Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., 23 April 1790

From Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr.

Richmond April 23d 1790.

Dear Sir

Martha, Maria and myself have just returned today from a visit to your Sister Mrs. Carr. The journey to Eppington has been postponed for a short time, partly from necessity, having no horses of our own as yet, but principally from our unwillingness to part so soon with little Maria. It should not have been delayed a moment, had we not been convinced that you would not have hesitated to gratify us in it.

We were so unfortunate as to have your first letter kept from us 9 days by several accidents, which have prevented our writing so soon as we otherwise would have done.—The small commissions you gave me at your departure I could not have neglected. A considerable number of slips from the Pacan, the English Wallnut and the Glocester Hickory have been ingrafted into stocks of the common Hickory, but having thought it better to leave the stocks in the woods, many have been destroyed: others however flourish, and I hope there will be several of each kind ready to be removed to Monticello at the proper Season.

Mr. Foster has not had leisure as yet to superintend the formation of those parts of the Boring Apparatus which you directed should be made: he is ambitious of the honor of serving you, and has promised to do it the first time he comes to Richmond.

I must trouble you to communicate to me in your next letter the method of making the mouldboard which we admired so much at Monticello. The necessity I am under of turning my attention to the cultivation of my little farm, has inclined my thoughts of late towards Agriculture. To one as fond as I am of Physical research, and so much accustomed to exercise, such an inclination might be dangerous: but however enticing the subject, however pleasing the employment, I am resolved it shall never seduce me from the study of the law, and the attempt to acquire Political knowledge.

I have allmost determined on procuring from some of the Northern States a thorough bred Farmer and intrusting every thing to him. Their husbandry is much better in the present situation of Virginia than the English. Their Education as husbandmen ought to be better, for where Land and Labour are both moderately cheap, the Maximum Profit, I suppose must be produced. I am Dear Sir with the most profound respect your most obedt. Servt.,

Thomas M. Randolph

RC (MHi); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Secretary of State” endorsed by TJ as received 5 May 1790 and so recorded in SJL.

It has generally been assumed that TJ did not make a model of his improved moldboard until that executed in New York in the summer of 1790 in response to the above request by Randolph (Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, Princeton, 1953 description ends , p. 48; TJ to Randolph, 9and 30 May, 3 Aug. 1790). But it seems clear that Randolph had seen at Monticellosometime more than a mere description of the method. As first set down by TJ in 1788, that method involved a labored formula on paper but could be easily demonstrated in three-dimensional form by means of a block. Hence it is most likely that, in the midst of all the duties that faced him in the few weeks he was at Monticello, TJ turned his attention to this problem and caused both a model and a block demonstrating the method to be executed. It is not improbable that he carried such a block with him to New York. TJ sometimes sent to correspondents both models and blocks to demonstrate his moldboard (TJ to Strode, 11 Mch. 1805). For his description of the method and an illustration of one of these blocks, see Vol. 13: xxv, 16, 27; Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, Princeton, 1953 description ends , p. 56.

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