Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to William Clark, 10 September 1809

To William Clark

Monticello Sep. 10. 09.

Dear General

Your favor of June 2. came duly to hand in July, and brought me a repetition of the proofs of your kindness to me. mr Fitzhugh delivered the skin of the sheep of the Rocky mountain to the President, from whom I expect to recieve it in a few days at his own house. for this as well as the blanket of Indian manufacture of the same material which you are so kind as to offer me accept my friendly thanks. your donations & Governor Lewis’s have given to my collection of Indian curiosities an importance much beyond what I had ever counted on. the three boxes of bones which you had been so kind as to send to N.O. for1 me, as mentioned in your letter of June 2. arrived there safely & were carefully shipped by the collector, & the bill of lading sent to me. but the vessel put into the Havanna, under embargo distress, was there condemned as un-seaworthy, and her enrollment surrendered at St Mary’s. what was done with my 3. boxes I have not learned, but have written to mr Brown the Collector to have enquiry made after them. the bones of this animal are now in such a state of evanescence as to render it important to save what we can of them. of those you had formerly sent me I reserved a very few for myself, got Doctr Wistar to select from the rest every peice which could be interesting to the Philosophical society, & sent the residue to the National institute of France. these have enabled them to decide that the animal was neither a Mammoth nor an elephant, but of a distinct kind, to which they have given the name of Mastodont, from the protuberances of it’s teeth. these from their form & the immense mass of their jaws, satisfy me this animal must have been arboriverous. nature seems not to have provided other food sufficient for him; & the limb of a tree would be no more to him than a bough of Cotton tree to a horse. You mention in your letter that you are proceeding with your family to Fort Massac. this informs me that you have a family, & I sincerely congratulate you on it. while some may think it will render you less active in the service of the world, those who take a sincere interest in your personal happiness, and who know that by a law of our nature we cannot be happy without the endearing connections of a family, will rejoice for your sake as I do. the world has, of right, no further claims on yourself & Govr Lewis, but such as you may voluntarily render according to your convenience or as they may make it your interest. I wrote lately to the Governor, but be so good as to repeat my affectionate attachments to him & to be assured of the same to yourself with every sentiment of esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (MoSHi: William Clark Papers); endorsed by Clark. PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Genl Wm Clarke.”

William Clark (1770–1838), soldier and explorer, was a Virginia native who served as mapmaker and effectively as joint commander of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1803–06. He settled in Saint Louis in 1807, serving as superindendent of Indian affairs from that year until his death, with concurrent stints as governor of Missouri Territory, 1813–21, and brigadier general of militia (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ).

In his favor of 2 June 1808 (MHi), carried most of the way by his brother-in-law Denis fitzhugh and not delivered until 10 July 1809, Clark wrote that during his impending move from Louisville to Saint Louis he would drop off three boxes of bones at Fort Massac for shipment to New Orleans. In December 1807 TJ had requested that Clark send him these duplicate fossils, which Clark had originally left in Kentucky with his brother George Rogers Clark (TJ to William Clark, 19 Dec. 1807 [MoSHi: William Clark Papers]). Clark’s bill of lading (MHi) is also dated 2 June 1808. your family: Clark had married Julia Hancock early in January 1808, and their son Meriwether Lewis Clark was born on 10 Jan. 1809 (James J. Holmberg, ed., Dear Brother: Letters of William Clark to Jonathan Clark [2002], 133–4n, 193).

1Preceding abbreviation and word added in margin.

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; and mastodon bones search
  • blankets; Indian search
  • Brown, William; collector at New Orleans search
  • Clark, Julia Hancock (William Clark’s wife) search
  • Clark, Meriwether Lewis search
  • Clark (Clarke), George Rogers; observes fossils search
  • Clark (Clarke), William; identified search
  • Clark (Clarke), William; letters to search
  • Clark (Clarke), William; sends sheepskin to TJ search
  • Fitzhugh, Denis search
  • Fort Massac search
  • Havana; goods lost at search
  • Indians; blankets search
  • Institut de France; TJ and C. Wistar give fossil bones to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; importance of family search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; and artifact collection of W. Clark search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; TJ sends greetings to search
  • mammoth; lost in transit search
  • New Orleans; goods shipped to, for TJ search
  • paleontology; and Institut de France search
  • sheep; skin of Rocky Mountain search
  • St. Mary’s, Ga. search
  • Wistar, Caspar; and mastodon bones search