Thomas Jefferson Papers

Constantine S. Rafinesque to Thomas Jefferson, 2 February 1822

From Constantine S. Rafinesque

Lexington Kenty Transylv. Uny 2d1 febry 1822

Respected Sir!

I take the liberty to send you the Kentucky Gazette containing the first number of a series of Essays under the name of the Cosmonist, and shall regularly send you the other numbers, hoping that they will afford you some2 gratification.—

I am rather anxious to hear something precise concerning the University of Virginia, and my prospects relating thereto, since I have some expectation to be offered the Presidency of the Cumberland College of Nashville and the Western College of Kentucky seated at Hopkinsville; but although these situations will be highly honorable, the arduous duties belonging thereto would induce me to decline them, if my appointment to the Uny of Virginia was rather proximate and probable.

I would consider it as a favor, if you could lay this topick before the Board of Trustees of the Uny of Virg. and in addition to what I have already stated at various times, please to acquaint them with the following facts and propositions.

There is now for sale in this town, the valuable Museum of my late friend John D. Clifford, which contains about 8000 specimens of Indian Implements (many very rare), Minerals, fossils and Animals, many of which are new, undescribed and unique. The price asked for it is $2000. If I should be appointed Professor in your University, I mean to purchase it at my expence and make a donation of it to the University. This united to my own Cabinet, which I have largely increased lately, containing now more than 4000 specimens of Minerals and Animals, and my herbariums increased to 15000 American and european specimens, would form the basis of a respectable Museum of about 27000 specimens, which I offer to the Univy. I would take charge of it, as keeper and Director and oblige myself to increase it annually by collections, exchanges, purchases &c with 2000 specimens at least, which would make your Museum rich of fifty thousand Specimens in ten years and seventy thousand in twenty, without any charge to the Uny, except providing the rooms and trifling incidental expences.

Moreover should it be the intention and pleasure of the Trustees to have a Botanical Garden, I will take upon me the duties of forming and directing one, if a suitable ground is provided. I have now with me 3 or 400 kinds of seeds lately rec’d from Europe and could annually receive from my friends 1000 species of seeds. I would pay all the expences attending this Garden except the buildings and salary of a working Gardener. I could therefore pledge myself to establish a Botanical garden by degrees say in 3 or 4 years,3 for $1000 in buildings & walls and $2 or 300 annual contingencies & salaries.—

I hope that these propositions will meet your attention, and I trust that you will perceive the necessity of giving me a timely notice of their acceptance. Mr. Clifford’s Museum may be sold away, if much delay is employed, and I require one year to prepare myself for and effect4 my removal: should I become President of one of our Western College I must become engaged therein for two or three years at least.

In the hope of soon hearing from you on this interesting subject, I remain meantime Very respectfully

Yours &c
C. S. Rafinesque
 Profr in Trans. Uny

PS. I sent you last fall a Prospectus of my Miscellaneous Works, I now send you a few copies to be given to some of your fellow Trustees, who are not perhaps acquainted with my scientific & literary labours—

RC (MHi); addressed: “Honble Thomas Jefferson—Monticello Near Charlotteville Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Lexington, Ky., 5 Feb.; endorsed by TJ as received 19 (reworked from 20) Feb. 1822 and so recorded in SJL; with Dft of TJ to Rafinesque, 20 Feb. 1822, beneath endorsement.

cosmonist: Rafinesque sent TJ his signed essay “On a large Fossil Trilobite of Kentucky,” the first in a series of articles with “The Cosmonist” at their head (Kentucky Gazette, 31 Jan. 1822).

Rafinesque’s prospectus was the Oct. 1821 Proposals to publish by subscription a selection of the miscellaneous works and essays of C. S. Rafinesque, the five duodecimo volumes of which were to be published in Lexington and consist of “a selected collection of Tracts, Memoirs, Dissertations, Lectures, Reviews, Letters, Travels, Tales, Poems, &c. On various subjects connected with Philosophy, History, Archeology, Philology, Geography, Agriculture, Legislation, Public Economy, Ethics, Natural and Mathematical Sciences, the fine and useful Arts, Belles Lettres, Poetry, &c.,” translated as needed from French and Italian editions in Europe and restricted to his works “of general interest, the least technical character, and most deserving of the notice and patronage of the American readers”; giving the titles of eighteen previously published and twenty-two manuscript works to be included; stipulating that each volume will be about 240 pages long, “with good type and on good paper”; and that the first volume will probably appear next year, the cost for subscribers being one dollar per volume as each comes out (broadside in MH; with handwritten signatures of eight subscribers subjoined).

1Reworked from “1.”

2Rafinesque here canceled “interest.”

3Rafinesque here canceled “with the mere annual.”

4Preceding two words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Clifford, John D.; and Museum of Natural and Antiquarian History search
  • Cumberland College (Nashville, Tenn.) search
  • Indians, American; artifacts of, in museums search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Kentucky Gazette (Lexington, Ky., newspaper); publishes C. Rafinesque’s essays search
  • Lexington, Ky.; Museum of Natural and Antiquarian History search
  • Museum of Natural and Antiquarian History (Lexington, Ky.) search
  • museums; in Lexington, Ky. search
  • natural history; museums of search
  • newspapers; LexingtonKentucky Gazette search
  • On a large Fossil Trilobite of Kentucky (“The Cosmonist” [C. S. Rafinesque]) search
  • Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel; and botanical garden for University of Virginia search
  • Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel; and Cumberland College search
  • Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel; and museum for University of Virginia search
  • Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel; and Western College of Kentucky search
  • Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel; letters from search
  • Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel; natural history collections of search
  • Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel; seeks professorship search
  • Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel; works of search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; and faculty recruitment search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; botanical garden for search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; faculty applicants search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; natural-history specimens for search
  • Western College of Kentucky (Hopkinsville) search