Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: David M. Randolph (ca. 1759–1830) to James Gibbon, 8 January 1822, enclosure no. 2 in Richard Randolph to Thomas Jefferson, 18 March 1822


David M. Randolph (ca. 1759–1830) to James Gibbon

B[. . .]-Hall. 8th January 1822

Dear Sir,

I send you a bundle containing several seperate papers of powder—the one marked with Italy, is the genuine Puzzolana from1 Naples: the others are varieties of my preparation from the York Shale. And, if any thing ferther was wanting (but actual analysis) to confirm or impair2 my believe of their identity, in their constituents, be good enough to examine very minutely, the fragments sent also herewith, and see how far appearances accord with Cleveland’s ferther description of puzzolana—which, in addition to what I stated to you before, says thus—“It often contains distinct particles of pumice, quarts & Scoria”—The smaller of these two fragments (which I presume to Designate Lava) exhibits the pumic very distinctly—or, something very much like—and something larger than a particle: at one of the extremities—The other plainly shows Quarts: and both correspond with my conceptions of Scoriæ. Pardon me for so much trouble imposed on you—The more satisfactory the Demonstrations of this subject, to those who are disposed to promote the Cause, as well as those whose interest may be involved—the greater confidence will you proceed with—and, if I am not wholly deluded by my very extravagant speculation in the demands of the Nation for this article of “prime necessity,” as Dwitt Clinton expresses it—the greater probability of obtaining funds for prosecuting the Manufactring on an extended Scale; even to the plan of a Joint-Stock-Company! Not that its success can ever compensate me for Sacrifices of feeling, or Render my longer existence in a state of complete privation worth another effort—Suppose indeed, a competent person shou’d favor my wishers so fer as, to analyse the substance, and, possibly find I am deceived—! that the substance in truth, is foreign to that of Puzzolana! I wou’d then, admit the fact—and, if it were insisted upon, that I was a fool! Shou’d I be the only fool in the community?—Be it so or not, I shall conclude by referring you to McVee and Mr H[. . .]s—these practical Men, will tell you that one of the powders committed to their experemets during last sumer, was far better than the Other: this better thing was of my preparation from3 the Shale aforesaid (this I can prove), and, the other, was the Tarras imported from Holland by Smith & Riddle several years since—Nay, I cannot forbear to add, that by comparative analysis, by Dr Cullen last sumer, this same Shale exhibitted the presence of Lime, whilst the Dutch Article contained none! And, hencee, perhaps, the greatest distinctive difference between the two substances. And, since, from time immemorial Puzzolana has been deemed a Substance to produce the best of all possible Cements (Parkers Cement not excepted) to stand underwater, is their no consideration of individual profits, Virginian pride, or public benefit to be excited, that may prosecute the enterprize to an extent that shall exclude a foreigner? There was a time when it was quite unpatriotic to encourage John Bull in his invasion of Yankey rights.

Remember lastly, that I am tired out; and, that I wou’d sooner sacrifice largely, than continue the Agent of any concern, be the prospective profits what they may—All my Aim is to pay my debts; and, meanwhile, remain secluded from4 the world, with the smallest possible expence to anyone—but, ever grateful to you, as the best of all friends—

D M Randolph

RC (MHi); two words illegible; at foot of text: “Majr: James Gibbon.”

Parker Cleaveland’s description of pozzolana is in his Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology (Boston, 1816), 633. New York governor DeWitt Clinton and four other commissioners reported that “water proof lime” would be of prime necessity in their Annual Report of the Canal Commissioners, communicated to the legislature, Feb. 18, 1820 (Albany, 1820), 15–6. tarras: “a kind of rock, allied in composition to pozzolana, consisting largely of comminuted pumice or other volcanic substance … formerly imported from Holland for making a mortar or hydraulic cement” (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 ).

1Manuscript: “fom.”

2Preceding two words interlined.

3Manuscript: “fom,” here and immediately below.

4Manuscript: “fom.”

Index Entries

  • An Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology (P. Cleaveland) search
  • Annual Report of the Canal Commissioners, communicated to the legislature, Feb. 18, 1820 search
  • building materials; tarras search
  • cement; minerals for search
  • cement; pozzolana search
  • cement; waterproof search
  • Cleaveland, Parker; An Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology search
  • Clinton, DeWitt; as governor of N.Y. search
  • Cullen, John (1797–1849); analyzes cement search
  • Gibbon, James; and cement search
  • Gibbon, James; letters to, from D. M. Randolph search
  • New York (state); and canals search
  • Parker, James; and Roman cement search
  • pozzolana (volcanic ash) search
  • Randolph, David Meade (ca.1759–1830); and cement search
  • Randolph, David Meade (ca.1759–1830); finances of search
  • Randolph, David Meade (ca.1759–1830); letters from, to J. Gibbon search
  • shale search
  • Smith & Riddle (Richmond firm); imports tarras search
  • tarras search