Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Henry Muhlenberg, 16 March 1814

To Henry Muhlenberg

Monticello Mar. 16. 14.

Dear Sir

I thank you for your catalogue of North American plants. it is indeed very copious, and at the same time compendious in it’s form. I hardly know what you have left for your ‘Descriptio uberior.’ the discoveries of Govr Lewis may perhaps furnish matter of value, if ever they can be brought forward. the mere journal of the voyage may be soon expected; but in what forwardness are the volumes of the botany, natural history, geography and meteorology of the journey, I am uninformed. your pamphlet came during a long absence from home, and was mislaid or this acknolegement should have been sooner made. with my wishes for the continuance and success of your useful labors I embrace with pleasure this first occasion of assuring you that I have had long and much gratification in observing the distinguished part you have borne in making known to the literary world the treasures of our own country and I tender to you the sentiments of my high respect and esteem

Th: Jefferson

PoC (CSmH: JF-BA); at foot of text: “The revd Henry Muhlenburg”; endorsed by TJ.

Henry (Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst) Muhlenberg (1753–1815), Lutheran clergyman, botanist, and educator, was the son of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, a German immigrant and eminent Lutheran Church leader in America. A native Pennsylvanian, the younger Muhlenberg was educated at Halle, Saxony (1763–70), including study at its university. Soon after returning home in 1770, he was ordained a Lutheran minister and served several congregations in the Philadelphia area. In 1780 Muhlenberg moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he spent the rest of his life as pastor at Holy Trinity Church. He served as secretary of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania for six terms and president for eleven terms. Muhlenberg pursued the systematic study of botany, examining and documenting the flora surrounding Lancaster, collecting the earliest important American herbarium, and investigating the economic and medicinal uses of plants. About 1783 he began collaborating with other American and European botanists, and in 1785 he was elected to the American Philosophical Society. Muhlenberg was the first principal of Franklin College (later Franklin and Marshall College), 1787–1815. His published works include an English-German dictionary and works on native and exotic plants of North America (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 ; Paul A. W. Wallace, The Muhlenbergs of Pennsylvania [1950]; Sprague, American Pulpit description begins William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 1857–69, 9 vols. description ends , 9:59–66; Herbert H. Beck, “Henry E. Muhlenberg,” Castanea 3 [1938]: 41–53; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 22 Jan. 1785 [MS in PPAmP]; James A. Mears, “Some Sources of the Herbarium of Henry Muhlenberg (1753–1815),” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings 122 [1978]: 155–74; Joseph Henry Dubbs, History of Franklin and Marshall College [1903]; Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 26, 30 May 1815).

Muhlenberg’s catalogue of north american plants, entitled Catalogus Plantarum Americæ Septentrionalis huc usque cognitarum Indigenarum et Cicurum: or, A Catalogue of the hitherto known Native and Naturalized Plants of North America, arranged according to the sexual system of Linnæus (Lancaster, 1813; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1088), was followed by the posthumously published descriptio uberior (“richer description”), entitled Descriptio Uberior Graminum et Plantarum Calamariarum Americæ Septentrionalis Indigenarum et Cicurum (Philadelphia, 1817). For the publication of Meriwether Lewis’s journal, see editorial note at TJ to Paul Allen, 18 Aug. 1813.

Index Entries

  • books; on botany search
  • botany; books on search
  • Catalogus Plantarum Americæ Septentrionalis (H. Muhlenberg) search
  • Descriptio Uberior Graminum et Plantarum Calamariarum Americæ Septentrionalis Indigenarum et Cicurum (H. Muhlenberg) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives books search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; and publication of journals search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • Muhlenberg, Henry (Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst); Catalogus Plantarum Americæ Septentrionalis search
  • Muhlenberg, Henry (Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst); Descriptio Uberior Graminum et Plantarum Calamariarum Americæ Septentrionalis Indigenarum et Cicurum search
  • Muhlenberg, Henry (Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst); identified search
  • Muhlenberg, Henry (Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst); letters to search
  • Muhlenberg, Henry (Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst); sends work to TJ search