Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert Bakewell to Thomas Jefferson, 23 December 1810

From Robert Bakewell

No 36 St James’ Street London Decr 23. 1810


In taking the liberty of requesting Your acceptance of my Book upon Wool I can with much sincerity assure you that my principal motive has been to acknowledge the high esteem & respect I feel for your public character and to express my gratitude for the pleasure I have experienced in contrasting the humane and enlightened policy of your late Government with the destructive and infatuated conduct of European Rulers—Amidst the gloomy and disgusting scenes of public folly and depravity which Europe every where presents the friend of humanity has some consolation in viewing across the Atlantic a column fixed on the basis of public freedom justice & wisdom around1 which the disappointed patriots and philosophers of England and France may collect and find safety. Perhaps I feel this more forcibly having several much valued & respectable relatives already Citizens of your States—

With my Book I have taken the farther liberty of sending you the proposals for an undertaking in which I am engaged: A mineralogical & statistical survey of Estates—To the Natural Historian of Virginia I need not state the probable advantages which may attend such a survey should the execution in some degree correspond with the intention. The surveying and drawing departments are chiefly executed by my Sons the Mineralogical and descriptive by myself— Amongst other references of respectability I can mention Dr Jas Edwd Smith the President of the Linnæan Society—

Mineralogy has been greatly improved as a science of late years but I much doubt if2 the exclusive attachment to the study of external character which is the fashi[ona]ble failing of the German School has not a [ten]dency to lead from the more useful and [. . .] certain guidance of chemical experiment & analysis—

Sir I have the honour to subscribe Myself most respectfully and with high esteem Your obedient Servant

Robt Bakewell

RC (DLC); torn at seal; addressed: “Thos Jefferson Esqr Monticello Virginia”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Apr. 1811 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Robert Bakewell, Observations on the influence of soil and climate upon wool (London, 1808; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 797). (2) Robert Bakewell and Sons, Mineralogical and Statistical Survey of Estates, advertising their willingness to supply correct land surveys and plans showing “the Qualities of the Water, Soil, Metalic Fossils, or other Minerals ascertained by Chemical Analysis; with a Statistical account and Natural History of the Estate, in Manuscript; containing a Description of the various Subjects deserving Attention, and Hints for future Improvements. To which will be added if required, Estimates of Timber and Produce, Under-Ground Surveys and Sections of Mines, and Sketches or Outlines of Buildings, and remarkable Objects”; directing letters to Harding’s, a bookseller at 36 St. James’s Street, London; indicating that the surveys would come with an index and in a form suitable for binding “as a Book of Reference”; and stating that since the expense would vary with each estate, a preliminary visit to estimate the cost would be made when required (printed broadside in White Watson’s commonplace book, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland; photocopy in TJ Editorial Files; undated).

Robert Bakewell (1768–1843) was born in Nottingham, England, and began his career as a wool merchant. In 1810 he moved to London and worked as a geological consultant. Within a year he was lecturing throughout Britain on the topic, and over time he developed a reputation for his publications on geology and mineralogy. Bakewell died at Hampstead, near London (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1901, 22 vols. description ends ; ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; American Journal of Science and Arts 2 [1843]: 403–4).

Bakewell clashed at times with the British Geological Society, which adhered to the german school of Neptunism (attributing geological formations to the action of water) professed by Abraham Gottlob Werner (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ).

1Word interlined.

2Word interlined in place of “whether.”

Index Entries

  • Bakewell, Robert; identified search
  • Bakewell, Robert; letters from search
  • Bakewell, Robert; Mineralogical and Statistical Survey of Estates search
  • Bakewell, Robert; Observations on the influence of soil and climate upon wool search
  • books; on mineralogy search
  • books; on wool search
  • geology; Neptunism search
  • Great Britain; British Geological Society search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Mineralogical and Statistical Survey of Estates (Bakewell) search
  • mineralogy; books on search
  • mineralogy; German School (Neptunism) search
  • Neptunism; German geological school search
  • Observations on the influence of soil and climate upon wool (Bakewell) search
  • Smith, James Edward search
  • Werner, Abraham Gottlob; mineralogical theories of search
  • wool; books on search