Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from David Hosack, 10 September 1806

New York September 10th. 1806.


Knowing your attachment to science and the interest you feel on the progress of it in the united states, I take the liberty of enclosing to you a Catalogue of plants which I have been enabled to collect as the beginning of a Botanic garden—

you will readily perceive that my intention in this little publication is merely to announce the nature of the Institution and to facilitate my correspondence with Botanists as they will hereby know what plants will be accepteble to me and what they may expect in return—in two or three years when my collection may be more extensive I propose to publish it in a different shape arranging the plants under different heads viz MedicinalPoisonous—those useful in the arts—in agriculture &c with notes relative to their use and culture accompanied with engravings of such as may be either entirely new or are not well figured in books—

I feel much interested in the result of the enquiries instituted by you relative to the Missouri—Black River &c. In Natural History much is also to be expected from exploring the territory in the course of Red River—that latitude is always rich in vegetable productions—if it should be contemplated to explore that or any other part of our country, there is now a gentleman in this state who might be induced to undertake it and whose talents abundantly qualify him for an employment of this sort, the person I refer to is Mr Michaux the editor of the Flora Boreali America—he being at present in New York I take the liberty of mentioning his name to you—under your auspices Sir establishments of this nature may be encouraged:—it has occurred to me that much also might be done in exploring the native productions of the united states if the Government were to appropriate to every Botanic garden a small sum—for the express purpose of employing a suitable person to investigate the vegetable productions growing in its neighbourhood—an annual appropriation of this sort allotted to the Botanic gardens of Boston—New York—Virginia and South Carolina would in a short time be productive of great good—

Another object which will claim much of my attention will be to naturalize as far as possible to our climates the productions of the southern states and of the tropics—I believe much may be done upon this subject—four years since I planted some cotton seed, late in the spring—it grows to the usual size to which it attains in the southern states and ripened its seed before October—Those seeds were planted and succeeded equally well the second year—John Stevens Esq of Hoboken New Jersey has also succeeded in the same experiment and at this time has a considerable quantity of cotton ripening its seed, the growth from seeds raised by him the last year, it is also to be remarked that this summer has been unusually cool—I conceive it therefore not improbable that Virginia and Maryland if not Pennsylvania and New york—might cultivate this plant to advantage—the short staple doubtless would succeed—

If Sir the gentlemen who are at present on their travels to the Missouri, discover any new or useful plants I should be very happy in obtaining a small quantity of the seeds they may procure but I fear I am trespassing upon your time and departing from the objecting of this communication—

I am, Sir, very respectfully your humb. servt.

David Hosack

MHi: Coolidge Collection.

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