Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel P. Parsons to Thomas Jefferson, 16 March 1814

From Samuel P. Parsons

Richmond 3rd Mo 16th 1814

Respected Friend

With this letter I put in the care of P. Gibson, a Drill plough (for planting corn peas &Ct) to be forwarded to thee, by the first oppertunity; It may seem strange that an entire stranger shoud presume to intrude on a person with whom he has no personal1 knowledge; particularly one who has been so far elivated above the ordinary community; But when it is recollected that we are both children of a free & enlitened republic, our rights, & privilages are the same; & our interest shoud be equally so, as respects the good of the whole, I can but flatter myself, I shall stand entirely excused for this address, & shall state the motives, which induces me to send the plough; In the Regester of a few weeks past, I read a letter from thee on the subject of Olliver Evans machine for Manufactoring2 flour &Ct, in which letter thee stated thee had a plough invented by a Majr Martin for Drilling Corn (I have never seen the plough invented by Martin;) For several years past I have been pursuing a Mechanical business embracing most of the useful utencils used in Husbandry (particularly wheat fans & ploughs3 with considerable improvement) having suggested the Idear of expediting the general mode4 of Drilling corn, last spring, I set a bout making myself a plough to plant my crop of corn, which came fully up to my expectation, but never found that an improvement was practicable, & accordingly, made one for one of my neighbours; this last seemed to fix the principal & the utility, upon a purmenant basis & no doubt remaind of its meeting with encuragement, when corn is Drilld: from actual expereance, I find that with this plough a boy & horse can plant 10 Acres of ground in the day of 8 feet rows; It is useless for me to explain the principle; to one who is so well acquainted with mechanical principles: generally.5 suffice to say, it is the greatest saving labour machine in husbandry that I have seen It not only lays off & Drops the corn, but covers it up at the same time; leaving every hill at eequal distance from each other,

Thee will please try it (shoud thee6 be in the practice of Drilling) & upon such tryals find it of sufficient importance to adopt it, thee will know doubt keep it, & remit me 18 Dollars the price through P. Gibson; if thee is not in want of such a Machine, thee will return it (free of any cost) thro the same chanel, that thee receives it,

It will render me a singular faver (shoud it not be too much trouble) to give me thy Idears on the propriety of obtaining a patent as I have it in contemplation;7 Its simplicity may induce most farmers to use it in preferance to any other, if I meet with sufficient incurragement I intend having the axel & roller (in which the cups are that drops the grain) made of Cast Iron which will make the ploughs of more duribility & less subject to get out of order, I have ploughs for fallowing that I shoud like to send thee on tryal, shoud thee feal disposed to add to thy (no dout) already large supley, With great respect I am thy

assd friend

Saml. P. Parsons

RC (ViW: TC-JP); at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 12 Apr. 1814 and so recorded in SJL.

Samuel Pleasants Parsons (1783–1842), manufacturer and public official, was born in Charles City County. From about 1804–09 he worked in partnerships with his father and others, selling wire, wheat fans, lumber, and tools. By 1813 Parsons operated his own wagon manufactory, and he continued to make and sell farm implements for several years. He served twice as superintendent of the state penitentiary in Richmond, from about 1816–22 and 1824–32. Parsons was a member of the Agricultural Society of Virginia, an advocate of slave emancipation, and a supporter of the African colonization movement, both as a private citizen and in his capacity as prison superintendent. In 1838 he incorporated the Cottage ironworks in Hanover County (Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography [1915], 4:311; William Wade Hinshaw and others, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy [1936– ], 6:201–2, 262; Richmond Virginia Argus, 2 June 1804, 15 Mar. 1808, 3 Mar. 1809, 25 Nov. 1813, 29 Apr. 1815; Richmond Enquirer, 22 Dec. 1808; The Virginia Farmers’ Almanac, for the year of our Lord 1817 [Fredericksburg, 1816]; Parsons letters in Vi: RG 3, Governor’s Office, Letters Received; JSV description begins Journal of the Senate of Virginia description ends , 1830–31 sess., 134 [8 Mar. 1831]; Memoirs of the “Society of Virginia for Promoting Agriculture” [Richmond, 1818], xii; Mount Pleasant, Ohio, Genius of Universal Emancipation 1 [1821]: 31; Philadelphia Recorder 2 [1825]: 339; Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1838 sess.], 193–4; Henrico Co. Will Book, 11:35–8; Richmond Enquirer, 17 Feb. 1842; gravestone inscription in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond).

TJ’s 13 Aug. 1813 letter to Isaac McPherson concerning the patent claims of Oliver evans was printed in Hezekiah Niles’s Baltimore Weekly Register 5 (1813–14): addenda, 2–6.

1Manuscript: “pesonal.”

2Manuscript: “Manufactoing.”

3Manuscript: “ploghs.”

4Manuscript: “mote.”

5Word interlined.

6Manuscript: “the.”

7Manuscript: “comtemplation.”

Index Entries

  • corn; and drills search
  • drills (sowing implements); designed by T. C. Martin search
  • Evans, Oliver; TJ’s opinion on patent rights of published search
  • Gibson, Patrick; and plows for TJ search
  • machines; drill search
  • Martin, Thomas C.; drill of search
  • McPherson, Isaac; letter from TJ published search
  • Parsons, Samuel Pleasants; drill search
  • Parsons, Samuel Pleasants; identified search
  • Parsons, Samuel Pleasants; letters from search
  • patents; and S. P. Parsons search