George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 22 January 1793

To Thomas Jefferson

Philadelphia 22d Jan. 1793

Dear Sir,

Nothing occurs to me as necessary to be added to the enclosed project.1

If the Subscription is not confined to the members of the Philosophical Society I would readily add my mite to the means for encouraging Mr Michaud’s undertaking—and do authorize you to place me among, & upon a footing with the respectable sums which may be Subscribed.2 I am always Yours.

Go: Washington

ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers; ADfS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1Earlier on this date Jefferson wrote GW that he had “the honor to inclose . . . the subscription paper he has prepared for enabling the Philosophical society to send mister Michaux on the mission through the country between the Missisipi & South sea, and he will have that of waiting on him tomorrow morning on the subject” (AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). André Michaux (1746–1802), who had received extensive botanical training at the royal gardens in and around Paris and had traveled on scientific expeditions to England, Spain, and Persia, was appointed a royal botanist by Louis XVI in 1785 and was dispatched to North America “to Know the trees, the Seeds, and Every Kind of Natural production Whose growth May be either Curious, or Useful” (Lafayette to GW, 3 Sept. 1785). Michaux arrived in New York City in November 1785 and began his botanical investigations, which would take him from Canada in the north to Florida and the Bahamas in the south. While traveling through Virginia, Michaux visited GW at Mount Vernon on 19 June 1786 (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:350). Between 1785 and 1792 Michaux sent as many as 60,000 trees back to France, introduced a number of European and Asian plants to North America, and established nurseries at Bergen, N.J., and near Charleston, South Carolina. During the same period Michaux met with members of the American Philosophical Society and, through them, became cognizant of its desire to sponsor the exploration of the territory west of the Mississippi River. In December 1792 Michaux offered to undertake such an expedition. Jefferson took a leading role in arranging the contract between Michaux and the society, in which Michaux agreed “to explore the interior country of North America from the Missisipi along the Missouri, and Westwardly to the Pacific ocean . . . and on his return to communicate to the said society the information he shall have acquired of the geography of the said country it’s inhabitants, soil, climate, animals, vegetables, minerals and other circumstances of note” (“American Philosophical Society’s Subscription Agreement for André Michaux’s Western Expedition,” c.22 Jan. 1793, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 25:81–84). Unfortunately, by the spring of 1793 Michaux had fallen under the spell of French minister Edmond Genet, who convinced him to attempt to raise an American volunteer corps in Kentucky to aid in the liberation of Louisiana from Spanish rule. After receiving news of Genet’s recall in early 1794, Michaux returned to his botanical nursery outside of Charleston without undertaking an exploration of the American West. Two years later he returned to France.

2GW’s stipulation was of no consequence as he had been elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1780. The subscription agreement that Jefferson had sent him requested that GW contribute $100 to the venture. In mid-April 1793 the society appointed a committee to collect “one fourth part of the Subscriptions . . . or the whole, of such subscribers as chuse to pay” (ibid., 82–83). GW paid $25 to the society on 23 April (Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends , 1793–1797, PHi). Although Michaux never explored the territory west of the Mississippi River, this sum remained in the hands of the society until after GW’s death (see Early Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society . . . from 1744 to 1838 [Philadelphia, 1884], 298).

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