Thomas Jefferson Papers
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John Bradbury to Thomas Jefferson, 9 January 1816

From John Bradbury

Wards bridge N.Y. 9 Ja[n.] 1816


In my Tour up the Missouri I was deeply impressed with the belief that the region South of that River was extremely rich in Mineralogical as well as Botanic Treasures, and returned with a decided intention to explore the Arkansas and Red Rivers with a view to collect (at least) the materials for the Nat. History of that country.

This design I communicated to Docr Smith PL.S. now Sir James Edward, I received from him the most friendly promises of assistance in the Nomenclature &c &c I came to the Eastern States in order to raise the means by a Sedulous attention to business or to obtain a Situation in which such an undertaking should become a duty. I have tried the former alternative and am disappointed, partly by the present state of Manufactures in this country but more by the turpitude of the man with whom I am connected in business as Partner:

The consideration that the period of Vigour with us has other limits than Death now urges me to look round for the most Speedy means of accomplishing my darling object. This wish has received an additional impulse on be[in]g lately informed that a person is now on his way to explore those regions sent from England with the intent that his discoveries shall be published in that country. If impelled by these feelings I make an improper appeal to you Sir impute it I beg to the true motive, Zeal for Science

I notice in the reports of the proceedings of congress that a Road is in contemplation from St Louis to the Northern boundary of Louisiana for the laying out of which commissioners are to be appointed. I am well acquainted with a considerable portion of the country from St Louis to the Arkansas, have recived a Mathematical education and have a competen[t] knowledge of Surveying. In the Geological par[t] of Mineralogy & the external characters of fossils I am not less versed than in Botany. As the Road will assuredly pass through a mineral country, if a Mineralogical report would be desirable in addition to the Survey I might if employed furnish it

should I be honored with an appointment in this business, or farther in the interior (which [I] should prefer) I pledge myself that the result shall be published in the United States

I must apologize for obtruding myself [on] you and plead as my excuse that I am unacquainte[d] with and unknown to those in power. If the application is improper you will of course suppress it.

I am Sir Your most obedient & obliged

John Bradbury

PS. My discoveries in Botany have be[en] published in England and are considered as Valuable

RC (DLC); hole in manuscript, edge chipped and trimmed, torn at seal; addressed: “Thos Jefferson Esqr Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked Ward’s Bridge, 13 Jan.; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Jan. 1816 and so recorded in SJL; with additional notation by TJ on verso giving the dates of William H. Crawford to TJ, 16 June 1814, and TJ to Crawford, 14 Feb. 1815, which TJ referenced when quoting a portion of Bradbury’s letter to Crawford on 29 Feb. 1816.

Sir James Edward Smith was elected the first president of the Linnean Society of London (pl.s.) in 1788 (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ). Bradbury had been connected in business with Jacob T. Walden in a factory at the falls of the Walkill River in Orange County, New York (New York Columbian, 14 Feb. 1816). On 22 Dec. 1815 the United States House of Representatives ordered its Committee on Roads and Canals to research the expediency of opening and improving roads between Saint Louis, Arkansas Post, and the northern boundary of louisiana. Missouri Territory delegate Rufus Easton proposed that the president “appoint a suitable number of commissioners to survey, mark, and lay out the said roads” (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 10:86; Baltimore Niles’ Weekly Register, 30 Dec. 1815). Frederick Pursh published descriptions of botanical specimens collected by Bradbury in the supplement to his Flora Americæ Septentrionalis; or, A Systematic Arrangement and Description of the Plants of North America (London, 1814), 2:727–43 (Rodney H. True, “A Sketch of the Life of John Bradbury, Including his Unpublished Correspondence with Thomas Jefferson,” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings 68 [1929]: 145–6).

Index Entries

  • botany; J. Bradbury’s expedition search
  • Bradbury, John; botanical expedition of search
  • Bradbury, John; letters from search
  • Bradbury, John; seeks appointment search
  • Bradbury, John; work of published search
  • Easton, Rufus; as U.S. delegate for Missouri Territory search
  • Flora Americæ Septentrionalis (F. Pursh) search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; Roads and Canals Committee search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Missouri Territory; roads in search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Pursh, Frederick; Flora Americæ Septentrionalis search
  • roads; in Missouri Territory search
  • Smith, James Edward; as botanist search
  • surveying; for roads search
  • Walden, Jacob T.; as J. Bradbury’s business partner search