George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 14 May 1794

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello [Va.] May 14. 1794.

Dear Sir

I am honored with your favor of Apr. 24. and received at the same time mister Bertrand’s agricultural Prospectus. tho’ he mentions my having seen him at a particular place yet I remember nothing of it. and observing that he intimates an application for lands in America, I conceive his letter meant for me as Secretary of state, & therefore I now send it to the Secretary of state.1 he has given only the heads of his demonstration, so that nothing can be conjectured of their details. Ld Kaims once proposed an essence of dung, one pint of which should manure an acre.2 if he or mister Bertrand could have rendered it so portable I should have been one of those who would have been greatly obliged to them. I find on a more minute examination of my lands, than the short visits heretofore made to them permitted, that a 10. years abandonment of them to the unprincipled ravages of overseers, has brought on a degree of degradation far beyond what I had expected. as this obliges me to adopt a milder course of cropping, so I find that they have enabled me to do it by having opened a great deal of lands during my absence. I have therefore determined on a division of my farms into 6. fields to be put under this rotation. 1st year. Wheat. 2d corn, potatoes, peas. 3d rye or wheat according to circumstances. 4th & 5th clover where the fields will bring it, & buckwheat dressings where they will not. 6th folding, and buckwheat dressings. but it will take me from 3. to 6. years to get this plan under way. I am not yet satisfied that my acquisition of overseers from the head of Elk has been a happy one, or that much will be done this year towards rescuing my plantations from their wretched condition. time, patience & perseverance must be the remedy; and the maxim of your letter ’slow & sure’ is not less a good one in agriculture than in politics. I sincerely wish it may extricate us from the event of a war, if this can be done saving our faith and our rights. my opinion of the British government is that nothing will force them to do justice but the loud voice of their people, & that this can never be excited but by distressing their commerce. but I cherish tranquility too much to suffer political things to enter my mind at all. I do not forget that I owe you a letter for mister Young.3 but I am waiting to get full information. with every wish for your health & happiness & my most friendly respects for mistress Washington I have the honor to be Dear Sir your most obedt & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

ALS, RuSpRNB; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers.

1O. A. Bertrand’s letter to Jefferson of 8 Feb. mentioned a meeting "chez le Seiur thouin en 1785." The prospectus enclosed by Bertrand described several experimental demonstrations to be made by one of his sons near the Federal City. Bertrand added that making the demonstrations would require at least 1,000 acres of land "que j’espererois d’obtenir en pleine propriété" (Jefferson Papers, 28:16-19). Jefferson enclosed these items in his letter to Edmund Randolph of this date (Jefferson Papers, 28:74).

2Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782), was a Scottish judge and amateur agriculturalist whose book The Gentleman Farmer. Being an Attempt to Improve Agriculture, by Subjecting It to the Test of Rational Principles (Edinburgh, 1776) went through several editions. GW acquired the book in the 1780s (see GW to Clement Biddle, 10 Feb. 1786, Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends , 3:553-54) and wrote over 100 pages of notes summarizing its content (DLC:GW).

3Arthur Young’s letter to GW of 17 Jan. 1793 included a number of queries directed to Jefferson. GW sent those queries to Jefferson in a letter of 13 May 1793. Although Jefferson replied in his letter to GW of 28 June 1793, he noted there that his answer "would not, & ought not to satisfy mister Young" and promised to answer Young’s queries more fully at a later date.

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