Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Washington Jeffreys to Thomas Jefferson, 17 February 1817

From George Washington Jeffreys

Red House No C Feby 17th 1817.

Dear Sir

A Society has been established at this place for the promotion of Agriculture and rural affairs

A Book entitled the ‘Arator’ by Colo Taylor of Caroline Va has awakened us to a sense of the importance of the subject and has shown us how little we knew of a pursuit on1 which not only our own individual comfort depends, but also the prosperity and independence of our country. A few spirited gentlemen in our neighbourhood have organized themselves into a Society for the laudable purpose of awakening the attention of the people2 of our county to the important subject of husbandry and of convincing them of the necessity of making some improvements therein—

We have resolved to establish a Library to consist of Books treating exclusively on the subject of Agriculture & rural affairs—Will you be so good as to lend us your assistance in making out a catalouge of Books—of such books as will constitute a valuable agricultural library not only for our own instruction and improvement, but also for that of our rising generation—In addressing you this letter I am aware of the oppressive correspondence which you have to attend to,—I will not insist upon an answer—but should you find leisure, I can assure you that the society would feel grateful and happy in receiving your aid & information in our laudable efforts of advancing the3 interest of agriculture—To whom can we apply more properly than to yourself—who ardently wishes for the prosperity, happiness and independence of your country and who is qualified to give us the requested information, not only from an extensive knowledge of the subject, but from the practical attention which you have given it.

In your communication, to me, a few remarks on horizontal ploughing would be received with much pleasure—This is a subject in which we are much interested as our lands are very hilly and broken—Can hilly land be ploughed horizontally in such a manner as to retain the water and prevent it from washing the soil to the bottoms?—We have understood that you have turned your attention to the practice of horizontal ploughing—We should therefore be happy to avail ourselves of such remarks and such information as you may give us on the subject—Such a catalouge of Books as you may set down for us we will endeavour to procure—

A letter addressed to me at the post office Red House No C. will be received and duly laid before the Society—

Yours very Respectfully
George W. Jeffreys Secy
to Red House Agrl Society—

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Milton Albemarle cty Va” by “mail”; franked; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Mar. 1817 and so recorded in SJL.

George Washington Jeffreys (ca. 1793–1848), agriculturist, writer, and public official, served as a postmaster in Caswell County, North Carolina, from 1811 to at least 1820, and he was a clerk and later secretary to the trustees for Hyco Academy in that county. He studied at the University of North Carolina in 1813 and served as a trustee of that institution from 1842 until his death. Writing under the pseudonym “Agricola,” Jeffreys published A Series of Essays on Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Raleigh, 1819), in which he promoted experimentation and innovation in agriculture. He was a resident of Person County when he sat on the North Carolina Council of State, 1824–34. Jeffreys was a corresponding secretary for the American Bible Society from at least 1824 to 1826. Under the pen name “An Advocate of the Blood Horse,” he authored a series of articles on the breeding of fine horses, first published in the Petersburg Intelligencer in 1826 and later reprinted elsewhere (DNCB description begins William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 1979–96, 6 vols. description ends , 3:276; Table of Post Offices in the United States [Washington, 1811], 50; Robert J. Stets, Postmasters & Postoffices of the United States, 1782–1811 [1994], 200; John L. Cheney Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585–1979 [1981], 173–5; American Bible Society, Report 8 [1824]: 186; 9 [1825]: 124; 10 [1826]: 128; Charles L. Coon, North Carolina Schools and Academies 1790–1840 [1915], 24, 26, 809; Daniel Lindsey Grant, Alumni History of the University of North Carolina [2d ed., 1924], 317, 943; Alexander Mackay-Smith, The Colonial Quarter Race Horse [1983], 97; Weekly Raleigh Register, and North Carolina Gazette, 28 June 1848).

On 15 July 1817 Jeffreys requested similar assistance in making out a catalouge of books from John Adams, describing agriculture in the South as in “the lowest state of degradation” and asserting that “Massachusetts, with the rest of the northern states, is far before us in agricultural improvements, and would our farmers attend, she could give us volumes of useful information on this subject—I am happy to observe that the people about here begin to be convinced of their imperfect and deteriorating state of agriculture and to evince a disposition to make improvements” (RC in MHi: Adams Papers).

1Word interlined in place of an uncanceled “in.”

2Manuscript: “poeple.”

3Jeffreys here canceled “cause.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; letter to, from G. W. Jeffreys search
  • agriculture; contour plowing search
  • agriculture; Red House Agricultural Society search
  • agriculture; regional search
  • agriculture; TJ lists works on search
  • Arator; being a series of Agricultural Essays, Practical & Political (J. Taylor) search
  • books; on agriculture search
  • Jeffreys, George Washington; and Red House Agricultural Society search
  • Jeffreys, George Washington; identified search
  • Jeffreys, George Washington; letters from search
  • Massachusetts; agriculture in search
  • North Carolina; agriculture in search
  • Red House Agricultural Society (North Carolina) search
  • Taylor, John (of Caroline); Arator: being a series of Agricultural Essays, Practical & Political search