Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Sir John Sinclair, 30 June 1803

To Sir John Sinclair

Washington June 30. 1803.

Dear Sir

It is so long since I have had the pleasure of writing to you, that it would be vain to look back to dates,1 to connect the old & the new; yet I ought [not] to pass over my acknolegements to you for various publications recieved from time to time,2 and with great satisfaction3 & thankfulness. I send you a small4 [one] in return, the work of a very unlettered farmer, yet valuable, as it relates plain5 facts of importance to farmers. you will discover that mr Binns is an enthusiast for the use of gypsum. but there are two facts which prove he has a right to be so. 1. he began poor, & has made himself tolerably6 rich by his farming alone. 2. the county of Loudon, in which he lives, had been so exhausted & wasted by bad husbandry, that it began to depopulate, the inhabitants going Southwardly in quest of better lands. Binn’s success has stopped that emigration. it is now becoming [one] of the most productive counties of the state of Virginia, and the price given for th[ose] lands is multiplied manifold.

We are still uninformed here whether you are again at war. Buonaparte has produced such a state of things in Europe as it would seem difficult for him to relinquish in any sensible degree, and equally dangerous for Great Britain to suffer to go on, especially if accompanied by maritime preparations, on his part. the events which have taken place in France have lessened in the American mind the motives of interest which it felt7 in that revolution, and it’s amity towards that country now rests on it’s love of peace &8 commerce. we see at the same time with great9 concern the position in which Great Britain is placed, and should be sincerely afflicted were any disaster to deprive mankind of the benefit of such a bulwark against the torrent which has for some time10 been bearing down all before it. but her power & prowess [by] sea seem to render every thing safe in the end.11 peace is our passion, & tho’ wrongs might drive us from it, we prefer trying every12 other just principle [of]13 right & safety before we would recur to war.

I hope your agricultural institution goes on with success. I consider you as the author of all the good it shall do.14 a better idea has never been carried into practice. our Agricultural society has at length formed itself. like our American Philosophical society it is voluntary, & unconnected with the public, and is precisely an execution of the plan I formerly sketched to you. some state societies have been formed heretofore. the others will do the same. each state society names two of it’s members of Congress to be their members in the Central society, which is of course together during the sessions of Congress. they are to select matter from the proceedings of the state societies & to publish it, so that their publications may be called l’esprit des societés d’agriculture &c. the central society was formed the last winter only so that it will be some time before they get under way. mr Madison, the Secretary of state was elected their President.

Recollecting with great satisfaction our friendly intercourse while I was in Europe,15 I nourish the hope it still preserves a place in your mind, and with my salutations I pray you to accept assurances of my constant attachment and high respect.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); margin frayed, with text in brackets supplied from Dft; at foot of first page: “Sir John Sinclair.” Dft (DLC); undated. Tr (NjP); entire second paragraph underscored, with quotation marks at opening and close of paragraph and at beginning of each line; endorsed as received by Sinclair at Edinburgh on 19 Nov. 1803. Enclosure: John A. Binns, A Treatise on Practical Farming (see enclosure listed at TJ to Thomas Mann Randolph, 14 June). Enclosed in TJ to George W. Erving, 10 July. Tr enclosed in Sinclair to Lord Melville, 28 Nov. 1803, in which Sinclair writes from Charlotte Square: “I received, the other day, a very interesting communication from Mr Jefferson, President of the united States, and as the opinions of a person in his high situation, regarding the present state of European politics, must be interesting to the statesmen on this side of the water, I thought it right to send you a copy of it, which you may also communicate to mr Pitt” (RC in NjP).

pleasure of writing to you: TJ to Sinclair, 23 Mch. and 28 Apr. 1798. For the various publications TJ received from Sinclair, which he had not yet acknowledged, see Vol. 31:91; Vol. 32:13–14; Vol. 34:414; Vol. 37:536–7.

TJ carefully constructed this second paragraph, with his depiction of Great Britain as a beneficial bulwark against the French torrent, as a way to convey diplomatic information that could be shared with British authorities, as Sinclair did by sending it to Lord Melville (see descriptive note and textual notes from Dft). TJ’s 27 June 1790 letter to Benjamin Vaughan is an earlier example of his use of private correspondence as a vehicle for diplomatic communication (Vol. 16: viii-ix; 578–80).

our agricultural society: the American Board of Agriculture was established in February 1803, with Madison elected president and Isaac Briggs, secretary (National Intelligencer, 2 Mch. 1803; Vol. 37:172–3, 339–40).

our friendly intercourse: for Sinclair’s recollection of his meeting and exchanges with TJ, see Vol. 9:405–6.

1In Dft TJ here canceled “as if to keep.”

2Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

3Sentence ends here in Dft.

4Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

5Word interlined in Dft.

6Word interlined in Dft.

7Word interlined in Dft in place of “took.”

8In PrC TJ here canceled “tranquility.” Dft: “peace & commerce.”

9Word interlined in Dft in place of “sincere.”

10Preceding three words interlined in Dft. Tr lacks “for some time.”

11Dft: preceding three words interlined.

12PrC: “ever.”

13In Dft TJ first wrote “we prefer every other means of obtaining” before altering the preceding text to read as above. Tr: “prefer trying every just principle of.”

14In Dft TJ here interlined “ours has at length established itself on the plan I mentioned to you &c.” Dft lacks remainder of paragraph.

15In Dft TJ first began the sentence “recollecting myself with great satisfaction the friendly intercourse I had with you in Europe” before altering it to read as above.

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