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John Guillemard to Thomas Jefferson, 28 October 1815

From John Guillemard

Bordeaux. 28th. October. 1815.


If you are surprized at receiving a letter from me I hope you will excuse me for my motives sake. It is to render service to an intelligent young Man of Florence, who is desirous of a botanical and chemical correspondent in America, that I take the liberty of addressing you. With your influence and in the large circle of your friends you may possibly engage some Man of Science, or possibly more than one, to enter into such a correspondance. The young Man in question is a noble Florentine called Il Marchese Cosimo Ridolfi. American Vessells go often, I imagine to Leghorn, and thence to Florence the distance is not great.

At Pisa I paid a visit to Signor Mazzinghi who read to me part of a letter he had lately received from you. Tho’ very far advanced in years he has not lost his powers of intellect, and he speaks with fire when he speaks of you. It was in the month of February that I called on him with a letter of introduction from a Gentleman of Lucca and I hoped to have seen him again in the course of the Summer, but the Revolution at naples detained me there so long that I was obliged to give up my plan of returning to Pisa and Genoa and of paying my respects to an intelligent and kind hearted Old Man for whom I feel great respect.

I am going directly to Paris whence, after about a month passed with my old friends the Rochefoucaulds &c. I shall make my way to London. I shall have been absent from England about a year and a half and I begin to hanker after my English friends among whom I still number a former American Traveller Sir William Strickland who generally makes a visit to me Every Spring.

At Geneva I met another American Traveller Weld who had lately made a Voyage from Dublin to London in a large Vessell which came from the Clyde to Ireland propelled by the new method of water wheels moved by a steam Engine. This mode of navigation will soon be extended over the Occean and what will be its results can be scarcely calculated.

I have seen within the compass of a few months the lavas of Vesuvius and the Basalts of the extinguished Volcanos of the Puy de Dome. You know that the Hebrides and a great part of Scotland are basaltic. When I contemplate the traces of the great Revolutions of the Earth my Imagination sometimes overpowers me. I do not recollect having observed any basalt in the United States.

I must not intrude further upon your leisure and I hasten to subscribe my self

Your obliged & respectful humble servan[t]

J. Guillemard

RC (DLC); edge chipped; at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson &c. &c. &c.”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Jan. 1816 and so recorded in SJL.

John Lewis Guillemard (1764–1844) was born in England to a Huguenot family. In 1786 he received a B.A. degree from Saint John’s College, Oxford University. Guillemard traveled to the United States in the 1790s, and in 1796 he visited Monticello with the Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt. While in Philadelphia in 1797, Guillemard served on a commission established under the Jay Treaty to help settle British creditors’ pre-Revolutionary claims. He was a member or officeholder in numerous American and British learned societies, including the American Philosophical Society, the Linnean Society of London, the Royal Asiatic Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Institution, and the Royal Society of London (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 38 vols. description ends , 29:149n, 154–5; Joseph Jackson Howard, ed., Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, new ser., 3 [1880]: 388; Notes and Records of the Royal Society 3 [1940–41]: 95–6; John Bassett Moore, History and Digest of the International Arbitrations to which the United States has been a Party [1898], 1:271–94; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 21 July 1797 [MS in PPAmP]; Annals of Natural History; or, Magazine of Zoology, Botany and Geology 1 [1838]: 412; Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 5 [1839]: xxii; Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 1 [1832]: xvi; Royal Institution of Great Britain, A List of the Members, Officers, and Professors [1863], iv; Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 30 Nov. 1844).

Cosimo Ridolfi (1794–1865), agriculturist and politician, was a native of Florence. In the 1820s he traveled in Europe studying farming practices, and he eventually established an agricultural school on his estate at Meleto. Ridolfi later taught agricultural courses at the University of Pisa. He served in 1849 as a minister of Leopold II, grand duke of Tuscany, and later he was a senator of the unified country of Italy. In 1860 he was elected director of the Museum of Physics and Natural History in Florence (Raffaello Lambruschini, Elogio del presidente March. Cosimo Ridolfi letto alla R. Accademia dei Georgofili [1866]).

By signor mazzinghi Guillemard apparently meant Philip Mazzei. revolution at naples: Napoleon’s brother-in-law Joachim Murat, king of Naples, kept his throne by joining the allied powers early in 1814. After Napoleon’s return from Elba, however, Murat attacked the Austrian forces in northern Italy and was defeated. Naples returned to Bourbon rule thereafter, and Murat was executed after a final rebellion failed (Connelly, Napoleonic France description begins Owen Connelly and others, eds., Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France, 1799–1815, 1985 description ends , 346–7, 352). In May 1815 Isaac weld took the steamboat Thames from Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, to London (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; George Dodd, An Historical and Explanatory Dissertation on Steam-Engines … concluding with A Narrative, by Isaac Weld, Esq., of the Interesting Voyage of the Thames Steam-Yacht [London, 1818], 253–80).

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; members of, foreign search
  • basalt search
  • Guillemard, John Lewis; identified search
  • Guillemard, John Lewis; introduces C. Ridolfi to TJ search
  • Guillemard, John Lewis; letter from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction to search
  • La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, François Alexandre Frédéric, duc de; friendship with J. L. Guillemard search
  • Mazzei, Philip; visitors to search
  • Murat, Joachim, king of Naples; reign of search
  • Naples; revolution in search
  • Puy de Dôme (volcano) search
  • Ridolfi, Cosimo; identified search
  • Ridolfi, Cosimo; introduced to TJ by J. L. Guillemard search
  • Royal Society of London; members of search
  • steamboats; Thames search
  • Strickland, Sir William search
  • Thames (steamboat) search
  • Vesuvius (volcano) search
  • volcanoes search
  • Weld, Isaac; and steamboatThames search