James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Richard S. Hackley, 23 May 1819

From Richard S. Hackley

Madrid 23d May 1819.


Having had much satisfaction, by an intimate & friendly intercourse with Don Mariano Lagaska director of the Royal Botanic Garden in this Capital, it occured to me, that I might render some service to my native state by forwarding to its patriotic agracultural society, (at the head of which, I have great pleasure in observing your name) a collection from that Valuable deposit, Which I now do, to the Care of Mrs. Hackley at Richmond, who will forward them as you shall direct.

The Letter of Señor Lagaska, accompanying The Packet,1 will explain his wishes respecting his Intercourse, with your Society, which I hope may be hereafter made useful in the advancement, of the objects of your Establishment.

Señor Lagaska is a man, respectable for his scientific acquirements, and his private character, and would be really an acquisition to our Country—Where he is desirous of emigrating provided he could be assured of a professorship, in either The Latin, French, or Spanish Languages, or in Botany. I mention this, because, I remark the progress making in great Establishments for The education of the youth of our State, consequently it is probable such a man, may be wanted, and I may add, that his political principles are in unison with those of our Country.

The last paragraph you will do me the favor to consider as private, as its publicity might do harm to an enlightened & valuable member of Society, were he more fortunately Situated—And Shd. you feel it proper to write this Gentleman at any time, It may be proper to address him under the care of our Minister at this Court. I am Sir with sentiments of great Consideration & respect, Your mo: Ob sert.

Richd. S: Hackley2

His Excellency John Forsyth,3 our minister at this Court has had the goodness, to forward the Packet named above, & I yesterday had the pleasure to present Mr. Lagaska to him. The Minister had sugested the posibility, That Mr. L. might be a great aquisition to the Center College now establishing in our Native State. I wish Sincerely it may prove so. With much Respect

R. S. H.

RC (DLC). Addressed by Hackley to JM at Montpelier “near Orange Ct. house,” and franked. Cover docketed by JM. Filed with the RC is an extract in JM’s hand of a 9 Apr. 1819 letter (not found) to JM from Mariano la-Gasca y Segura, which accompanied the packet Hackley referred to in his letter. For the extract, see n. 1.

1The extract (1 p.; in Latin, except for JM’s notes) quotes from la-Gasca y Segura’s letter: “Pro commutatione a te desidero, semina plantarum americæ Septentrionalis, et præsertim, Arborum, Compositiflorum et Graminum, Umbelliferarum et scabiosarum. Specimina sicca Umbelliferarum a Claris: Michaux, aliisque Auctoribus editarum flora fructuque maturo prædita, valde desidero, ut novam hujus ordinis sane difficillimi methodum perficere potis sem; in quo operare perficiendo longum tempus impendimus. Nobis etiam gratissima erunt specimina sicca Cryptogamicarum omnium.” (In return I desire from you, specimens of plants of North America, and especially of Trees, Plants with composite flowers and Grasses, plants of umbrella form and scabiosa plants. I particularly desire dry specimens of umbrella form plants which have been described by such famous men: Michaux and other authors, provided in flower and in ripe fruit, so that I could accomplish something new in that order, by the most difficult of methods, indeed; in carrying out which operation we have been spending a long time. Dry specimens of all Cryptogamous plants will also be most welcome to us [editor’s translation].) JM prefaced the extract with a note: “From Don Marianus La Gasca Director of the Royal Botanic Garden at Madrid: who is desiorous of a correspondence & interchanges with the professors of the Natural Sciences in N. America. He is recommended in high terms by Mr. Hackley.” Following the extract, JM added: “Letters addressed to him to be ‘A Dr. Mariano La Gasca Professor di Botanica del Rl. Jardin Botanico de Madrid.’” Mariano la-Gasca y Segura (1776–1839) was professor of botany and director of the Botanical Garden of Madrid. His liberal politics embroiled him in political difficulties which forced him to emigrate to London in 1823. He returned to Spain in 1834 after the death of Ferdinand VII (Enciclopedia de la cultura Española [5 vols.; Madrid, 1963], 3:836–37). André Michaux (1746–1802) was a French botanist who engaged in prodigious research in and collection of plant specimens in North America during the years from 1785 to 1796. Among his many publications is Flora borealiamericana … (2 vols.; Paris, 1803) (Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 25:75–80; Sowerby, Catalogue of Thomas Jefferson’s Library, 1:491).

2Richard S. Hackley (d. ca. 1843) was the husband of Harriet Randolph, a sister of Thomas Mann Randolph Jr., Thomas Jefferson’s son-in-law. Hackley had served as U.S. consul at San Lúcar, Spain, from 1806 to at least 1816, while also serving as acting consul at Cádiz for a time. In 1822 Hackley was appointed surveyor and inspector of the revenue for the port of St. Augustine, Florida. He died in Norfolk, Virginia (Betts and Bear, Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, 254 n. 3; PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (6 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 1:124 n. 2; Journal of the U.S. Senate, 16th Cong., 2d sess., 144; Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:45, 3:262, 270; Washington Daily Madisonian, 14 Apr. 1843).

3John Forsyth (1780–1841) was a graduate of the College of New Jersey and a lawyer who represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1813–18, and 1823–28, and in the U.S. Senate, 1817–18, and 1829–34. He served as minister to Spain, 1819–23, and later as governor of Georgia, 1827–29. An early supporter of JM, Forsyth became a Jacksonian, serving as secretary of state, 1834–41.

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