Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Julian Ursin Niemcewicz, 16 June 1801

From Julian Ursin Niemcewicz

16 June 1801. Elizabeth Town New Jersey


Amongst numerous petitions & applications which as the first Magistrat of the Commonwealth you daily receive Sir, you will not I hope reject the petition of an old Acquintance, it is only for a Plant that grows in Virginia by the name of Seneca Root, Polygala Seneca of Lineus, being witness of its Efficacy in various diseases, & seeing the difficulty of procuring it here, I thought it would be of some utility for the Inhabitants to propagate it. The Seed according the Directions of the Botanists must be sown as soon as it is ripe, I shall then be extremely obliged to you, if you have the Kindness to ask it from some of your friends in Virginia, & have it forwarded to me. I am aware that to trouble the President of the U.S. amongst his serious & Importante occupations, for the sake of a Plant, is a bold Intrusion, but I know likewise, your Zeal & Eagerness, to promote & spread whatewer may be useful & in the least beneficial to man Kind. A Single Child cured by your plant will be a sufficient reward for your trouble, & to me would be the highest pitch of ambition to which I aspire. I have not heard of Mr. Lewis Littelpage since I had the honor to write you, I learn that in my unfortunate Country, the spirit of persecution & terrorism has subsided: all those who in Consequence of General Kosciuszko’s going to Paris have been imprisoned are now releas’d, but the Marechal Potocki my friend & one of our most respectable Citizen’s has lost his only daughter & heiress to his fortune. She shared his Imprisonment with him, & I am told the Marechal is not like to survive her long. Our friend Abbé Piatoli is going to be maried, to a Lady who understands greek & latin, & settles with the Duchess of Courland in Silesia. The present will be deliverd to you Sir by Mr. DuPont de Nemours whose love for liberty, eminent services in Civil & literary line are long known to you. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect

Sir Your most Obedient humble Servant

Julien Ursin Niemcewicz

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 28 June and so recorded in SJL.

Ignacy Potocki, former marshal of the council of Poland, helped frame the country’s 1791 constitution and was a leader of the insurgence against Russia. He died in 1809. Scipione Piattoli, an Italian by birth, had been an adviser to the king of Poland and, like Potocki, was involved in the creation of the constitution of 1791. The grand duchess of courland, Anna-Dorothea von Medem, brought Piattoli into her household as a tutor and arranged for him to marry one of her ladies in waiting. Courland, located in the southern portion of modern Latvia, was a hereditary duchy within Poland before Russia took control of the region in 1795 (George J. Lerski, Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966–1945 [Westport, Conn., 1996], 89, 436, 469–70; Rosalynd Pflaum, By Influence & Desire: The True Story of Three Extraordinary Women—The Grand Duchess of Courland and Her Daughters [New York, 1984], 65).

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