Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Law to Thomas Jefferson, [received 23 February 1817]

From Thomas Law

[received 23 Feb. 1817]

Dear Sir.

Our Society will be highly gratified if you will permit us to insert your name amongst the Members who are desirous of promoting the objects we have in view—

I remain With sincere esteem and regard

Thos Law

RC (DLC: TJ Papers, 209:37298); undated; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Feb. Recorded in SJL as received 23 Feb. 1817.

With this letter Law may have enclosed two works related to the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences (the society). An oration by Edward Cutbush, An Address, delivered before the Columbian Institute, for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, at the City of Washington, on the 11th January, 1817 (Washington, 1817; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 6 [no. 223]; TJ’s copy in DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections), urged the organization to establish a library, a museum, and a national botanical garden where valuable seeds and plants could be cultivated for distribution to other parts of the nation; recommended that it print circulars “containing the necessary questions for the information of the Institute, so arranged, and divested of technical terms, that those persons, who have not been engaged in scientific pursuits, may be enabled to comprehend and answer them with promptness” (p. 22); articulated the hope that “the members of our national government, to whom has been confided the guardianship of the District of Columbia, will extend their fostering care to this establishment, and, if no constitutional restrictions forbid it, that a part of the public ground, reserved for national purposes, may be vested in the ‘Columbian Institute for the promotion of Arts and Sciences,’ for the purpose of carrying into effect the leading objects of the association”; and noted that “a small pecuniary aid would enable the Institute, at an earlier period, to extend its benefits to all parts of the United States” (pp. 27–8). A printed circular from Benjamin Henry Latrobe, William W. Seaton, and Edmund Law, Washington, 1 Feb. 1817, writing as the corresponding committee of the Columbian Institute (Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 6 [no. 223]; TJ’s copy in DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections, bound with the Cutbush Address), requested respondents to supply data, including geographical, meteorological, infrastructural, botanical, mineralogical, and manufacturing facts relative to their region; called for the submission of such grains as “may be useful as food for man or animals, or which produce oils, &c. that the seeds may be sown in our garden, and if they multiply, that they may be disseminated throughout the United States”; promised to repay contributions with vegetables and plants from the institute’s collection; and concluded by asserting that “By the reciprocation of knowledge acquired by the exchange of useful productions and by the co-operation of the philosopher and philanthropist, we indulge the pleasing expectation of rendering our Institute at this Metropolis by assiduity and zeal a public benefit, increasing and improving with the growth of this Republican Government.”

The Columbian Institute’s minutes for its 11 Jan. 1817 meeting record that it was “ordered that Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison be entered as honorary members of the Institute” (MS in DSI: Columbian Institute Records).

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences search
  • An Address, delivered before the Columbian Institute, for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, at the City of Washington, on the 11th January, 1817 (E. Cutbush) search
  • Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences; An Address, delivered before the Columbian Institute, for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, at the City of Washington, on the 11th January, 1817 (E. Cutbush) search
  • Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences; circular of search
  • Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences; honorary members of search
  • Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences; TJ elected honorary member of search
  • Cutbush, Edward; An Address, delivered before the Columbian Institute, for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, at the City of Washington, on the 11th January, 1817 search
  • gardens; proposed Washington botanical garden search
  • Latrobe, Benjamin Henry; and Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences search
  • Law, Edmund; and Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences search
  • Law, Thomas; and Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences search
  • Law, Thomas; letters from search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences search
  • Seaton, William Winston; and Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences search
  • Washington, D.C.; and Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences search
  • Washington, D.C.; proposed botanical garden in search