Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Bowman, 14 October 1793

From John Bowman

Chs: town 14 Octr: 1793

Dear Sir

Several Months ago I enclosed to You a small sealed packet, containing a rough draught of a steam Engine, by Mr. Lucas, a most ingenious and Worthy Man. He purposed to soon afterwards send on a Model of that Engine, but the urgency of our more intelligent planters for his aid in relief of our former heavy labour in clearing out the Rice Crops has kept him in uninterrupted hurry. I now enclose for him an accurate drawing and descripsion of the Engine in Question. He is about the immediate Construction of One of them for Me, and if necessary to his obtaining a patent, a working Model can be shortly sent forward to whatever place You shall appoint. I am confident, Sir, that Your attention to this Matter will redound to the advancement of Many Useful Arts in the United States. After which it were needless to add, that besides my share of satisfaction in the Public Welfare, the benefit of One of the best and most ingenious Men I have ever known, will from my attachment to him founded on a Nine Years Knowledge of him, give Me much pleasure.

Mrs. Bowman and Miss Lynch join Me in All good wishes to You and Family. I am with much Esteem Dear Sir Yr. most Obedt. Servt.

J. Bowman

RC (DLC); addressed: “The honble Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 4 Nov. 1793 and so recorded in SJL, which erroneously dates it 11 Oct. 1793. Enclosures not found.

John Bowman (1746–1807), a native of Scotland who immigrated to Georgia via Charleston in 1769 and subsequently became a wealthy South Carolina planter, served several terms in the upper and lower houses of the South Carolina legislature between 1788 and 1799. He was the sole lowcountry planter to oppose the federal Constitution at the state ratifying convention in 1788, a year after Jonathan LUCAS, Sr., built him a water mill to beat rice at Peach Tree, his plantation on the Santee River. Lucas also built mills powered by wind and tide, but he was not awarded a patent for his steam engine (Walter B. Edgar and others, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 5 vols. [Columbia, S.C., 1974-], iii, 82–3; “A Lucas Memorandum,” South Carolina Historical Magazine, lxix [1968], 193).

Bowman’s letter of several months ago is not recorded in SJL, and neither it nor the contents of the small sealed packet have been found.

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