Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Caspar Wistar, 14 July 1802

To Caspar Wistar

Washington July 14. 1802.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 10th. of Apr. in answer to mine of Mar. 22. satisfied me perfectly as to Doctr. Barnwell whom therefore I then concluded to appoint to the hospital of N. Orleans, if established. but learning afterwards that Doctr. Bache had determined to remove to the Missisipi, I could have no hesitation to offer the place to him, as eminently qualified for it. I did so, and he has accepted & will probably depart early in the next month. considering the season & length of the journey, I wish mrs Bache [would] consent to defer her going till autumn.

Mr. Peale informs me that one frontal bone is recieved. one or two others will probably be forwarded. all of them I learn have horns. after you shall have considered them I shall be glad to learn your conclusion on this animal. that he was an elephant some resemblances in his structure argue. that he was not might be inferred from his superior volume, from the climate he inhabited, the form of his teeth, and perhaps from the bone recently recieved if it be not more difficult to ascribe it to the animal we have than to some other of whose existence we have no proof, and who must of course be a creature of imagination.   I expect to leave this place within a week for Monticello where I shall pass the months of Aug. & Sep. not deeming them safe on tidewater. I count therefore on seeing Dr. & mrs Bache there. Accept assurances of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); blurred; at foot of text: “Dr. Wistar.”

MRS BACHE: William Bache’s wife, Catharine Wistar Bache, was Wistar’s sister (Vol. 30:509).

MR. PEALE INFORMS ME: Charles Willson Peale’s letter to TJ of 10 June reported the arrival in Philadelphia of an eagerly awaited BONE from Kentucky.

After he examined the partial skull, Peale confirmed, as others had suggested, that it belonged to a type of bison. In letters to Peale and TJ, however, Samuel Brown, who had not seen the fossil but spoke with people who had, raised questions about the animal and expressed a hope that Wistar or Benjamin Smith Barton might study the specimen (Vol. 37:351–2, 489–90, 550–2, 581–2).

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