Thomas Jefferson Papers

Tristram Dalton to Thomas Jefferson, 21 August 1815

From Tristram Dalton

Boston Aug 21 1815


I am happy in an opportunity, by favour of my good friend General Dearborn, to tender you my most respectful regards—and to hand two pamphlets, in consequence of a wish expressed by Mr Dexter, the introducer of the One on the natural History and Origin of Peat—who is not a little enthusiastical upon the subject—

The Masstts Agricultural1 Journal for June gives a partial account of the method practised in this cool & cold Section of the Union—

Allowance must be made in this representation as the Gentlemen composing the Society, and their Correspondents are not generally practical farmers—

Having read,2 with much satisfaction, the “Rural Socrates,” which pamphlet you were so kind as lend me, when in Washington, I did not peruse the copious extracts made in this Number of the Journal—I then formed an opinion that the practise of the Swiss, and his remarks might be peculiarly useful to the Farmers of the Northern States

With high Esteem I am Sir your most obdt Servt

Tristram Dalton

RC (DLC);  mistakenly endorsed by TJ as a letter of 25 Aug. 1815 received 3 Oct. 1815 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Thomas Ritchie, 20 Oct. 1815, on verso; addressed: “The Honorable Thomas Jefferson Monticello Virginia.”

Tristram Dalton (1738–1817), merchant and public official, was a native of Newburyport, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard College (later University) in 1755, he read law but went into trade. During the Revolutionary War, Dalton used his business skills and connections to sell prizes, outfit warships, acquire supplies for the Continental army, and manage his own privateers. In 1780 he was a founder of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dalton served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1776, 1782–84 (with service as Speaker, 1783–84), and 1785–86; the Massachusetts Senate, 1784–85 and 1786–89; the Massachusetts ratification convention of 1788, where he supported the new United States Constitution; and the United States Senate, 1789–91. He was treasurer of the United States Mint, 1792–94, but in the latter year he gave up this post, sold most of his property in New England, invested the proceeds in land in the District of Columbia, and became a partner in the mercantile firm of Tobias Lear & Company. Dalton filed for insolvency in 1799. He was appointed agent of the Washington branch of the Bank of the United States in 1800 and then a director in 1801; sat on the federal commission for the District of Columbia from 1801 until the three-member board was abolished the following year; and became postmaster of Georgetown in 1802. President James Madison named Dalton collector of federal direct taxes and internal duties in 1813 for the Ninth Massachusetts District, stationed in Salem. The next year he became federal surveyor of the port and inspector of the revenue for Boston. Dalton served in that position until his death (Eben F. Stone, “A Sketch of Tristram Dalton,” Essex Institute, Historical Collections 25 [1888]: 1–29; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates description begins John L. Sibley and others, eds., Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 1873– , 18 vols. description ends , 13:569–78; American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Bulletin 58 [2004]: 115; Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution [1976– ], vols. 4–7; William C. di Giacomantonio, “All the President’s Men: George Washington’s Federal City Commissioners,” Washington History 3 [1991]: 70–5; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends ; Votes and Proceedings of the House of Delegates of the State of Maryland. November Session, 1799 [Annapolis, 1800], 30, 32, 46, 54, 111; James O. Wettereau, “The Branches of the First Bank of the United States,” Journal of Economic History 2 [supplement, Dec. 1942], 79–81; New York Commercial Advertiser, 15 Oct. 1801; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 37 vols. description ends , 36:312–4; Georgetown Washington Federalist, 26 July 1802; Salem Gazette, 25 Nov. 1813, 18 Jan. 1814; The Boston Directory [Boston, 1816], 92, 233; Boston Daily Advertiser, 2 June 1817).

The two pamphlets included the June 1815 issue of the Massachusetts Agricultural Journal, published by the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture. Aaron dexter, the society’s president, supplied a short introduction to an abridged version of a work on peat by Robert Rennie published as “Essays on the Natural History and Origin of Peat,” Massachusetts Agricultural Journal 3 (June 1815): 281–311.

TJ had owned two English translations of the rural socrates by Hans Kaspar Hirzel. One appeared as an appendix to Arthur Young, Rural Oeconomy (London, 1770; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 705), and the other, by Benjamin Vaughan, was The Rural Socrates; or an account of a celebrated Philosophical Farmer, lately living in Switzerland, and known by the name of Kliyogg (Hallowell, Me., 1800; see PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 37 vols. description ends , 35:605). Because he had borrowed one of TJ’s copies, Dalton decided against reading the extracts that appeared in the Massachusetts Agricultural Journal 3 (June 1815): 354–74.

1Manuscript: “Agriculural.”

2Manuscript: “reead.”

Index Entries

  • agriculture; Massachusetts Agricultural Journal search
  • agriculture; Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture search
  • agriculture; “Essays on the Natural History and Origin of Peat” (R. Rennie) search
  • Dalton, Tristram; identified search
  • Dalton, Tristram; letters from search
  • Dalton, Tristram; sends pamphlets to TJ search
  • Dearborn, Henry; conveys letters to TJ search
  • Dexter, Aaron; agricultural writings of search
  • Dexter, Aaron; as president of Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture search
  • Hirzel, Hans Caspar; The Rural Socrates search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; loans books search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Massachusetts Agricultural Journal; sent to TJ search
  • Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture; publishes Massachusetts Agricultural Journal search
  • Rennie, Robert; “Essays on the Natural History and Origin of Peat” search
  • Rural Oeconomy: or, Essays on the Practical Parts of Husbandry (A. Young) search
  • The Rural Socrates (H. C. Hirzel) search
  • Vaughan, Benjamin; translates The Rural Socrates (H. C. Hirzel) search
  • Young, Arthur; Rural Oeconomy: or, Essays on the Practical Parts of Husbandry search
  • “Essays on the Natural History and Origin of Peat” (R. Rennie) search