Thomas Jefferson Papers

Richard Young to Thomas Jefferson, 10 July 1820

From Richard Young

Richmond July 10th 1820


I duly received your verry obligeing favour of the 22d of may last I am truely sorry to be informed of the ill1 State of your health which I hope is better. In my communication of the 11th of that month I had no Sort of expectation that had your health permitted that you woul at that time engage in Meteological Subjects. This communication was intended to call your attention to our seasons2 as you are the only writer that I have had the pleasure of prruseing who has attended to this climate in Such a manner as to exhibit a Table. This is a Science of recent date. I find that it is much practised in Eaurope There is Greate diversity in th quantity of water which falls in the different parts of the Globe according to these tables. I also find that the winds without the tropicts no where prevail as they have done at this place for these two or three years (Say between east and South) for Such a length of tim3 I hope that you will pardon the Suggestion of keeping a Register at the New Colleage and altho I make no doubt but that Should Such a design be in Contemplation the necessary apparatus will be fixed, yet I will Suggest a convenient method of assertaining the quantey of Rain This may be done by a cistern of metal Say Tin, cased with a cisten of wood lined with metal withn So as to leave a Space between these cistersns of about two inches the inner cistern Should have a cover to fit tight to which a meck Should be fixed about three feet in length* on the top of which a funnel to any proportionate Size of the cistern. The cistern being constructed with a flat bottom, the top and bottom of equal Size. in this a float with a Rod to pass through the neck of the cover into the funnel which is intended to receive the Rain; This Rod to have feet inches and line marked on it in such a way as to Shew by examination the quantity of Rain which may fall in any requrd time: These cisterns Should be placed in the earth and the better to Secure it whatever debth it may be constructed. the top of the cistern to Which the pipe thro which the foat Rod is intended to pass Should be about three feet below the Surface of the earth and the Space dug out to receive it about one food deeper than both together4 and one foot larger in diametor than the cistern. and in placeing the cistern, one foot of clay well puddled Should be made at bottom and the cistern placed in the center on this puddle when it is about half Settled or Shrunk. It will be thene of a consistance hard enought to Sustain the weight of the cistern it will then Stand erect, and theri Should5 be placd over the cisten on the Surface weight Sufficient to Sustain the cistern in its place while the Space Round the cistern is puddled up to the Top of the cistern. This puddle when dry and the Space of confined air between the [ci]sten6 will protect the cistern from decay (tho the outer be of wood) and protect it from the chainges of the humidity of the earth the distances in inches and lines7 on the Rod attached to the float could be greaduated to the proportion of the diameter of the8 mouth of the funnel with that of the cistern. an apparatus thius fixed will Shew the exact quantity of Rain that fall in any givin time with the least trouble as the water can be pumped out, to any particular gage, at any time, Should the Suggestion be worthy of your attention I will with pleasure Send you a drawing of this apparatus. The vaporating cistern is a thing with which I am told Greate care Should be taken; Should This institution conclude on keeping a Meteorological Register the other fixtures Such as the Barometer Thermometor and vane can be asily obtained. the latter has I find ben So fixed as to Shew on a dial plate in any Room of a house over which it is placed the course of the currant of air or wind9 without attending to the vane itselfe. There is a remark which is common among those who I have conversed, who have observed the Barometor in America and Eaurope particularly, Britain that the canges in the Atmosphere do not affect it in the same proportion in America as there, I find that one writer Mr Copland in writein to the Royal Society of Manchester10 in the year 1793 Says that one thing is certain with that Instrument that it indicates heat and cold in all climates. I find from a Meteorological Register kept at Calcutta in the year 1784 that the mean of the Tormometer was 70° and that of the Berometer about 30 That their fell 81 inches of Rain at that place in that year.11 at or near Edinbrough in the year 1776 about 29 inches in the year 1792 there fell on the western coast of Greate Britain about 47. inches The medium of Rany days at Paris for a number of years is 126. the quantity of Rain about 20 inches each year, thus it will be found that in the Climate of paris the mean quantity of Rain is in the proportion of one fourth the quantity at Calcutta thus the orginozation of matter proceeds with time in their Several ordinations in perfect hormony without regard to the minute calculations which have come under our obserations. I formerly mentioned that from your Statement that the quantity of Rain at this place or its kneighbourhood was about 47 inches. This quantity If we calculated on the Small Streams is reduced, in 40 years in the proportion as 60 is to 100. This can only be accounted for from drawing a comparrison Between the