Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Wythe, 13 June 1790

To George Wythe

New York June 13. 1790.

Dear Sir

An indisposition of several weeks has prevented my sooner acknowledging the reciept of your favor of Apr. 22.—The bookseller whom I have employed at Strasburgh always is Armand Koenig. A Biographical dictionary to which I have been obliged to have recourse for information about Phlegon, authorises me to inform you of these circumstances relative to him. He was surnamed Trallion, from a city in Lydia, and a freed-man of Adrian. There remains nothing of his at present but a treatise on those who have been long-lived, and another on wonderful things. The best edition of these fragments of Phlegon is that given by Meursius at Leyden in 1622. in 4to. Gr. and Lat. with notes. He lived to the 156th. year of the Christian aera. The author adds ‘It is pretended that he spoke in the 13th. and 14th. books of his Olympiads of the darkness which happened at the death of our Saviour. Eusebius in his chronicle relates his words.’—I inclose a few seeds of high-land rice which was gathered the last autumn in the East Indies. If well attended to, it may not be too late to sow and mature it after you shall recieve it. I have sowed a few seeds in earthen pots. It is a most precious thing if we can save it.—The house of representatives have voted to remove to Baltimore. It is doubted whether the Senate will concur. Perhaps it may end in a removal to Philadelphia. Adieu my Dear Sir Yours affectionately.

PrC (DLC); lacks signature.

The biographical dictionary was Ladvocat’s Dictionnaire historique et bibliographique portatif. On 8 Aug. 1789 TJ purchased a 4-vol. edition of this work (Paris, 1777) that was probably intended for himself. The previous month he had purchased other editions, one of which was evidently included in the shipment of books for James Madison that arrived in the Cato early in 1790 (TJ to Madison, 17 Sep. 1789; Madison to TJ, 24 Jan. 1790; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–1959, 5 vols. description ends No. 146). But it is clear that TJ, perhaps because of his periodic headache, depended upon Madison to copy off from his copy of Ladvocat’s work the text of the article on phlegon. In DLC: TJ Papers, 235: 42229 there is a memorandum in Madison’s hand containing this extract from Ladvocat in French, and it is obvious that TJ’s information above is a translation and summary made from this extract. It is not known what edition Madison possessed (William T. Hutchinson to the Editors, 25 Nov. 1959).-TJ had received the high-land rice only the day before he wrote Wythe. Thus he had lost no time in planting some of it in earthen jars (see Vaughan to TJ, 27 Mch. 1790). He also gave some to Madison, who forwarded it to his father on the same day, saying that it was brought from Timor by Captain Bligh, and adding: “A little rice of which the enclosed is a part was all that he saved out of a fine collection. It will be best to give the grains their first vegetation in a flower pot of rich earth, and then shift the contents of the pot into the ground so as not to disturb the roots. A few of the grains may be tried at once in the garden in a strong soil” (James Madison to James Madison, Sr., 13 June 1790; DLC: Madison Papers).

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