Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Robert Fulton, 17 March 1810

To Robert Fulton

Monticello Mar. 17. 10.

Dear Sir

I have duly recieved your favor of Feb. 24. covering one of your pamphlets on the Torpedo. I have read it with pleasure. this was not necessary to give them favor in my eye. I am not afraid of new inventions or improvements, nor bigotted to the practices of our forefathers. it is that bigotry which keeps the Indians in a state of barbarism in the midst of the arts, would have kept us in the same state even now, and still1 keeps Connecticut where their ancestors were when they landed on these shores. I am much pleased that Congress is taking up the business. where a new invention is supported by well known principles & promises to be useful, it ought to be tried. your torpedoes will be to cities what vaccination has been to mankind. it extinguishes their greatest danger. but there will still be navies. not for the destruction of cities, but for the plunder of commerce on the high seas. that the tories should be against you is in character, because it will curtail the2 power of their idol, England.

I am thankful to you for the trouble you have taken in thinking of the belier hydraulique. to be put into motion by the same power which was to continue it’s motion was certainly wanting to that machine, as a better name still is. I would not give you the trouble of having a model made, as I have workmen who can execute from the drawing. I pray you to accept the assurances of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (facsimile in Richard Maass, “Paine and Jefferson,” Manuscripts 50 [1998]: 185); address cover lacking. RC (Julia Maria Dickinson Tayloe Autograph Collection, forming part of Gwathmey Cabell Collection, ViU microfilm); full letter including address cover; addressed: “Robert Fulton esq. New York”; franked; postmarked Milton, 20 Mar. PoC (DLC).

1Preceding four words interlined in place of “and now,” at which time TJ neglected to delete a comma after the word “state.”

2TJ here canceled what appears to be “dig.”

Index Entries

  • Connecticut; TJ on search
  • Federalist party; and R. Fulton’s torpedo search
  • Fulton, Robert; and torpedo search
  • Fulton, Robert; letters to search
  • Fulton, Robert; self-acting hydraulic ram search
  • Fulton, Robert; Torpedo War, and Submarine Explosions search
  • Indians; TJ on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives books search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Indians search
  • machines; self-acting hydraulic ram search
  • machines; torpedo (mine) search
  • Senate, U.S.; supports R. Fulton’s torpedo search
  • Torpedo War, and Submarine Explosions (Fulton) search