quanty of Rain which fell previous to the decrease of these Streams and their present Supply of water and other matters worthy of a Serious investigation. In the consideration of this Subgect three things present themselves first that the quantity of Rain is less. Secon’d. that the Absorbsion or that the exelation is Greater or that each Combine to this fact we must of necessity conclude; To assertain the former is now made the Subject of this communcation This can be assertained by the Simplest capacity by Being previously provided with a Suitable apparatus. The Subject of exelation is a matter which in my humble oppinion requires ilisttration it will be found that the quantity of exelation is Greatier in proportion than the quantity of Rain, which falls this Seems to be admitted wherever Meteological observations have been made, These lead us to the enquiry wheether there is not a proportion absorbed by Such vessels as these trials have been made in or Whether the night dew Supply the difference I have not from the limited oppertunty I have had of research been able to make any calculation If a digression is proper I shall endeavour to Give you my crude Ideas on that Subject by caling to view the Observations of Doctor Hallie on the current wich makes from the Atlantick in to the Mediterrannean Sea This Greate man after haveing exhausted his Genious, has concluded by endeavouring to account for it by exelation. his process is familar to you; I shall confine my observations within the Small limits of my research he has endeavoured to account for this current on the principals of evoporation others by a counter current below the Surface. The latter is attempted to be proved12 by the curveture of a Suspended cord below the Surface this is of all others the most absurd, fror in all runng13 waters the particles Glide in proportion to their distance from the Surface, and it will ever be found that the curveture of a line thus Suspended will be in the proportion of its Size the Suspending weight and the motion of the current* with due diffidene to the former I take the liberty to offer to your my ideas on that Subjet14 It is my oppinion from the best information I have been able to obtain that this is caused from absorbsion There being Such a portion of Africa a Sandy desert and a certain district wheron rain never falls I have atributed this current to that cause I merely make these Suggestions to you for consideration   There is one other Subgect of Some moment to this State that is now under execution That is a correct Map of this State It is a verry desirable object How fare this will be obtained in the present attemp I cannot Say withe certainty. I am inclined to believe that too much is required for the Sum apropiated of this I can only judge from my own litle experience I have some time pased published a Map of this city merely from compilation this cost but a Small Sum I have A Map of this city includeing Manchester and the Jurisdiction of the city in manuscrip15 drawn from actual Survey The angels taken by one of Giberts most improved Theodelites and all the distances measured horizontal This on a Scale of 400 feet to an inch will require Six Sheets This works has occupied three or four years of my time and it will cost from four to five thousand dollars to have it engraved printed Shaded and mounted The limited demand for this Map requires the Subscription to come high from a comparrison I cannot believe that a correct Map of this State can be made for the Sum contemplated. in addition I have Substantial reasons to believe that the undertaker of this work is by no means quallifyed for this undertakeing hower well he may understand Mathematicks his vision is defective and all his facilties are thoretical I have the most Statifatory evidence that he is no Surveyor, According to my understanding of this law it was contemplated to lay down the latitude and Longitude of each court house in the State all the most remarkable mountains by celestual observations like wise their hight the latter could be easily accomplished With a Good Barometer this Should all ways where practicable by Triangles taken from a correctly measured Base this is the foundation of all calculations and a long experience has taught me that it requires not only time but Greate attention to measure correctly Triangles are hard to be correctly obtained among Mountains The Barometer must when they cannot be correctly obtained be depended on An instrument Such as could be depended on16 to correctly take the angles of the havenly body’s So as to lay down the latitude and Longitude of the places required would cost considrable and the transportation and fixing up at these places would require time and consideroble expence greate advantage is often derived by haveing two persons both for Observation and calculation at the same time and plac in order to ensure correctness17 I am by no means quallifyed to say what it would cost to comply with what I understand was Contemplated by the Legislature but I cannot believe that three times the Sum apropiated woud have been more than Sufficient with the most Strict eoconomy, I cannot pretend to the united wisdom of the Legislature but withall due Submission it was to be expected that the piriod between the passuage of this law and the tim the contract was enterd into was Sufficient, to enable them to examine this Subject with more Scrutiny than when this law was enacted. A Map of the State