Thomas Jefferson Papers
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José Corrêa da Serra to Thomas Jefferson, 6 March 1812

From José Corrêa da Serra

Washington city 6 March. 1812


When i Left Europe two months ago, several of your correspondents and friends in that part of the world favoured me with Letters of recommendation to you, knowing how ardently i wished the honour of your acquaintance. Mr Thouin gave me also his Last publication on grafting, that i might present to you on his part. Not having the advantage of finding you in this place as i was Led to believe in Europe, and being obliged to go as soon as possible to Philadelphia where i intend to reside, i send you Mr Thouin’s book, that you may not be deprived of the pleasure of reading it, and keep the Letters with me, which i shall have the honour of presenting to you in the course of this summer when i intend to undertake the pilgrimage of Monticello. The present Letter and Mr Thouin’s book i leave here at the care of Mr Gallatin. I am most devoutedly

Sir Your most obedient he servt

Joseph Corrêa de Serra

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 18 Mar. 1812 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: enclosure to André Thoüin to TJ, 7 Dec. 1811. Enclosed in Albert Gallatin to TJ, 10 Mar. 1812.

José Corrêa da Serra (1751–1823), botanist and diplomat, was born in Portugal and educated in Italy, where he was ordained in the Catholic priesthood. In 1779 he was a founder and first secretary of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Lisbon, in which capacity he edited the first three volumes of a pioneering collection of early Portuguese documents, Collecçaõ de Livros Ineditos de Historia Portugueza, dos Reinados de D. Joaõ I., D. Duarte, D. Affonso V., e D. Joaõ II (Lisbon, 1790–93). Corrêa da Serra became a fellow of the Royal Society of London and the Linnean Society of London. Anticipating persecution for his liberal political views, he fled his native land in 1795. He lived in London until 1801 and then in Paris before relocating to the United States in 1812. Corrêa da Serra was elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society even before his arrival, settled in Philadelphia, and was welcomed by a scientific and political community that valued his broad interests and insatiable intellectual curiosity. He befriended TJ and visited Monticello regularly during his extensive travels, and he was made an honorary member of the Agricultural Society of Albemarle. From 1816–20 Corrêa da Serra resided in Washington as Portugal’s minister plenipotentiary to the United States. He eventually grew disenchanted with American politics and values. In 1820 he returned to Europe, expecting to proceed to Brazil as a councillor of state to the Portuguese monarch there, but he ultimately settled in Lisbon in 1821 after the royal court returned to that city (João Romano Torres, ed., Portugal–Dicionário Histórico, Corográfico, Heráldico, Biográfico, Bibliográfico, Numismático e Artístico [1904–15], 6:837–8; Michael Teague, Abade José Correia da Serra: Documentos do seu Arquivo [1751–1795], Catálogo do Espólio [1997], esp. 34; Richard Beale Davis, The Abbé Corrêa in America, 1812–1820: The Contributions of the Diplomat and Natural Philosopher to the Foundations of Our National Life [1955; repr. 1993]; Léon Bourdon, José Corrêa da Serra: Ambassadeur du Royaume-Uni de Portugal et Brésil à Washington 1816–1820 [1975]; Ana Simões, Maria Paula Diogo, and Ana Carneiro, Cidadão do Mundo: Uma Biografia Científica do Abade Correia da Serra [2006]; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 17 Jan. 1812 [MS in PPAmP]).

When Corrêa da Serra first visited TJ in July 1813, he presented him letters of recommendation from André Thoüin, Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, and Alexander von Humboldt, respectively dated 7, 20, and 20 Dec. 1811.

Index Entries

  • Agricultural Society of Albemarle; members of search
  • Albemarle County, Va.; Agricultural Society of search
  • American Philosophical Society; members of, foreign search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; forwards work on grafting search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; identified search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; letters from search
  • Du Pont de Nemours, Pierre Samuel; introduces J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • Humboldt, Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander, Baron von; introduces J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Corrêa da Serra, José search
  • Thoüin, André; introduces J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • Thoüin, André; on grafting search
  • trees; grafting of search