Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1 May 1794

To John Taylor

Monticello May 1. 1794.

Dear Sir

In my new occupation of a farmer I find a good drilling machine indispensably necessary. I remember your recommendation of one invented by one of your neighbors; and your recommendation suffices to satisfy me with it. I must therefore beg of you to desire one to be made for me, and if you will give me some idea of it’s bulk, and whether it could travel here on it’s own legs, I will decide whether to send express for it, or get it sent round by Richmond. Mention at the same time the price of it and I will have it put into your hands.—I remember I shewed you, for your advice, a plan of a rotation of crops which I had contemplated to introduce into my own lands. On a more minute examination of my lands than I had before been able to take since my return from Europe, I find their degradation by ill usage much beyond what I had expected, and at the same time much more open land than I had calculated on. One of these circumstances forces a milder course of cropping on me, and the other enables me to adopt it. I drop therefore two crops in my rotation, and instead of 5. crops in 8. years take 3. in 6. years, in the following order. 1. wheat. 2. corn and potatoes in the strongest moiety, potatoes alone or peas alone in the other moiety according to it’s strength. 3. wheat or rye. 4. clover. 5. clover. 6. folding and buckwheat dressing. In such of my feilds as are too much worn for clover, I propose to try St. foin, which I know will grow in the poorest land, bring plentiful crops, and is a great ameliorater. It is for this chiefly I want the drilling machine as well as for Lucerne. My neighbors to whom I had distributed some seed of the Succory intybus, brought from France by Young, and sent to the President, are much pleased with it. I am trying a patch of it this year.—This drop from the tip of1 Lazarus’s finger to cool your tongue, I have thought even father Abraham would approve. He refused it to Dives in the common hell; but in yours he could not do it.—Pray let me have a copy of the pamphlet published on the subject of the bank. Not even the title of it has ever been seen by my neighbors. My best affections to the sound part of our representation in both houses, which I calculate to be 19/21 ths. Adieu. Your’s affectionately

Th: Jefferson

RC (MHi: Washburn Collection); addressed: “John Taylor of the Senate of the US. Philadelphia”; franked. PrC (DLC).

John Taylor of Caroline (1753–1824), the Virginia lawyer, planter, legislator, and agrarian political economist, had been brought up by Edmund Pendleton after the death of his parents. After attending William and Mary for two years, he studied law with Pendleton and was admitted to the Caroline County bar in 1774. During the Revolutionary War Taylor served as a major in the Continental Army and as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia, and was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1779 to 1781 before deciding to devote himself fully to his legal practice the following year, when he sought TJ’s opinion in a tangled case (see Vol. 27: 724–7). Taylor served again in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1783–85 and 1796–1800, and in the United States Senate, 1792–94, 1803, and 1822–24. In the 1790s he established himself as a leading agricultural reformer and political theorist, becoming a close political ally and regular correspondent of TJ’s but exerting his greatest influence through his voluminous published writings, which from then until his death consistently warned of the perils posed to agrarian republicanism by the alliance between centralized government and a monied interest (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Robert E. Shalhope, John Taylor of Caroline: Pastoral Republican [Columbia, S.C., 1980]).

After an initial and apparently unsuccessful experiment in 1774 with the plant, on 28 Apr. 1794 TJ sowed Succory (Cichorium intybus) he had received from the President and thereafter kept it in continuous cultivation until at least 1818 to feed his livestock and for his own table (Betts, Garden Book, description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824, Philadelphia, 1944 description ends 47, 58, 210, 581; Betts, Farm Book, description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, Princeton, 1953 description ends 245–6). Pamphlet published on … the bank: see first enclosure listed at Taylor to TJ, 1 June 1794.

1TJ here canceled “[my] finger.”

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