was a most desirable object to accomplish which I fear that the apropiation will be Spent without Otaining any part of the Object This in the event that the new Map Should not be found more correct than that published by Mr Maddison and others, That it will not on the whole I am well Satisfied for while it may correct Some errours, it is more18 likely to leade us into more and Greater ones19 I had Suggested a more Simple method of obtaining a Map which tho it woud have cost considerably more than contemplated It would have been as correct as the nature of things at this time would require. This by assertaining the true latitude and Longitude20 of the capitol and exstending intersecting lines at given distances across the State at parrallel distances from each other the two first through the capitol21 these accurately measured would be the best correction on the Surveys of counties and if corretly measured any inacessiable distances could be taken by means of Rockets by haveing an observer at each end of the Base line* all the work could by this means be brought neare enoughf to correctness for the present mean[s] of the State and a greate deal of Local matter could have been obtained by way of key to the work tho not as copious as contemplated by this work It is but natura[l] for us to be partial to our own Suggestions and therefore I am a verry umproper Jude wheether it is not likely to obtain a more corret Map on this plan than is likely to be obtained for the means by the method proposed, errours by these means can be correctid by the other it will require a connection by a Series of Angles Some of the placs inaccessiable to the Sight even by Rockett the latter mithot would require more labour the former will be attended with Greate difficulty and if not done with the Greates accuracy confusion will be the result I am Satisfied that the most Skillfull Geographer Astronomer and Survey could not Say what Sum it would require to make a Survey and map of each county as contemplated by the Act of assemby by many thousand dollars it would So fare exeed his calculations. every mecessary exertion22 precaution, and eoconemy used both in time and expence much depends on the Skill and exertions of the principal Surveyor who Shoud allways have the assistance of capablee persons to assist him in chaining Perambulateing observeing noteing and calculating two at least is necessary for the three23 latter   When I get my map of Richmond published I will Send you one and the key which is intended to accompany it I am Shure you will be much Surpriseed to find that the Jurisdiction line24 of this city is upwards of 23 miles, larger than Paris or London The paper Towns which Surround this city has nearly evaporated its inhabitantse The Streets as named by you when you were a director of Publick buildings have been retained and the number aedded within the Jurisdiction had nearly exhausted my powers to find apropiate names as you will See when you Get this map the publication of which is protracted on account of the common Hall not haveing Subscribed towards it publication all the respecticable inhabitance who are intrested have Subscribed but a work of this kind local as it now is will need the aid of this city before it can go under the hand of the Engraver The Map the key and the plate are readey the former for the Engraver and the latter for the printer the Greate depression here is beyonn example If we take into view that we have neither been visited with the ellements fire or water without our controle or disease they are of a pecuiary nature ariseing mostly from the examples and designs of Some of our most infuencal citizens whoes ambition led them into wild and exstravagant Speculation in Lots Lands Tobacco and Flour and other things these have been fostered to a greate exstent by the Banks The example of these individuals have had a most lementable effect on the Scociety here I have had more amediate knowledge of the former as my profession led me to lay of a vas many Section of land for Sale. I often attended these sales and as often witnessed the Grocerr the Blacksmith the Shoemaker Carpenter Bricklayer even the Night watch become land Speculators, this by way of Geting rich as some few had done by the rise of property which according to the prevailing oppinion was never to obtain its medium in a cntry to come These follys were the effects of certain leading individuals to which the many look up to as samples the old habits of Industry are too slow for their purpose Those habits of Indestry and frugallity are insippid in comparrison with immaginary weath of which we Supposed ourselves all these have25 been fostered by the leading individuals in Scociety I fear it has had its influence in our publick councils most of the Chartered companys in this place have been managed in such a manmer as to defeat the design for which they were Granted making them a total loss of capital to the Stockholders Experien[ce] points out the necessity of more circumspection in granting charters to companys their Obsjects Should be well defined before they are granted their real objects have been kept behind the Sceen until obtained and thene are the means of Ruin to many.   I most sincearly have to ask your indugenc in detainig you so long on subjects the only motive I can have for writing is that if you can obtain any thing from them which you can makee usefull to Sceociety they are at your Service I am in the meantime

