Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Le Ray de Chaumont, 29 May 1818

To James Le Ray de Chaumont

Monticello May 29. 18.


I recieved lately a copy of your Address to the Agricultural society of Jefferson county in New York, which presuming to have come from yourself, I beg leave here to return you my thanks for the pleasure derived from it’s perusal. I see with great satisfaction these societies rising up, in different parts of the several states, and I expect from them much advantage to the agriculture of our country, by spreading generally a knolege of it’s best processes. we have lately established one in the district in which I live, under the title of the ‘Albemarle society of agriculture’ of which mr Madison is President, and many of it’s members are distinguished for correct and skilful practices in their farms. time will perhaps affiliate these district societies to a Central one in each state, and these again to a Central society for the United States, which will compleat their organisation. such selections of matter may then be made as may bring within moderate compass the most precious parts of the knolege of the whole. with my fervent wishes for the prosperity of your society accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NjP: Andre deCoppet Collection); addressed: “J. Le Ray de Chaumont esquire Watertown Jefferson county. N.Y.”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 30 May; endorsed by Le Ray de Chaumont. PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of Francis W. Gilmer to TJ, 18 Mar. 1818; endorsed by TJ.

James Le Ray de Chaumont (1760–1840), farmer and land investor, was the son of Jacques Donatien Leray de Chaumont, a host and friend of Benjamin Franklin during the latter’s service as United States minister plenipotentiary to France and a provider of essential military supplies and aid to the American cause during the Revolution. TJ was acquainted with both father and son during his stay in Paris, and the son acted as a courier for letters and diplomatic correspondence when he came to the United States in 1785 to petition Congress for reimbursement for his father’s services. While on that mission Le Ray de Chaumont was naturalized as a United States citizen, married an American, and joined a group of exiled French nobility who were speculating in land. The extensive landholdings he acquired in New York included two Jefferson County towns named for him, Leraysville (later Leray) and Chaumont. Le Ray de Chaumont divided his time thereafter between the United States and France, with his longest stay at his Leraysville mansion occurring between 1816 and 1832. James Monroe visited him there in 1817. Le Ray de Chaumont’s friends and associates included Madame de Staël Holstein, Gouverneur Morris, DeWitt Clinton, and Alexander Hamilton. A strong supporter of canals and turnpikes, from 1817–29 Le Ray de Chaumont also served as the first president of the Jefferson County Agricultural Society, and he was elected president of the New York State Agricultural Society before his departure for France in 1832. He died in France (J. L. Tierney, “James Donatien LeRay de Chaumont,” United States Catholic Historical Society, Historical Records and Studies 15 [1921]: 55–69; NIC: James Le Ray de Chaumont Papers; Thomas J. Schaeper, France and America in the Revolutionary Era: The Life of Jacques-Donatien Leray de Chaumont, 1725–1803 [1995], 335–7; Roger G. Kennedy, Orders From France: The Americans and the French in a Revolutionary World, 1780–1820 [1989], 37, 39–40; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 41 vols. description ends , 8:54–5, 88–90, 90–1, 13:286–7; Leonard W. Labaree and others, eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin [1959– ], esp. 28:239; Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton [1961–87], 26:40–3, 46–52, 53–4, 60–6; New York Commercial Advertiser, 28 Sept. 1816; Daniel Preston and others, eds., The Papers of James Monroe [2003– ], 1:513–4).

The address was Le Ray de Chaumont, An Address, delivered at the meeting at the Agricultural Society of Jefferson County, December 29, 1817 (New York, 1818; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 6 [no. 270]), which opens by summarizing the proceedings of that day’s meeting, including the election of DeWitt Clinton as an honorary member and a resolution to promote the use of domestic fabric by fining members who wear clothing made of foreign material five dollars per year; continues with Le Ray de Chaumont’s presidential address outlining the purpose of the society, highlighting the benefits of the local climate and soil, calling on members “to take all proper measures for the advancement of agriculture” as the surest way to promote American freedom, happiness, morality, and wealth, and urging the “fair countrywomen of Jefferson County” to advance domestic manufactures; and concludes with the society’s articles of association and by-laws, a table of agricultural premiums to be offered for 1818, a sketch of the proceedings of the meeting of 2 Mar. 1818, and letters from Clinton, John Adams, and others.

On 4 Feb. 1818 Le Ray de Chaumont sent Adams an earlier edition of his Address (Watertown, 1818) that lacks the appended material from March 1818 (MHi: Adams Papers). In his response dated Quincy, 12 Feb. 1818, Adams commented that “Thirty nine years ago, I little thought, I should live to see the heir apparent to the princely Palaces and gardens of Passy, my fellow citizen in the Republican wilderness of America, laying the foundation of more ample domains, and perhaps more splendid Palaces. I observed the motto of the Hotel de Valentinois, which I had then the honour to inhabit, ‘Se sta bene non se move.’—‘If you stand well, stand still.’ but you have proved the maxim not to be infallible, and I rejoice in it” (FC in Lb in MHi: Adams Papers; printed in 2d ed. of Le Ray de Chaumont’s Address, 17).

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; works sent to search
  • Agricultural Society of Albemarle; members of search
  • Agricultural Society of Albemarle; TJ’s involvement with search
  • agriculture; Jefferson County Agricultural Society (New York) search
  • An Address, delivered at the meeting at the Agricultural Society of Jefferson County, December 29, 1817 (J. Le Ray de Chaumont) search
  • Clinton, DeWitt; as governor of N.Y. search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Honors & Memberships; Agricultural Society of Albemarle, membership search
  • Jefferson County Agricultural Society (New York); J. Le Ray de Chaumont’s address to search
  • Le Ray de Chaumont, James; An Address, delivered at the meeting at the Agricultural Society of Jefferson County, December 29, 1817 search
  • Le Ray de Chaumont, James; and agricultural societies search
  • Le Ray de Chaumont, James; identified search
  • Le Ray de Chaumont, James; letter to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and Agricultural Society of Albemarle search
  • New York (state); agriculture in search