Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Giovanni Fabbroni, 8 June 1778

To Giovanni Fabbroni

Williamsburgh in Virginia June. 8. 1778


Your letter of Sep. 15. 1776 from Paris came safe to hand. We have not however had the pleasure of seeing Mr. De Crenis, the bearer of it in this country, as he joined the army in Pennsylvania as soon as he arrived. I should have taken particular pleasure in serving him on your recommendation. From the kind anxiety expressed in your letters as well as from other sources of information we discover that our enemies have filled Europe with Thrasonic accounts of victories they had never won and conquests they were fated never to make. While these accounts alarmed our friends in Europe they afforded us diversion. We have long been out of all fear for the event of the war.1 I inclose you a list of the killed, wounded, and captives of the enemy from the Commencement of hostilities at Lexington in April 1775, till November 1777. since which there has been no event of any consequence. This is the best history of the war which can be brought within the compass of a letter. I believe the account to be near the truth, tho’ it is difficult to get at the numbers lost by an enemy with absolute precision. Many of the articles have been communicated to us from England as taken from the official returns made by their General. I wish it were in my power to send you as just an account of our [losses] but this cannot be done without an application to the war office which being in another country is at this time out of my reach. I think that upon the whole it has been about one half the number lost by them. In some instances more, but in others less. This difference is ascribed to our superiority in taking aim when we fire; every soldier in our army having been intimate with his gun from his infancy. If there could have been a doubt before as to the event of the war, it is now totally removed by the interposition of France; and the generous alliance she has entered into with us.

Tho’ much of my time is employed in the councils of America I have yet a little leisure to indulge my fondness for philosophical studies. I could wish to correspond with you on subjects of that kind. It might not be unacceptable to you to be informed for instance of the true power of our climate as discoverable from the Thermometer, from the force and direction of the winds, the quantity of rain, the plants which grow without shelter in the winter &c. On the other hand we should be much pleased with cotemporary observations on the same particulars in your country, which will give us a comparative view of the two climates.2 Farenheit’s thermometer is the only one in use with us. I make my daily observations as early as possible in the morning and again about 4. o’clock in the afternoon, these generally showing the maxima of cold and heat in the course of 24 hours. I wish I could gratify your Botanical taste; but I am acquainted with nothing more than the first principles of that science, yet myself and my friends may furnish you with any Botanical subjects which this country affords, and are not to be had with you: and I shall take pleasure in procuring them when pointed out by you. The greatest difficulty will be the means of conveyance during the continuance of the war.

If there is a gratification which I envy any people in this world it is to your country its music. This is the favorite passion of my soul, and fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism. From the [line] of life in which we conjecture you to be, I have for some time lost the hope of seeing you here. Should the event prove so, I shall ask your assistance in procuring a substitute who may be a proficient in singing and on the harpsichord. I should be contented to receive such an one two or three years hence, when it is hoped he may come more safely, and find here a greater plenty of those useful things which commerce alone can furnish. The bounds of an American fortune will not admit the indulgence of a domestic band of musicians. Yet I have thought that a passion for music might be reconciled with that oeconomy which we are obliged to observe. I retain for instance among my domestic servants a gardener (Ortolano), weaver (Tessitore di lino e lan[a),] a cabinet maker (Stipettaio) and a stonecutter (scalpellino lavorante in piano) to which I would add a Vigneron. In a country where, like yours, music is cultivated and practised by every class of men I suppose there might be found persons of those trades who could perform on the French horn, clarinet or hautboy and bassoon, so that one might have a band of two French horns, two clarinets and hautboys and a bassoon, without enlarging their domest[ic] expences. A certainty of employment for a half dozen years, and at [the] end of that time to find them if they chose it a conveyance to their own country might induce [them] to come here on reasonable wages. Without meaning to give you trouble, perhaps it mig[ht] be practicable for you in your ordinary intercourse with your pe[ople] to find out such men disposed to come to America. Sobriety and good nature would be desireable parts of their characters. If you think such a plan practicable, and will be so kind3 as to inform me what will be necessary to be done on my part, I will take care that it shall be done. The necessary expences, when informed of them, I can remit before they are wanting, to any port in France with which country alone we have safe correspondence.

