Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John S. Skinner, 16 May 1820

To John S. Skinner

Monticello May 16. 20.


I am not able to give you any certain information of the Lupinella. mr Appleton, our Consul at Leghorn sent me some of the seed, but, done at length with these things, and more disposed to retire from old cares than to undertake new ones, I put it into younger hands for trial. I saw, in one instance, the young plants, just up, and leafed, and thought them decisively the Saint foin, already known to us, and so generally cultivated on the borders of the Mediterranean. never having seen the term Lupinella in any book either of Italian or other husbandry nor even in a dictionary, I suppose it to be the local, & especially the Tuscan name for St foin. but this is conjecture only.   there is a species of St foin, called Sulla, raised abundantly in the island of [M]alta, where no rain falls from Spring to Autumn, and which still yields good crops. it is not so heavily leafed as the other, but is very valuable for countries subject to severe droughts. about the year 1785. or 6. I procured the seed of this from Malta, and sent it to the Agricultural society of South Carolina; but I believe they found it less advantageous than the Guinea grass. and did not pursue it’s culture. I salute you with esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of an otherwise unlocated letter from Bernard Peyton to TJ, 20 Jan. 1820 (addressed: “Mr Thomas Jefferson Monticello Milton”; stamped; postmarked Richmond, 20 Jan.; recorded in SJL as received 1 Feb. 1820 from Richmond); mutilated at seal; at foot of text: “Mr Skinner”; endorsed by TJ. Printed in American Farmer 2 (1820): 67.

The younger hands to whom TJ committed Lupinella seed for trial were likely Isaac A. Coles and his brothers (TJ to Coles, 7 May 1817; Coles to TJ, 8 May 1817). In a letter dated Paris, 6 May 1786, TJ sent the seeds of a grass he called sulla or Spanish sainfoin to William Drayton, of the South Carolina Society for Promoting and Improving Agriculture and Other Rural Concerns (later the Agricultural Society of South Carolina) (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , 9:461–2).

Index Entries

  • Agricultural Society of South Carolina search
  • agriculture; Agricultural Society of South Carolina search
  • American Farmer; prints TJ’s writings search
  • Appleton, Thomas; and seeds for TJ search
  • Coles, Isaac A.; and seeds search
  • Drayton, William; TJ sends seeds to search
  • grass; Guinea search
  • Guinea grass search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Malta; seeds from search
  • Peyton, Bernard; letters from accounted for search
  • sainfoin search
  • seeds; sainfoin search
  • Skinner, John Stuart; and sainfoin search
  • Skinner, John Stuart; letters to search
  • sulla (plant) search