with high respect your Ob H Sev

Richard young

RC (DLC); edge chipped and trimmed; between dateline and salutation: “Mr Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 16 July 1820 and so recorded in SJL.

In his Notes on the State of Virginia, TJ summarized his meteorological observations, including quantity of rainfall, in a table (Notes, ed. Peden description begins Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden, 1955, repr. 1995 description ends , 74). Alexander copland stated in a 15 Jan. 1793 letter written at Dumfries, Scotland, “that the barometer is a most certain indication of heat and cold, however imperfect it may be with respect to wet or dry weather” (Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester [England], Memoirs 4 [1793]: 269–72, quote on p. 269). Weather readings for calcutta appeared in “A Meteorological Diary, Kept at Calcutta, by Henry Trail, Esq. From 1st February 1784, to 31st December 1785,” Asiatick Researches 2 (1790): appendix, 470–1. Between 1687 and 1715 Sir Edmond Halley (doctor hallie) published a series of papers demonstrating that evaporation (evoporation) of seawater was adequate to replenish rivers and springs, thus helping to establish the concept of the hydrologic cycle (Asit K. Biswas, “Edmond Halley, F.R.S., Hydrologist Extraordinary,” Royal Society of London, Notes and Records 25 [1970]: 47–57).

Young published a map of Richmond and Manchester in 1817 (copy in Vi). William Gilbert and Thomas Gilbert (the giberts) were London instrument makers. TJ acquired one of their theodolites during his retirement (Silvio A. Bedini, Jefferson and Science [2002], 21). John Wood was the undertaker hired to do the cartographic work authorized by “An Act to provide an accurate chart of each county and a general map of the territory of this Commonwealth” (this law), which the Virginia General Assembly approved on 27 Feb. 1816 (Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1815–16 sess.], 39–42).

In May 1780 TJ was named a director for locating publick buildings and enlarging the town of Richmond (Hening, description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, Richmond, 1809–23, 13 vols.; Sowerby, no. 1863; Poor, Jefferson’s Library, 10 (no. 573) description ends 10:317–20).

1Word interlined.

2Preceding three words interlined.

3Preceding six words interlined.

4Preceding three words interlined.

5Manuscript: “Should Should.”

6Preceding nine words interlined.

7Preceding four words interlined.

8Preceding three words interlined.

9Preceding two words interlined.

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11Preceding three words interlined.

12Preceding five words interlined.

13Word interlined.

14Preceding five words interlined in place of “more mature reflection that.”

15Preceding two words interlined.

16Preceding four words interlined.

17Preceding eleven words interlined.

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19Preceding two words interlined.

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21Preceding nine words interlined.

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23Word interlined.

24Manuscript: “line line.”

25Manuscript: “have have.”

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

* *it is propose to place the top of the cistern 3 feet below the Surface of the earth So that the frost will not injure the Surrounding Puddle wich Shoud be made of the best clay and well puddled

* *all currants have been found to glide faster on the Surface as to their proportionabl debth

 †Lower Egypt It is remarkable that Darien and this are the only parts of the Globe where it is known that no Rain falls and the former the most fertill part of Africa

* *it is contemplated to connect all prominent places with Some part of these lines making a part of them the Base

Index Entries

  • An Act to provide an accurate chart of each county and a general map of the territory of this Commonwealth (1816) search
  • banks; in Va. search
  • barometers; and cartography search
  • barometers; and meteorological observations search
  • building materials; tin search
  • Calcutta, India; and meteorological observations search
  • cisterns; and measurement of rainfall search
  • clay; mentioned search
  • Copland, Alexander; and barometers search
  • Egypt; rainfall in search
  • flour; and speculation search
  • Gilbert, Thomas search
  • Gilbert, William search
  • Great Britain; rainfall in search
  • Halley, Edmond; on currents and evaporation search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; as a director for locating public buildings in Richmond search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • latitude; and maps of Va. search
  • Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester (England) search
  • longitude; and maps of Va. search
  • Madison, James, Bishop; and map of Va. search
  • maps; of Richmond search
  • maps; of Virginia search
  • meteorological observations; and R. Young search
  • meteorological observations; at University of Virginia search
  • meteorological observations; by TJ search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); and weather search
  • Panama, Isthmus of search
  • Paris; rainfall in search
  • pipes, water; and cisterns search
  • Richmond, Va.; banks in search
  • Richmond, Va.; chartered companies in search
  • Richmond, Va.; maps of search
  • Richmond, Va.; rainfall in search
  • Richmond, Va.; speculation in search
  • Richmond, Va.; state capitol at search
  • Richmond, Va.; TJ as a director for locating public buildings in search
  • scientific instruments; barometers search
  • scientific instruments; theodolites search
  • scientific instruments; thermometers search
  • subscriptions, for publications; maps search
  • theodolites search
  • thermometers; and meteorological observations search
  • tin; for cisterns search
  • tobacco; and speculation search
  • Trail, Henry; meteorological observations of search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Virginia; maps of search
  • water; pipes search
  • weather; frost search
  • weather; rain search
  • weather; wind search
  • weather vanes search
  • Wood, John (ca.1775–1822); and maps of Va. search
  • wood; and cisterns search
  • Young, Richard; and maps of Va. search
  • Young, Richard; and meteorological observations search
  • Young, Richard; letters from search
  • Young, Richard; map of Richmond by search
  • Young, Richard; on speculation in Richmond search