Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Bradbury to Thomas Jefferson, 5 March 1812

From John Bradbury

New York 5 March 1812


The term of my mission to Louisiana having expired I arrived here a fortnight ago from St Louis in the hope of receiving my Family in the ensuing Spring: I am here informed that the Government of the United States have it in contemplation to establish a Botanic Garden at the City of Washington and that no appointment is as yet made of a Person to Superintend it.

If this information is correct I would willingly offer myself to those in whom the power of making the appointment is Vested, but suppose I am totally unknown to them; If Sir you deem me qualified to fill the Station you will render me greatly your Debtor by making this my wish known to those who have authority in this business—

I shall only add on this Subject that my extensive acquaintance amongst the Naturalists in Great Britain together with what plants I have acquired in Louisiana would enable me to assist the establishment considerably

I ascended the Missouri last Summer to a little above the Mandan Nation; and found the Soil and aspect of the country changed after passing the River Platte and consequently abounding in natural productions almost wholly different from those to the eastward of that River. The Plants which I there collected and which do not appear to be discribed in the last Edition of the Systema Naturæ exceed 100 Species Some of which are beautiful. In Zoology I think I shall add two Species of Crotalus a Talpa a Sciurus, and an animal with cheek Pouches as Mus Bursorius of Linnæus, but differing from that animal Specifically yet agreeing in Generic character and both so mu[ch] disagreeing with the Genus Mus that I am of opinion they must constitute a new Genus betwixt Mus & Arctomys

I have an ardent wish to ascend the Arkansas & Red Rivers confident that their Borders would afford a Rich harvest. If I can obtain the Situation mentioned above perhaps an opportunity may be afforded me whether or not there is any probability that I may I beg Sir you will have the goodness to cause me to be informed by Letter to the Post office Newark State of New Jersey

I am Sir Your most obliged Servant

John Bradbury

RC (DLC); edge torn; endorsed by TJ as received 11 Mar. 1812 and so recorded in SJL.

John Bradbury (1768–1823), naturalist, was born in Stalybridge, England. From an early age he studied natural history and botany, and he was elected to the Linnean Society of London. Bradbury came to America to explore Kentucky and the Louisiana Territory in search of plants and seeds for the Liverpool Botanic Garden. In August 1809 he visited Monticello, and he later traveled west with members of John Jacob Astor’s fur-trading company. Delayed in part by the War of 1812, Bradbury did not return to England until 1816. There he was dismayed to discover that Frederick Pursh had already published descriptions of plants that Bradbury had discovered, using specimens he had shipped to Liverpool. In 1817 Bradbury published an account of his travels. He returned to the United States shortly thereafter, spent some time in Saint Louis, and settled in Kentucky (Charles Boewe, “John Bradbury [1768–1823], Kentucky’s Forgotten Naturalist,” Filson Club Historical Quarterly 74 [2000]: 221–49; Rodney H. True, “A Sketch of the Life of John Bradbury, Including his Unpublished Correspondence with Thomas Jefferson,” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings 68 [1929]: 133–50; William Roscoe to TJ, 25 Apr. 1809; TJ to Meriwether Lewis, 16 Aug. 1809; H. W. Rickett, “John Bradbury’s Explorations in Missouri Territory,” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings 94 [1950]: 59–89; James P. Ronda, Astoria & Empire [1990]; Bradbury, Travels in the Interior of America, in the Years 1809, 1810, and 1811; including a Description of Upper Louisiana, together with the States of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee, with the Illinois and Western Territories, and containing Remarks and Observations useful to Persons Emigrating to Those Countries [Liverpool, 1817]; TJ to William H. Crawford, 29 Feb. 1816).

Index Entries

  • Arctomys search
  • Arkansas River search
  • botany; and proposed Washington botanical garden search
  • botany; J. Bradbury’s expedition search
  • Bradbury, John; and Washington botanical garden search
  • Bradbury, John; botanical expedition of search
  • Bradbury, John; identified search
  • Bradbury, John; letters from search
  • gardens; proposed Washington botanical garden search
  • Indians; Mandan search
  • Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné); Systema Naturæ search
  • Louisiana Territory; botanical expeditions in search
  • Mandan Indians search
  • mice search
  • moles search
  • rat, pouched search
  • rattlesnake; new species of search
  • snakes; rattle search
  • squirrel search
  • Systema Naturæ (C. Linnaeus) search
  • Washington (D.C.); proposed botanical garden in search