Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Main to Thomas Jefferson, 10 January 1810

From Thomas Main

Main’s Nursery, Jany 10th 1810.

Honored Sir

It is with sincere pleasure I embrace the present occasion, of transmitting you the enclosed paper, to offer my affectionate and humble Respects to Him who even when engaged with the high and important cares of a mighty nation’s welfare, did not think my lowly avocation beneath his notice. But with a condesension and goodness that can never be obliterated from my remembrance kindly offered to lead me from this barren spot, where destiny has fixed my home, to more fertile fields where perhaps I might have been more useful to a people unto whom I owe my best exertions and my best wishes for their prosperity—but which offers many circumstances prevented me from accepting.

I do not mean now to intrude my concerns1 upon your peaceful retirement nor to interrupt for a moment that serene tranquillity which is the sweet solace of exalted virtue but if the thankful heart is not permitted to express its gratitude neither the wisest nor the best of human benefactors could know if there is any thing like it left in the world.

With the most sincere and affectionate Respect, I am Honored Sir With all humility Yours

Thos Main.

RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); dateline adjacent to closing; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Jan. 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found.

Thomas Main (ca. 1753–by 1814), nurseryman, was a native of Scotland who rented land about 1803 near the Little Falls of the Potomac, two miles from Georgetown in the District of Columbia. After first attempting to establish a vineyard, he turned his attention to the cultivation of indigenous thorn bushes and fruit trees. Between 1805 and 1807 Main sold TJ apple, mulberry, peach, and other varieties of trees, as well as grapevines and thousands of Washington hawthorn seedlings for the creation of live fences at Monticello. The hawthorn hedges failed to prosper, however, and by 1811 they had been largely abandoned (David B. Warden, A Chorographical and Statistical Description of the District of Columbia [Paris, 1816], 117–20; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1148, 1182–3, 1208, 1216; Betts, Garden Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824, 1944 description ends , 299, 313, 334, 342, 386; Joseph C. Cabell to TJ, 4 July 1816; Peter Hatch, The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello [1998], 27, 73, 88, 135, 154–5; Washington National Intelligencer, 15 Feb. 1814).

Based on TJ’s response of 20 Jan. 1810, the enclosed paper, not found, was probably an unsuccessful prospectus for either a new work on hawthorn cultivation or a new edition of Main’s earlier pamphlet, Directions for the Transplantation and Management of young Thorn or other Hedge Plants, preparative to their being set in Hedges (Washington, 1807; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 723). During his presidency TJ failed to lure Main to more fertile fields in Virginia (TJ to James Currie, 29 Oct. 1805 [MHi]; Main to TJ, 29 Oct. [MHi], 18 Nov. 1805 [DLC]).

1Manuscript: “concrns.”

Index Entries

  • agriculture; and hawthorn hedges search
  • Directions for the Transplantation and Management of young Thorn or other Hedge Plants (Main) search
  • hawthorn search
  • Main (Maine), Thomas; and hawthorn hedges search
  • Main (Maine), Thomas; Directions for the Transplantation and Management of young Thorn or other Hedge Plants search
  • Main (Maine), Thomas; identified search
  • Main (Maine), Thomas; letters from search
  • plants; books on search
  • subscriptions, for publications; gardening search