Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton, 7 May 1809

To William Hamilton

Monticello May 7.1 09

Dear Sir

I have a grandson, Thos J. Randolph, now at Philadelphia, attending the Botanical lectures of Doctr Barton, and who will continue there only until the end of the present course. altho’ I know that your goodness has indulged Dr Barton with permission to avail himself of your collection of plants for the purpose of instructing his pupils, yet as my grandson has a peculiar fondness for that branch of the knolege of nature, & would wish, in vacant hours to pursue it alone, I am led to ask for him a permission of occasional entrance into your gardens, under such restrictions as you may think proper. I have so much experience of his entire discretion as to be able with confidence to assure you that nothing will recieve injury from his hands. I have desired him to deliver this to you himself, as well for the honor of personally presenting his respects to you, as of giving you assurances of the discreet use he will make of your indulgence. I have pressed upon him also to study well the style of your pleasure grounds, as the chastest model of gardening which I have ever seen out of England. in presenting him to my friends at Philadelphia I take the liberty of requesting them not to consider it as an introduction to such civilities as might abstract him from the studies which are his sole object there. the allurements of society are better deferred, & will always present themselves early enough.

I have heard with much concern of your increased afflictions from the gout. have you never thought of trying the warm springs of Augusta for it? altho’ much of an infidel in what is called the healing art, I have seen such radical cures of rheumatism, and relief of the Gout, effected by those waters, that I would certainly resort to them myself, & with much confidence were I to suffer from either of those disorders. I am the more tempted to recommend them to you, as it would lead you near this place where I should be very happy to see you, & to take from you some of those lessons for the improvement of my grounds which you have so happily practised on your own.with every wish for your better health & happiness, I beg leave to assure you of my high respect and esteem.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); at foot of first page: “Wm Hamilton esq.”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosed in TJ to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, 6 May 1809.

William Hamilton (ca. 1746–1813), avid horticulturist and patron of the arts, owned the Woodlands, a large estate on the Schuylkill River outside of Philadelphia famous for its extensive gardens inspired by English landscape design. He maintained almost ten thousand plants in a 140-foot greenhouse flanked by hothouses. TJ greatly admired the Woodlands and its gardens and hoped to incorporate some of the same principles at Monticello. The two men shared an interest in exotic and native plants and exchanged seeds and specimens. Hamilton reportedly introduced the Lombardy poplar, gingko, and witch elm to America. TJ selected him and Bernard McMahon to receive and attempt to propagate the seeds collected on the Lewis and Clark Expedition (TJ to Hamilton, 6 Nov. 1805 and July 1806, TJ to McMahon, 6 Jan. 1807, and Hamilton to TJ, 5 Feb. 1808 [DLC]; Betts, Garden Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824, 1944 description ends ; William Howard Adams, ed., Jefferson and the Arts: An Extended View [1976], 137–57; Richard J. Betts, “The Woodlands,” Winterthur Portfolio 14 [1979]: 213–34; “The Woodlands,” Port Folio 2 [1809]: 505–7; Philadelphia Pennsylvania Gazette, 26 May 1813).

1Number interlined in place of “9.”

Index Entries

  • Augusta County, Va.; springs at search
  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; botany lectures search
  • botany; T. J. Randolph’s enthusiasm for search
  • elm, witch search
  • gardens; and English landscape design search
  • gardens; at Woodlands search
  • gingko tree search
  • Hamilton, William (ca.1746–1813); and seeds of Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • Hamilton, William (ca.1746–1813); gardens of, at Woodlands search
  • Hamilton, William (ca.1746–1813); identified search
  • Hamilton, William (ca.1746–1813); letters to search
  • health; and warm springs search
  • health; gout search
  • health; rheumatism search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; landscape design search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; warm baths search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; seeds brought by from the West search
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition; seeds from search
  • Lombardy poplars search
  • McMahon, Bernard; and seeds of Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • poplar; Lombardy search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); botany, enthusiasm for search
  • springs; therapeutic search
  • springs; warm search
  • trees; elm, witch search
  • trees; gingko search
  • trees; Lombardy poplar search
  • Woodlands (Hamilton’s Pa. estate) search