far as that will permit you to give aid to the procuring and bringing away some of that valuable race, I take the liberty of solliciting you to do so. it will be an important service rendered to your country; to which you will be further encouraged by the assurance that the enterprize is solely on the behalf of agricultural gentlemen of distinguished character in Washington & it’s neighborhood with a view of disseminating the benefits of their success as widely as they can. without any interest in it myself, other than the general one, I cannot help wishing a favorable result, and therefore add my sollicitations to the assurances of my constant esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “George W. Erving esq.” Enclosed in TJ to William Thornton, 23 Nov. 1809.

George William Erving (1769–1850), was a native of Boston educated at Oxford University in England. Having made a favorable impression on TJ, James Madison, and James Monroe during a trip to Virginia in November 1800, Erving was appointed an agent to press the claims of American seamen in London in July 1801. From 1804 to 1809 he was secretary and sometime chargé d’affaires of the United States legation at Madrid. Madison appointed Erving special minister to Denmark to adjust spoliation claims in 1810 and minister plenipotentiary to Spain in 1814. He retired from diplomatic service in 1819 and in 1829 translated and published Juan Bautista de Erro y Azpiroz’s Spanish treatise on The Alphabet of the Primitive Language of Spain and a Philosophical Investigation of the Antiquity and Civilization of the Basque People (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; J. L. M. Curry, Diplomatic Services of George William Erving [1890]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:473, 474, 2:156, 158, 531, 532 [19, 20 Nov. 1804, 12, 20 Dec. 1810, 1, 3 Oct. 1814]; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Congress. Ser., 17:431–5, and Sec. of State Ser., 1:13–4, 482).

Washington Bowie was the respectable merchant of georgetown.

Index Entries

  • Bowie, Washington; and merino sheep search
  • Erving, George William; and merino sheep search
  • Erving, George William; identified search
  • Erving, George William; letters to search
  • language; books on Spanish search
  • merino sheep; procurement from Spain search
  • merino sheep; TJ on search
  • Spain; merino sheep and wool from search
  • wool; merino search