Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Johnson to Thomas Jefferson, 20 September 1809

From William Johnson

Charleston 20 Septemr 1809.

Judge Johnson having heard Mr Jefferson express his Admiration of the Popinaque, avails himself of the Opportunity of Mr Mitchells Visit to Montecello to transmit one of the Pods of that delicate little Acacia. The Seeds may be put in the Ground immediately about an Inch deep but possibly they may not sprout until the Spring. The Tree blossoms so late and is so wholly incapable of withstanding the Frost that it is very seldom we are able to procure the Seed.—In the same Packet Mr Jefferson will find a few Seeds of the Grass whch in Georgia is called Egyptian, & of the Bennè. The latter J J has made some Observations and Experiments upon in the Course of this Summer & is convinced from the time requisite to bring it to Maturity, that it may be cultivated in the upper Parts of Virginia. The best Mode of obtaining the Pit is to break it between Rollers working horizontally & to express it from Bags of fine Hair Cloth. J. J requests Mr Jefferson to accept his warmest Assurance of Respect & Esteem.—

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 5 Nov. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

William Johnson (1771–1834) was TJ’s first appointment to the United States Supreme Court, serving from 1804 until his death. The native South Carolinian graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1790, was admitted to the bar three years later, and served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1794–99, ending as speaker. Johnson sat on the state bench from 1799–1804, and he was also president of the College of South Carolina at the time of TJ’s appointment. On the Supreme Court he was a nationalist Republican, often dissenting from the Marshall majority but eventually making himself unpopular in South Carolina by opposing nullification. Johnson exchanged agricultural information and seeds with TJ in addition to political commentary and discussions of Johnson’s writing projects. His Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene (1822) prompted TJ to encourage him, unsuccessfully, to write a political history of the early republic, and Johnson published a Eulogy on Thomas Jefferson in 1826 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Princetonians description begins James McLachlan and others, eds., Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, 1976–90, 5 vols. description ends , 1784–1790, pp. 494–507; BDSCHR description begins Walter B. Edgar and others, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1974– , 5 vols. description ends , 4:322–5; Donald G. Morgan, Justice William Johnson: The First Dissenter [1954]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:466, 467 [22, 26 Mar. 1804]).

Index Entries

  • grass; Egyptian search
  • Johnson, William (1771–1834); identified search
  • Johnson, William (1771–1834); letters from search
  • Johnson, William (1771–1834); sends seeds to TJ search
  • Mitchell, Thomas Rothmaler; visits Monticello search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Mitchell, Thomas Rothmaler search
  • seeds; Egyptian grass search
  • seeds; sesame search
  • seeds; sweet acacia search
  • sesame (benne; benni); TJ receives seeds of search
  • sweet acacia search
  • trees; sweet acacia search