Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert B. Stark to Thomas Jefferson, 20 August 1818

From Robert B. Stark

Belfield Greensville County Augt 20th 1818

At the request of Mr Robt Greenway of Dinwiddie—I address you—for the purpose of making a tender of a Botanical work (in manuscript)—accompanied1 with a “Hortus siccus”—written & carefully collated by his Father, the late Dr James Greenway.

It purports to be a collection of three hundred plants, growing spontaneously in Virginia & adjacent parts of North Carolina; described from the living plant & arranged according to the “Delineatio plantæ”—as laid down by the celebrated professor Linnæus. To which is added the time of their flowering—the different soils & situations they inhabit—their virtues & doses—their use in dy’ing—for cultivation & improvement of land—their poisonous qualities and other useful remarks on their various properties—. All collected in this section of country—the fruit of several years labour.

I am induced to believe that the publication of this work—would be a desideratum in this Country—it is the most extensive original work on Botany—that I am acquainted with. Professor Bartons little work—I mean his “Essay towards a Materia medica” founded on a plan somewhat similar to Dr Greenway’s—has been most favourably received by the public—it has served some useful purposes. It has at least, invited the attention of some of our country men—to the study of the nature & properties of our indigenous plants. It has been a friendly guide—in the hands of the medical Student—conducting him with many pleasing observations—thro’ an extensive wilds—hitherto but little explored.

Understanding that you cultivate a taste—as well as intimate knowledge of this pleasing science—has been our inducement in presenting it to you. If in forwarding it to your address. I can contribute to your amusement for a single hour—it will be a source of gratification to

yours with respect

R: B: Stark. M:D

RC (MoSB); endorsed by TJ as received 1 Sept. 1818 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Joseph Gales (1786–1860), 7 Dec. 1818, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson esqr Montichello near Charlottsville”; franked; postmarked Hicks Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Letterpress Edition, 1892–99, 10 vols. description ends Va., 23 Aug. 1818.

Robert Bolling Stark (ca. 1782–1839), physician and public official, was an assistant naval surgeon beginning in 1800, was promoted to surgeon in 1809, and evidently left the service the following year. He was chosen as a presidential elector for James Monroe in 1816 and 1820, represented Greensville County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1816–17 and 1819–20, and supported the presidential candidacy of Andrew Jackson in 1824. By 1831 Stark was a physician at the Marine Hospital, first at Washington Point and later at Norfolk. At his death his property in the county and borough of Norfolk, Princess Anne County, and Brunswick County was valued at approximately $90,000, including more than one hundred slaves (Callahan, U.S. Navy description begins Edward W. Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900, 1901, repr. 1969 description ends , 517; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1816–17 sess.], 62–3 [3 Dec. 1816]; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends , 286, 299; Richmond Enquirer, 3 Aug. 1824; A Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States [1831], 67; The Biennial Register of all Officers and Agents in the Service of the United States [1838], 61; Richmond Whig & Public Advertiser, 8 Mar. 1839; Norfolk City Will Book, 7:408–11, 8:133–9, 141–2, 156–9; gravestone inscription in Cedar Grove Cemetery, Norfolk).

hortus siccus: an “arranged collection of dried plants; a herbarium” (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 ). Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) published a delineatio plantæ (“delineation of plants”) as a short monograph in 1758. It was incorporated into his Systema Naturæ beginning with that year’s tenth edition.

1Manuscript: “accompnied.”

Index Entries

  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; Collections for An Essay towards a Materia Medica of the United-States search
  • books; on botany search
  • botany; books on search
  • botany; scholars of search
  • botany; study of search
  • Collections for An Essay towards a Materia Medica of the United-States (B. S. Barton) search
  • Greenway, James; herbarium and manuscript of search
  • Greenway, Robert; sends herbarium and manuscript to TJ search
  • Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné); and botany search
  • Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné); Systema Naturæ search
  • North Carolina; plants of search
  • plants; medicinal properties of search
  • Stark, Robert Bolling; identified search
  • Stark, Robert Bolling; letter from search
  • Stark, Robert Bolling; recommends botanical work to TJ search
  • Systema Naturæ (C. Linnaeus) search
  • Virginia; plants of search