George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 17 July 1785

From Thomas Jefferson

Paris July 17. 1785.


Permit me to add, what I forgot in my former letter, a request to you to be so kind as to communicate to me what you can recollect of Bushnel’s experiments in submarine navigation during the late war, and whether you think his method capable of being used successfully for the destruction of vessels of war. It’s not having been actually used for this purpose by us, who were so peculiarly in want of such an agent seems to prove it did not promise success.1 I am with the highest esteem Sir Your most obedt & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers. Jefferson sent the letter by Houdon.

1On this day, Jefferson wrote Ezra Stiles: “. . . a man in this city has invented a method of moving a vessel on the water by a machine worked within the vessel. . . . It is a screw with a very broad thin worm . . . and may be literally said to screw the vessel along: the thinness of the medium and it’s want of resistance occasions a loss of much of the force. The screw I think would be more effectual if placed below the surface of the water. I very much suspect that a countryman of ours, Mr. Bushnel of Connecticut is entitled to the merit of a prior discovery of this use of the screw” (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 8:298–301; see also Jefferson to Hugh Williamson, 6 Feb. 1785, ibid., 7:641–43). See GW to Jefferson, 26 Sept., n.5, for David Humphreys’ description of David Bushnell’s submarine action.

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