I am Sir with much esteem your humble servt., T. J.4


Number of the Killed, Wounded, and Captives of the British Army in the Course of the American War.

At Lexington & Concord 43 70
Bunker’s hill 746 1,150
Ticonderoga, St. John, & Quebeck 81 110 340
on the Lakes by general Arnold 53 64
at Fort Sulivan in South Carolina 197 260
at the Cedars in Canada 40 70
at Norfolk, & the great bridge in Virginia 129 175 40
in Long Island 840 1600 65
at Harlem & Hellgate near New York 136 157 49
at New York on Landing 57 100
at Fort Washington near New York 900 1,500
at Fort Lee 20 35
at Trenton the 26 of Decber. 35 60 948
at Princeton in New Jersey 74 100
in Boston road by Commodore Harding 52 90 750
in Sundry transports 390
at Danbury 260 350
at Iron hill in Delaware State 59 80 20
at Brandwine in Pensylvania the 11th. Sepber. 800 1,176
on Reading road by Genal. Maxwell 40 60
at german Town near Philadelphia the 4th. Octber. 180 975 20
on Staten Island by Genal. Sulivan 94 150 278
at Bennington near the Lakes the 4th. Octber. 900 1,300 30
at Forts Montgomery & Clinton Hudsons River 580 700
at Forts Mifflin & Red-Bank near Philada. 328 70 84
Genal. Burgoin’s Army at Saratoga 2,100 1,126 5,752
Prisoners, & deserters before the Surrender 1,100
Total 8,844 11,528 9,866.
In all Wounded, Killed, and Prisoners, 30,238
Men already Lost to England 18,710

Dft (DLC); heavily corrected; the more important excisions are given in the textual notes. Tr (MiU-C) of the recipient’s copy, which was evidently intercepted and is now missing; endorsed: “Copy of a private Letter from Williamsburgh in Virginia dated June 8-1778. Sent by the way of Spain, to a foreign gentleman abroad.” Tr is incomplete, omitting more than half the text. It includes, however, the table of British losses which was enclosed by TJ and which is not found with the draft. That table is therefore printed here from the transcript.

Your letter of Sep. 15 1776: TJ corrected the year, apparently from 1777 to 1776, for Tr reads 1776; see Fabbroni’s letter of that date. On the cover of Fabbroni’s letter TJ made memoranda for his reply. These read as follows:

“state of killed & [. . . .]


lies in Engld. diversion

musician harpsichd. singer. organ.

band. viz

} Cab. makr.
2 horns &c Gardener.
<clarinet> &c Stone cutter
bassoon. weaver

wines. Vendée

Thermometer &c

a gardener. Ortolano

a stone-cutter. Scalpellino lavorante in piano.

a cabinet-maker. Stipettaio.

weaver. Tessitore di lino e lana.”

Intercepted with TJ’s letter was a letter from his friend Charles (Carlo) Bellini to Fabbroni; an undated translation of it is also in MiU-C. It provides an illuminating account of Bellini’s life in Virginia: he describes himself as “Secretary to the State of Virginia for foreign affairs [he was actually a translator, see notes to Bill Establishing a Clerkship of Foreign Correspondence, 18 May 1778], and Professor of Modern Languages in this University [College of William and Mary].” The substance of his letter is repeated in one he afterward addressed to Mazzei, 12 Aug. 1778, printed in two Florentine journals later that year and reprinted in English by A. Pace, WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly description ends , 3d ser., iv (1947), 350–5.

1Deleted in draft: “since the battle of Bunker’s hill, which proved to us experimentally that the want of discipline might be supplied by native courage and a cordial tho’ governable animation in the cause for which we are contending. Our enemies indeed obtained the feild on that day by superiority of numbers, but their loss was five times greater than ours.”

2Text of transcript of the intercepted letter (except for complimentary close and signature) ends at this point. The British high command was not interested in TJ’s musical plans.

3Deleted in draft: “as to write me a line, with advice what money may be necessary to remit, I will take care to do it for their transportation hither; I would remit it according to your advice to any port of France, with which country only we have safe correspondence. I shall always be glad to receive your letters and to do any friendly offices which you or your friends may require hence.”

4Supplied from transcript. Draft is unsigned.

Index Entries