Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Hollins, 19 February 1809

Washington Feb. 19. 09.

Dear Sir

A little transaction of mine, as innocent an one as I ever entered into, & where an improper construction was never less expected, is making some noise I observe in your city. I beg leave to explain it to you because I mean to ask your agency in it. the last year the Agricultural society of Paris, of which I am a member, having had a plough presented to them, which on trial with a graduated instrument, did equal work with half the force of their best ploughs, they thought it would be a benefit to mankind to communicate it. they accordingly sent one to me, with a view to it’s being made known here, & they sent one to the D. of Bedford also, who is one of their members, to be made use of for England, altho’ the two nations were then at war. by the Mentor now going to France, I have given permission to two individuals in Delaware & New York to import two parcels of Merino sheep from France, which they have procured there, & to some gentlemen in Boston to import a very valuable machine which spins cotton, wool & flax equally. the last spring the society informed me they were cultivating the cotton of the Levant and other parts of the Mediterranean, & wished to try also that of our Southern states. I immediately got a friend to have two tierces of seed forwarded to me, they were consigned to Messrs. Falls & Brown, of Baltimore, & notice of it being given me, I immediately wrote to them to reship them to New York to be sent by the Mentor. their first object was to make a shew of my letter, as something very criminal, & to carry the subject into the newspapers. I had, on a like request some time ago (but before the embargo) from the President of the board of Agriculture of London, of which I am also a member, to send them some of the genuine May wheat of Virginia, forwarded to them two or three barrels of it. General Washington, in his time, recieved from the same society the seed of the perennial Succory which Arthur Young had carried over from France to England, & I have since recieved from a member of it the seed of the famous turnep of Sweden, now so well known here. I mention these things to shew the nature of the correspondence which is carried on between societies instituted for the benevolent purpose of communicating to all parts of the world whatever useful is discovered in any one of them. these societies are always in peace, however their nations may be at war. like the republic of letters they form a great fraternity spreading over the whole earth, & their correspondence is never interrupted by any civilized nation. Vaccination has been a late & remarkeable instance of the liberal diffusion of a blessing newly discovered. it is really painful, it is mortifying to be obliged to note these things which are known to every one who knows any thing, & felt with approbation by every one who has any feeling. but we have a faction to whose hostile passions the torture, even of right into wrong, is a delicious gratification. their malice I have long learnt to disregard their censure to deem praise. but I observe that some republicans are not satisfied (even while we are recieving liberally from others) that this small return should be made. they will think more justly at another day: but in the mean time I wish to avoid offence. my prayer to you therefore is that you will be so good, under the inclosed order, as to recieve these two tierces of seed from Falls & Brown, & pay them their disbursements for freight &c. which I will immediately remit you on knowing the amount. of the seed, when recieved, be so good as to make manure for your garden. when rotted with a due mixture of stable manure or earth, it is the best in the world. I rely on your friendship to excuse this trouble, it being necessary I should not commit my self again to persons of whose honour, or the want of it, I know nothing. Accept the assurances of my constant esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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