Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to James Ronaldson, 12 January 1813

To James Ronaldson

Monticello Jan. 12. 13.

Dear Sir

Your favor of Nov. 2. arrived a little before I sat out on a journey on which I was absent between 5. and 6. weeks. I have still therefore to return you my thanks for the seeds accompanying it, which shall be duly taken care of, and a communication made to others of such as shall prove valuable. I have been long endeavoring to procure the Cork tree from Europe, but without success. a plant which I brought with me from Paris, died after languishing some time, and of several parcels of acorns recieved from a correspondent at Marseilles, not one has ever vegetated. I shall continue my endeavors, altho’ disheartened by the Non-chalance of our Southern fellow citizens, with whom alone they can thrive. it is now 25. years since I sent them two shipments (about 500. plants) of the olive tree of Aix, the finest olive in the world. if any of them still exist, it is merely as a curiosity in their gardens. not a single orchard of them has been planted. I sent them also the celebrated species of *Sainfoin from Malta which yields good crops without a drop of rain thro’ the season. it was lost. the upland rice which I procured fresh from Africa & sent them, has been preserved and spread in the upper parts of Georgia, & I believe in Kentucky. but we must acknolege their services in furnishing us an abundance of cotton, a substitute for silk, flax & hemp. the ease with which it is spun will occasion it to supplant the two last, & it’s cleanliness the first. houshold manufacture is taking deep root with us. I have a carding machine, two spinning machines, & looms with the flying shuttle in full operation for clothing my own family; and I verily believe that by the next winter this state will not need a yard of imported coarse or midling clothing. I think we have already a sheep1 for every inhabitant, which will suffice for cloathing, and one third more, which a single year will add, will furnish blanketing.—with respect to marine hospitals, which are one of the subjects of your letter, I presume you know that such establishments have been made by the Genl government in the several states, that a portion of seaman’s wages is drawn for their support, and the govm’t furnishes what is deficient. mr Gallatin is attentive to them, & they will grow with our growth. you doubt whether we ought to permit the exportation of grain to our enemies; but Great Britain with her own agricultural supplies and those she can command by her access into every sea, cannot be starved by witholding our supplies. and if she is to be fed at all events, why may we not have the benefit of it, as well as others?2 I would not indeed feed her armies landed on our territory, because the difficulty of inland subsistence3 is what will prevent their ever penetrating far into the country, and will confine them to the sea coast. but this would be my only exception. and as to feeding her armies in the peninsul, she is fighting our battles there, as Bonaparte is on the Baltic. he is4 shutting out her manufactures from that sea, and so far5 assisting us in her reduction to extremity. but if she does not keep him out of the peninsul, if he gets full command of that, instead of the greatest and surest of all our markets, as that has uniformly been, we shall be excluded from it, or so much shackled by his tyranny & ignorant caprices, that it will become for us what France now is. besides if we could, by starving the English armies, oblige them to withdraw from the Peninsul, it would be to send them here: and I think we had better feed them there for pay, than feed & fight them here for nothing. a truth too not to be lost sight of is that no country can pay war taxes if you suppress all their resources. to keep the war popular, we must keep open the markets. as long as good prices can be had, the people will support the war cheerfully. if you should have an opportunity of conveying to mr Heriot my thanks for his book, you will oblige me by doing it. accept the assurance of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Miss Sarah Mortimer, Philadelphia, 1957); addressed (top half clipped): “Mr James Ronaldson Philadelphia.” PoC (DLC). Tr (ViU: TJP-ER); posthumous copy; first page only.

Beginning in 1787, TJ’s correspondent at marseilles, Stephen Cathalan, managed shipments of olive trees from southern France to TJ’s correspondents in South Carolina (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , esp. 12:380–1, 13:180–1, 249, 18:584–5).

1Tr ends here.

2Sentence interlined.

3Word interlined in place of “supplies.”

4TJ here canceled “there.”

5Preceding two words interlined.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

*Sainfoin *called Sulla.

Index Entries

  • Alrichs & Dixon (Wilmington, Del., firm); and carding machine search
  • Baltic Sea; and Napoleon’s Continental System search
  • carding machines; from Alrichs & Dixon search
  • Cathalan, Stephen (Étienne) (1757–1819); sends olive trees search
  • clothing; cotton search
  • clothing; wool search
  • cotton; for clothing search
  • cotton; spinning of search
  • crops; flax search
  • crops; hemp search
  • crops; rice search
  • flax; substitutes for search
  • Gallatin, Albert; as secretary of the treasury search
  • Georgia; rice cultivated in search
  • hemp; substitute for search
  • Heriot, Thomas search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war with Great Britain search
  • Kentucky; rice cultivation in search
  • looms search
  • machines; carding search
  • machines; loom search
  • machines; spinning search
  • manufacturing, household; TJ on search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • oak; cork search
  • olives; trees search
  • rice; cultivated in Ga. search
  • rice; cultivated in Ky. search
  • Ronaldson, James; letters to search
  • Ronaldson, James; on marine hospital search
  • Ronaldson, James; sends seeds to TJ search
  • sainfoin search
  • seeds; cork search
  • silk; substitutes for search
  • trees; oak, cork search
  • trees; olive search
  • War of1812; TJ on search
  • wool; used for clothing search