Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Smith Barton, 22 June 1807

Washington June 22. 07.

Dear Sir

I have a grandson, the son of your old acquaintance mr Randolph, now about 15. years of age, in whose education I take a lively interest. his time has not hitherto been employed to the best advantage, a frequent change of tutors having prevented the steady pursuit of any one plan. whether he possesses that lively imagination, usually called genius, I have not had opportunities of knowing; but I think he has an observing mind, & sound judgment. he is assiduous, orderly, & of the most amiable temper, & dispositions. as he will be at ease in point of property, his education is not directed to any particular profession, but will embrace those sciences which give to retired life usefulness, ornament or amusement. I am not a friend to placing young men in populous cities, because they acquire there habits & partialities which do not contribute to the happiness of their after-life. but there are particular branches of science, which are not so advantageously taught any where else in the US. as in Philadelphia. the garden at the Woodlands, for Botany, mr Peale’s Museum for Natural History, the Anatomical school, and the able professors in all of them, give advantages not to be found any where else. we propose therefore to send him to Philadelphia to attend the schools of Botany, Natural history, Anatomy, & perhaps Surgery & Chemistry. having been brought up in a mountainous & healthy country, we should be unwilling he should go to Philadelphia till the autumnal diseases cease. it is important therefore for us to know at what periods, after that, the courses of lectures in Natural history, Botany, Chemistry, Anatomy, & Surgery begin & end, & what days & hours they occupy. the object of this is that we may be able so to marshall his pursuits, as to bring their accomplishment within the shortest space practicable. I have written to Dr. Wistar for information as to the course of Anatomy; but not having a sufficient acquaintance with the professors of chemistry & Surgery, if you can add the information respecting their schools to that of your own, I shall be much obliged to you. what too are the usual terms of boarding? what the compensations to the professors? and can you give me a conjectural estimate of other necessary expences? in these we do not propose to indulge him beyond what is necessary, decent & usual; because all beyond that leads to dissipation and idleness, to which, at present, he has no propensities.    I am laying a heavy tax on your busy time; but I think your goodness will pardon it, in consideration of it’s bearing on my happiness. accept my affectionate salutations & assurances of constant esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson


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