Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Joel Yancey, 17 January 1819

To Joel Yancey

Monticello Jan. 17. 19. Sunday

Dear Sir

The waggons arrived here on Wednesday a little after the middle of the day. we were under extreme sufferance for the want of a short job of hauling, and I thought it better to set both about it that they might go back together; and the rather as every day’s stay enabled Johnny Hemings to add another plough frame. they will accordingly carry you three made on Thursday, Friday & Saturday, and will start tomorrow morning (Monday) I shall be very glad to recieve the latter peas I liked so much the last year and hope Nace has saved me a full sowing of them. I wrote you the last year that Dick had delivered all his articles safe and thought so at the time. but I learnt afterwards that he did not deliver a bag containing a bushel of dried peaches which [he] said had dropped thro a hole in the bottom of his waggon; altho’ no hole was seen which could have let such a mass thr[o’.] this year his soap weighs 38. ℔ instead of 45 ℔. and the bar[rel] of apples is a little more than half full. these repeated accidents cannot but excite suspicions of him, sufficient to make us attentive in future. I will ask the favor of you to send by Jerry the Athenian poplars in the nursery of the garden. you will know them by the stems being ribbed, which distinguishes them from the Lombardy poplars & Aspens in the same place. their roots should be covered very thick with straw, tied firmly on, so that the cold may not reach the roots, which it very certainly kills. the old bacon may remain as I shall pass a great proportion of the ensuing year there.   The unproductiveness of our crops which you notice in your letter, is indeed a serious calamity, and the more so to me as 3. years of war, & 4. years of Goodman & Darnell had thrown me into arrears which will require 2. or 3. good crops to extricate me from. yet I do not ascribe it to any want of management in yourself, but to the impoverishment of our fields by constant culture without any aid of manure; and this cause will continue to increase. we must either attend to the recruiting our lands, or abandon them & run away to Alibama, as so many of our countrymen are doing, who find it easier to resolve on quitting their country, than, to change the practices in husbandry to which they have been brought up. straw will do something, good manure more, but nothing short of plaister and clover can recruit our extensive fields. the miracles this is working in this neighborhood can be believed only by those who see them. my fields here, which in my hands produced 4, 5. or 6. bushels to the acre, are now giving my grandson from 15. to 18. after one or two alternations only of plaister & clover. my neighbor Rogers, who while tenant [. . .] [Harv]ey’s estate adjoining us, had reduced it to 5. bushels, now that [. . .] proprietor has made this last year from 25. to 30. bushels one1 thro the whole of his fields, & all by plaister & clover. we must either go into the same course, or run away. if we cannot get the plaister carried up for 10.D. we must give 15. if not for 15. we must give 20. if you can make arrangements therefore for bringing up & grinding and will so inform me, I will write to Capt Peyton of Richmond to procure the plaister. then it may be necessary to buy the clover seed, but I hope never after the 1st year. the mortality among our negroes is still more serious as involving moral as well as interested considerations. they are well fed, and well clothed, & I have had no reason to believe that any overseer, since Griffin’s time, has over worked them. accordingly the deaths among the grown ones seem ascribable to natural causes. but the loss of 5. little ones in a year induces me to fear that the overseers do not permit the women to devote as much time as is necessary to the care of their children: that they view their labor as the 1st object and the raising their child but as secondary. I consider the labor of a breeding woman as no object, and that a child raised every 2. years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man. in this, as in all other cases, providence has made our interests & our duties coincide perfectly. women too are destroyed by exposure to wet at certain periodical indispositions to which nature has subjected them. with respect therefore to our women & their children I must pray you to inculcate upon the overseers that it is not their labor, but their increase which is the first consideration with us. with respect to yourself my confidence is entire; and I am as well satisfied [t]hat every thing under your eye is going on for the best as if I were there to see the fact. I know that the considerations under which you act are of a high & pure order, and it is a heart felt satisfaction to me to feel as well as to assure you of my sincere friendship & respect

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); with first two pages on reused address cover of Richard N. Thweatt to TJ, 29 Oct. 1818, and third page on verso of reused address cover of Bernard Peyton to TJ, 29 Oct. 1818; damaged at seal; at foot of first page: “Mr Yancey”; endorsed by TJ.

1Thus in manuscript, with a blank space preceding this word.

Index Entries

  • agriculture; and fertilization search
  • apples; sent between Monticello and Poplar Forest search
  • aspen trees search
  • bacon search
  • children; slave search
  • clover; improves soil search
  • Darnil (Darnell; Darniel; Darnold), Nimrod; Poplar Forest overseer search
  • Dick (Yellow Dick) (TJ’s slave; b.1767); as wagoner search
  • food; bacon search
  • food; peaches search
  • Goodman, Jeremiah Augustus; as Poplar Forest overseer search
  • Griffin, Burgess; Poplar Forest overseer search
  • gypsum (plaster of paris); used as fertilizer search
  • health; of slaves search
  • health; of women search
  • Hemmings, John (TJ’s slave; b. ca.1776); as woodworker search
  • household articles; soap search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; agricultural improvements search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; treatment of slaves search
  • Jeremiah (Jerry) (TJ’s slave; b.1777); as wagoner search
  • Nace (TJ’s slave; b.1773); as gardener search
  • peaches; dried search
  • peas; grown at Poplar Forest search
  • Peyton, Bernard; and gypsum for TJ search
  • plows; J. Hemmings makes search
  • poplar; Athenian search
  • poplar; Lombardy search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); fertilizer used at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); Overseers at; competency of search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); peas grown at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); plant nursery at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); slaves at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ plans visits to search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); agricultural practices of search
  • Rogers, John (of Albemarle Co.); agricultural practices of search
  • seeds; pea search
  • slaves; accused of theft search
  • slaves; and child rearing search
  • slaves; health of search
  • slaves; management of search
  • slaves; valued for childbearing search
  • soap search
  • straw search
  • trees; aspen search
  • trees; poplar search
  • women; and child rearing search
  • women; health of search
  • Yancey, Joel (d.1833); as superintendent of Poplar Forest search
  • Yancey, Joel (d.1833); letters to search