Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to José Corrêa da Serra, 1 January 1816

To José Corrêa da Serra

Monticello Jan. 1. 16.

I learnt, my dear Sir, with inexpressible concern, on my arrival at home, that my detention in Bedford had lost me the pleasure of your visit here. having heard nothing from you since our parting on the Natural bridge, I had supposed your return longer delayed than you had expected, and that even possibly your course might be so shaped as to take Poplar Forest in your way. I hungered for your observations on the country you had passed over, and should not probably have been mistaken in your estimate of it. it was additionally unlucky that when you were at Monticello my family did not observe the letters for you lying on my table. some of them had been recieved a considerable time before, but not knowing your exact trajectory, or in what part of it they might light on you, I was afraid to risk them in the attempt. I now inclose them, and add a letter I wrote you under cover to mr Rhea, expecting it would get to Knoxville by mail before your arrival there, as it probably did: but mr Rhea being unfortunately absent on a journey to the Westward, you failed in the receipt of it, as in the benefit you might have derived from his friendly attentions. he lately returned it to me with expressions of his regret at having lost the opportunity of being useful to you; and I now inclose it only to shew that the failure did not proceed from want of attention in me. not knowing whether you may have arrived at Philadelphia when this gets there, I put the whole under cover to mr Vaughan.

The death of Dr Barton revives my anxiety to recover the MS. journals of Capt Lewis, for the satisfaction of his family; and may at the same time facilitate it. he had promised me sacredly that he would see to it’s restoration; and as you were so kind as to say you would attend to it on your return to Philadelphia, I now earnestly entreat your aid for this object. knowing nothing of what is doing, or intended to be done as to the publication of the papers respecting the natural history & geography of the country, you will oblige me by any information you can obtain on this subject. the right to these papers is in the government, as may be seen by the instructions to Capt Lewis. they were left in his hands that he might derive to himself the pecuniary benefits of their publication, on the presumption they would certainly be published. if that presumption is to fail, the government must reclaim them; and it is to put this object into an effective course that I wish for information what is doing, or likely to be done. I know I should have the concurrence of Genl Clarke in this, were he within the timely reach of consultation; and I shall not fail to advise with him as soon as I can do it understandingly.

I am ashamed to ask whether your observation or information as to the Cisterns of Charleston can facilitate the perfecting those I have constructed: because by some accident which I cannot ascertain, I lost the paper you were so kind as to give me at Dowthwaite’s. you recollect our situation there. I was shaving, changing linen, opening and doing up my baggage on the bed, when you put that paper into my hands. I thought it certain that I put it into my pocket; but when I got back to Poplar Forest I could not find it. whether it was lost out of my pocket, or laid & left on the bed, I cannot say; but being lost, I am thrown again on your goodness to replace it if you can.

What effect will the apparent restoration of the Bourbons have on your movements? will it tempt your return? I do not see in this a restoration of quiet. on the contrary I consider France as in a more Volcanic state than at any preceding time. there must be an explosion, and one of the most destructive character. I look forward to crimes more fierce and pitiless than those which have already distinguished that bloody revolution. these are not scenes, my dear friend, for you to be thrown into. they have no analogies with the tranquility of your character. true we cannot offer you the scientific society of Paris. but who can enjoy science, or who think of it, in the midst of insurrection, madness and massacre? besides, you possess all science within yourself. from others you can get nothing new, and the pleasure of communicating it should be greatest where it is most wanting. stay then with us. become our instructor. help us on in the paths of that science which is wanting to our ripening character. you know how much you are beloved and desired every where, welcome every where, but no where so cordially as at Monticello. come and make it your home then, the place of rest & tranquility, from which, as your piè-des-tal, you can make what excursions you please. you will find it’s summers as moderate as those of Philadelphia, and it’s winters more so. had I arrived before your departure, I should have pressed your trial of it the present winter. a comfortable room, in a country of fuel, for retirement when you chose it, and a sociable family, full of affection & respect for you, when tired of being alone, would have made you forget the suspension1 of the season for botanical rambling. turn this subject in your mind, my good friend, and let us have as much of the benefit of the result as shall be consistent with your own happiness, and in all cases be assured of my warm affection & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “M. Correa”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosures: TJ to Corrêa da Serra and to John Milledge, both 22 Sept. 1815. Other enclosures not found.

No covering letter from TJ to John vaughan is recorded in SJL, and none has been found. Benjamin Smith barton died of tuberculosis in Philadelphia on 19 Dec. 1815 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 20 Dec. 1815). He had been assigned the task of preparing the scientific journals of Meriwether lewis for publication in 1810, but he never completed this work (Moulton, Journals of Lewis & Clark description begins Gary E. Moulton, ed., The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, 1983–2001, 13 vols. description ends , 2:530–1). Barton had promised that he would return the journals in a letter to TJ of 16 Oct. 1810. TJ’s instructions to Lewis included directions on creating a written record of the expedition (TJ to Lewis, 20 June 1803 [DLC]). Robert Douthat’s (dowthwaite’s) tavern was at Natural Bridge. piè-des-tal: “pedestal” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

1Word interlined in place of “absence.”

Index Entries

  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; and journals of M. Lewis search
  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; death of search
  • Charleston, S.C.; cisterns in search
  • cisterns; at Monticello search
  • cisterns; in Charleston, S.C. search
  • Clark (Clarke), William; and journals of Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; and journals of M. Lewis search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; and TJ’s cisterns search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; correspondence of search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; letters to search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; proposed visit of search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; travels with TJ search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; U.S. travels of search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; visits Monticello search
  • Douthat, Robert; innkeeper near Natural Bridge search
  • France; Bourbon dynasty restored search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; friendship with J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; France search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Travels; to Natural Bridge search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; and publication of journals search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; TJ’s instructions for Lewis and Clark Expedition to search
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition; publication of journals search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); cisterns at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); climate at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Corrêa da Serra, José search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; TJ visits search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; visitors to search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Rhea, John; conveys letters search
  • Vaughan, John; TJ sends letters through search
  • weather; TJ on climate search