Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to William Thornton, 27 [June] 1810

To William Thornton

Monticello Apr. [June] 27. 10.

Dear Sir

Your letter of the 8th was duly recieved, & I have to return you thanks for the kind offer of Barbary sheep as a mixture with the Merino. I will state to you the stock from which I propose to breed. one of Robert Morris’s captains about the year 1792. brought him a pair of what he said were Merino sheep which he smuggled from Cadiz. the ewe died, & he gave me the ram. I bred in & in from that ram 7. years, and ever since his death from his offspring, now 16. years in all. I consider our breed therefore as pure as the original.1 I have had samples of the wool examined at Washington Delaware & Philadelphia. tho’ not deemed pure Merino, it is considered as of very superior quality. in fact I suppose the captain had hit not upon the finest race but one of a 2d or 3d grade. these sheep have long been in great celebrity, & so much in demand that we could scarcely ever kill a ram lamb. from these I propose to raise my stock to be pure, and shall consider the 1st mixture with this or the half blood, as equal to ¾ blood from any other race. it has been as remarkeable for it’s hardiness as it’s wool. I have reserved the pair of dogs for yourself & mr Dougherty, and will send them to mr Madison’s as you desire, when I send for my Merinos. besides their wonderful sagacity & never ceasing attention to what they are taught to do, they appear to have more courage than I had before supposed that race to possess. they make the best farm dogs or house dogs I have ever seen. you suggest the publication of a paragraph of my letter.—no, not for the world. this pharisaism would be too much like the pseudopatriotism which I have censured. it would exhibit me as greedy of praise, as they of pence. the sacrifice on my part will be too small to merit eulogy, and I think it a duty incumbent on the richer farmers, to communicate gratis to those less so, any improvements they can introduce. affectionate respects to the ladies & yourself.

Th: Jefferson

I propose the male of the dogs for yourself, as Dougherty will have more leisure to attend to the raising litters from the female, & may make them an article of profit not unacceptable to him.

RC (DLC: Thornton Papers); misdated; postscript added separately to RC and PoC, perpendicularly in left margin; addressed: “Doctr William Thornton Washington Col.”; postmarked Milton, 29 June 1810.PoC (DLC: TJ Papers, 190:33755); endorsed by TJ as a letter of 27 June 1810 and so recorded in SJL.

1Preceding three words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Cádiz; and merino sheep search
  • dogs; described by TJ search
  • Dougherty, Joseph; and shepherd dogs search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; obligations of wealthy farmers search
  • merino sheep; TJ to provide Va. with search
  • Montpellier (Montpelier; J. Madison’s Orange Co. estate); and shepherd dogs search
  • Morris, Robert (1735–1806); provides sheep to TJ search
  • Orange Court House (Orange Co.); TJ’s merino sheep sent to search
  • Philadelphia; wool analyzed at search
  • sheep; Barbary search
  • Thornton, William; and merino sheep search
  • Thornton, William; and shepherd dogs search
  • Thornton, William; letters to search
  • Virginia; TJ to provide merino sheep to search
  • Washington (D.C.); wool from TJ’s flock analyzed at search
  • Wilmington, Del.; wool from TJ’s flock analyzed at search
  • wool; samples of search