James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Benjamin Waterhouse, 12 December 1822

From Benjamin Waterhouse

Cambridge 12th. Decr. 1822

Dear Sir,

I have just read in one of the Boston News-papers, a paragraph to this effect—that through the agency of the late President Madison, a Professorship of Agriculture was about to be established in the University in Virginia. It directly occurred to me to send you some publications of mine on that highly important subject.

By the “Heads of Lectures,” and by the “Botanist,” you can see how far we have progressed here, and make your improvements accordingly.1 I broke up the ground, & sowed the seeds of this branch of Science first in the college at Providence in 1786, and then in the University here in 1788; and laboured incessantly in it, while a Professor of physic, seventeen years, or, until the lectures became very popular, and in some measure, profitable; when the Junto took the business out of my hands, & gave it to one of their own clan; principally, because I would not join them in their gross abuse of your predecessor. It was Naboths vineyard over again; both as it regarded Ahab, and the sons of Belial.2 They are all in their graves but two, the District Judge, & one clergyman.

You will see my reason for giving the subject a popular dress. Those subjects were new to our countrymen. No lectures on botany-agriculture, or mineralogy were ever known in our country prior to those just mentioned.

That Agriculture, with every other beneficial establishment—whether physical moral, or political, may go on prospering among you is the ardent desire of Sir your obt. servt.

Benjn: Waterhouse

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1The enclosures were Waterhouse’s Heads of a Course of Lectures, Intended as an Introduction to Natural History (Providence, R.I., [1788?]; Evans 45406), and The Botanist. Being the Botanical Part of a Course of Lectures on Natural History, Delivered in the University at Cambridge; Together with a Discourse on the Principle of Vitality (Boston, 1811; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 24380).

2Ahab’s desire for Naboth’s vineyard led him to elicit the false testimony of the sons of Belial against Naboth, which led to Naboth’s death and Ahab’s possession of the vineyard (1 Kings 21 [AV description begins The Bible. Authorized (King James) Version. description ends ]).

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