Thomas Jefferson Papers

Arnold Buffum to Thomas Jefferson, 22 December 1812

From Arnold Buffum

Smithfield R I 12 mo 22. 1812

Esteemed Friend

Although personally unknown to thee yet I trust I shall not give offence in the liberty I take to address thee as the Friend & Patron of useful enterprize having for its object the improvement of the great & important resources of our Country. Were it necessary I could mention the many flattering accounts I have had of thy Benevolence & Generosity to the unfortunate as well as thy manifest disposition to promote by all possible means the Real & permanent Independance of our Country; that we may be enabled occasionally to withdraw from the Commotions of a Waring World & enjoy the fruit of our Labors in Peace & unanimity amongst ourselves, under our own Vines & fig trees where none can make us afraid. But suffice it to say that the writer of this is a man 30 years of age with a Family dependant on him for support that he has seen easy Circumstances but now has to feel the reverse that he has been unsuccessful in an extensive hat manufacturing establishment in Providence which reduced him to a state of Poverty two years since that he has at length pretty much settled up his former business has removed to the Country with a view of turning his attention to the business of raising Wool that by unremitted exertion he has become able & has purchased three first rate full blood Merino Rams from which he expects a large flock of half Blood Lambs next Spring but in order to get along to advantage he should have a few full blood Merino Ewes from which he could raise his own Rams for Crossing but he is unable to purchase them at present wherefore it is that he is willing to ask of that man who is esteemed the first in our Country such assistance as Thou mayest think proper to grant my ambition aspires only at a verry small begining two or three Merino Ewes or even one would enable me to begin a flock which with care and prudence might in a few years become extensive & profitable & from a remarkably fine Escurial Ram which I have I presume a flock might be produced bearing Wool equal to any ever raised in Spain or any other Country the Hon David Humphreys of Connecticut & Hon William Jarvis of Vermont have large flocks & I believe sell their Ewes at about $50 each & shouldest thou have a mind to befriend one in my Situation an order on either of those Gentlemen I presume would be cordially accepted & would be convenient for me or any other way that thy Judgement & Liberalty may suggest to confer a favor however Small will be thankfully recd & my Children will be taught to remember with gratitude their Fathers Benefactor

P S I am personally known to all the Members in Congress from this State but most particularly to Jackson & Hunter of Providence

RC (MHi); addressed: “Hon Thomas Jefferson Monticello”; franked; postmarked Providence, R.I., 28 Dec.; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Jan. 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

Arnold Buffum (1782–1859), hatmaker, inventor, and abolitionist, was raised in Smithfield, Rhode Island. He received no formal education, but he developed an early sympathy for the antislavery cause in a family that assisted fugitive slaves. Buffum received patents for carding wool and fur for hats in 1807 and 1825 and for the manufacture of waterproofing for hats, shoes, and boots in 1820 and 1822. He manufactured hats and raised sheep with varying degrees of success while moving his family from Rhode Island to Baltimore and Philadelphia. William Lloyd Garrison influenced him to advocate the immediate emancipation of slaves, and when the New England Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1832, Buffum was president and lecturer and Garrison was secretary. The following year Buffum helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society. He devoted much of his adult life to this cause, writing in the Liberator and other periodicals and lecturing in Indiana, Ohio, and elsewhere. Buffum died at Perth Amboy, New Jersey (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Owen A. Perkins, comp., Buffum Family [1975–83], 2:88–92, 143–4; Lillie Buffum Chace Wyman and Arthur Crawford Wyman, Elizabeth Buffum Chace, 1806–1899: Her Life and Its Environment [1914], 1:7, 9, 10, 30; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, 1872 description ends , 58, 212, 244, 294; Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser, 22 May 1821; Newport [R.I.] Mercury, 26 Mar. 1825; Lucille Salitan and Eve Lewis Perera, eds., Virtuous Lives: Four Quaker Sisters Remember Family Life, Abolitionism, and Women’s Suffrage [1994], 22, 30, 46, 95–6; Walter M. Merrill and Louis Ruchames, eds., The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison [1971–81], 2:122n; Boston Liberator, 25 Mar., 8 Apr. 1859).

The biblical reference, under our own vines & fig trees, is to 1 Kings 4.25. Spain’s Escorial (escurial) convent reportedly owned thirty thousand merino sheep out of a national total of more than four million (Washington National Intelligencer, 19 Oct. 1810).

Index Entries

  • Bible; 1 Kings referenced search
  • Buffum, Arnold; and merino sheep search
  • Buffum, Arnold; identified search
  • Buffum, Arnold; letters from search
  • Humphreys, David; imported sheep of search
  • Hunter, William search
  • Jackson, Richard; as R.I. congressman search
  • Jarvis, William; and merino sheep search
  • merino sheep; and A. Buffum search
  • merino sheep; and W. Jarvis search
  • sheep; D. Humphreys’s search