Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Fleming to Thomas Jefferson, 30 October 1815

From George Fleming

Louisa Healing Springs Octo 30th 1815


The papers I have taken the liberty of sending to you contain the description of a new theory on the application of Steam, I sent a copy to Docr Thornton (patent office) some weeks past, who has done me the honor to notice my communication in a manner that gives me much encouragement, I wished for some months past to send them to you, & only hesitated because I never had the happyness of your acquaintance, nor the pleasure of seeing you, if under these circumstances I have made too free I still hope you will excuse me, & that you will believe there is no one I should be more unwilling to offend than yourself

I have a small Mill whose profits are yet very important to me & which often wants water & “duris urgens in rebus egestas” has led to this imagination & some others, but none terminating in results like this, for if this can perform but one fourth only what the philosophy & figures promise, I shall be satisfied,

I can scarcely tell you how much I should be gratified if you will have the goodness & can spare the time to look at this thing, & in that case a line directed to me at Goochland C. House would reach me sooner than from the office of this county.—I am Sir wth the highest respect

your1 obedient &ca

Geo. Fleming

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 15 Dec. 1815 and so recorded in SJL.

George Fleming, miller, emigrated as a young man from his native Ireland before 1781, when he was living in Maryland. He worked as a merchant before turning to farming. By 1799 Fleming owned a 1,300-acre tract of Louisa County land known as Healing Springs. He unsuccessfully sought a consular position in Europe in 1809. Due to his expertise in milling, in 1820 Fleming was appointed a commissioner at TJ’s suggestion in the latter’s lawsuit against the Rivanna Company. In 1827 Fleming patented his improvement in “the application of steam power in raising water, &c.” (Louise Pecquet du Bellet, Some Prominent Virginia Families [1907; repr. 1976], 1:406; William Hand Browne and others, eds., Archives of Maryland [1883–1972], 47:533; Fleming to Samuel Overton, 3 Feb. 1799 [ViW: Overton Family Papers]; Richmond Enquirer, 14 Oct. 1808; Edmund Winston to James Madison, 9 Nov. 1809, and Spencer Roane to Madison, 30 Nov. 1809 [both in DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17]; TJ to John H. Peyton, 22 Jan. 1820, and enclosure; Peyton to TJ, 24 Feb. 1820; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, 1872 description ends , 334).

duris urgens in rebus egestas: “Want that pinches when life is hard,” from Virgil, Georgics, 1.146 (Fairclough, Virgil description begins H. Rushton Fairclough, trans., Virgil, Loeb Classical Library, 1916–18, rev. by G. P. Goold, 1999–2000, repr. 2002–06, 2 vols. description ends , 1:108–9).

1Manuscript: “you.”

Index Entries

  • Fleming, George; and steam engines search
  • Fleming, George; as miller search
  • Fleming, George; identified search
  • Fleming, George; letters from search
  • Georgics (Virgil) search
  • machines; steam engine search
  • steam engine search
  • Thornton, William; as patent office superintendent search
  • Virgil; Georgics search