Thomas Jefferson Papers

José Corrêa da Serra to Thomas Jefferson, 6 September 1813

From José Corrêa da Serra

Philadelphia 6 Septber 1813


Together with this Letter i forward to you by the post office the book of Senator Fossombroni. The 1st part of the book is wholly antiquarian, and though highly curious to Italian readers, is of Little interest to any other; the second part will give you an idea of that ingenious and experimented practice. If it was judged proper to familiarize the Americans with it then it would be necessary to extract and translate what relates to it, in Fossombroni’s memoir on this matter (which is printed in the 3d vol. of the transactions of the Italian society) and in the tracts of the Florentine collection of hydraulic books.

Permit me to expose an idea which came to my memory in reading the unlucky accident of the two schooners upset in Lake Ontario in these Last cruizes of Comre Chauncey. In the time of Suwarow’s campaign, the English assisted the house of Austria in building a flotilla of war in the Lake of Constance, and sent an English officer of the name of Williams to command it. As it was the first instance of a Lake navy in the actual state of naval improvement, i heard many interesting observations, made by competent judges, and particularly on the necessity of making alterations in the construction, because sea water being considerably heavier than fresh water, seemed to indicate that at Least the prominence of the Keel ought to be in an inverse ratio to the weight of the water, in order to give steadiness to the ship, and safety to its navigation. That a merchant ship had not the same necessity of hazardous manoeuvres, and consequently Less occasion of feeling the necessity of such an alteration. Has this been attended to, by your naval constructors in the Lakes?

When i returned to Washington with Col. Randolph we missed to meet Mr Madison. I write to him as is my duty in Leaving this continent, but i remember you of Mr Warden’s title of Consul general, about which you were so good as to promise me your interest. I have Learned since i am in Philadelphia that Mr Sylvanus Bourne had the same title in Holland when that country enjoyed a government of its own.

In a few days i go to the northern ports in order to find embarkation for the Peninsula. Whatever occasions there or elsewhere may occur of obeying your commands, Mr Vaughan will forward them to me. I will profit of the Leave i obtained of writing to you if i meet with, or think any thing worth your notice, but do not exact any answer but what you will think fit. I hope you will find me always

Most sincerely yours

Joseph Corrêa de Serra

P.S. I enclose Mr Cuvier’s paper, and write to him, that if it is possible to have the objects, it will be by your means and care.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 17 Sept. 1813 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Vittorio Fossombroni, Memorie Idraulico-Storiche sopra la Val-di-Chiana (Florence, 1789; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3921). Other enclosure printed below.

The 1st part of Fossombroni’s enclosed book, which was a hydrographic history of Tuscany’s Chiana Valley, deals with its ancient state, while the second part concerns the transformation of its marshy and malarial regions into arable land through the creation of an integrated, artificial drainage system. Fossombroni published an article “Sopra la Distribuzione delle Alluvioni” (“On the Distribution of Alluvion”) in the Memorie di matematica e fisica della Società Italiana delle scienze (transactions of the italian society) 3 (1786): 533–52. United States naval commodore Isaac Chauncey lost two schooners in a storm on lake ontario in August 1813 (Albany Argus, 17 Aug. 1813). James Ernest Williams commanded the Austrian flotilla on Lake Constance during Russian general Aleksandr Suvorov’s (suwarow’s) 1799 Italian campaign (Lawrence Sondhaus, The Habsburg Empire and the Sea: Austrian Naval Policy, 1797–1866 [1989], 6, 8; Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon description begins David G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, 1966 description ends , 256; New York Commercial Advertiser, 8 June 1799; Philadelphia Gazette & Daily Advertiser, 24 July 1800). Corrêa da Serra wrote President James Madison on 9 Sept. 1813 to recommend that David Bailie Warden be given the title of consul general, adding that “At Monticello I asked Mr. Jefferson on the propriety of speaking to you, about a concern of Mr. Warden your Consul at Paris, he not only approved of it, but kindly promised to interfere in it” (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 6:605). Corrêa da Serra was bound for the Iberian peninsula.

Index Entries

  • books; on hydraulics search
  • Bourne, Sylvanus; mentioned search
  • Chauncey, Isaac; U.S. Navy commodore search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; and D. B. Warden’s consulship search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; animal specimens requested from search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; letters from search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; on naval construction search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; plans to return to Europe search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; sends work to TJ search
  • Cuvier, Georges; requests animal specimens from J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • Fossombroni, Vittorio; article on alluvion by search
  • Fossombroni, Vittorio; Memorie Idraulico-Storiche sopra la Val-di-Chiana search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Madison, James; and appointments search
  • Memorie di matematica e fisica della Società Italiana delle scienze search
  • Memorie Idraulico-Storiche sopra la Val-di-Chiana (V. Fossombroni) search
  • Muséum Impérial d’Histoire Naturelle; G. Cuvier requests animal specimens for search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); and J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • Società Italiana delle scienze search
  • Suvorov, Aleksandr; Russian general search
  • Vaughan, John; as Philadelphia contact search
  • Warden, David Bailie; as consul at Paris search
  • Williams, James Ernest; naval commander search