George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 1 May 1791

From Thomas Jefferson

Philadelphia May. 1. 1791.


I had the honour of addressing you on the 24th Ult. which I presume you will have recieved at Cambden. the present is ordered to go from Petersburg to Taylor’s ferry. I think it better my letters should be even some days ahead of you, knowing that if they ever get into your rear they will never overtake you. I write to day indeed merely as the watchman cries, to prove himself awake, & that all is well, for the last week has scarcely furnished any thing foreign or domestic worthy your notice. Truxton is arrived from the E. Indies and confirms the check by Tippoo-Saib on the detachment of Colo. Floyd, which consisted of between 3. & 4000 men. the latter lost most of his baggage & artillery, and retreated under the pursuit of the enemy. the loss of men is pretended by their own papers to have been 2, or 300 only. but the loss and character of the officers killed, makes one suspect that the situation has been such as to force the best officers to expose themselves the most, & consequently that more men must have fallen. The main body with General Meadows at their head are pretended to be going on boldly.1 yet Ld Cornwallis is going to take the field in person. this shews that affairs are in such a situation as to give anxiety. upon the whole the account recieved thro’ Paris proves true notwithstanding the minister had declared to the house of Commons, in his place, that the public accounts were without foundation, & that nothing amiss had happened.2

Our loan in Amsterdam for 2½ million of florins filled in two hours & a half after it was opened.

The Vice-president leaves us tomorrow. we are told that mister Morris gets £70,000. sterl. for the lands he has sold.3

A mister Noble has been here, from the country where they are busied with the Sugar-maple tree. he thinks mister Cooper will bring 3000 £’s worth to market this season, and gives the most flattering calculations of what may be done in that way. he informs me of another very satisfactory fact, that less profit is made by converting the juice into spirit than into sugar. he gave me specimens of the spirit, which is exactly whiskey.4

I have arrived at Baltimore from Marseilles 40. olive trees of the best kind from Marseilles, & a box of the seed. the latter to raise stocks, & the former cuttings to engraft on the stocks. I am ordering them on instantly to Charleston, where if they arrive in the course of this month they will be in time. another cargo is on it’s way from Bordeaux, so that I hope to secure the commencement of this culture and from the best species.5 sugar & oil will be no mean addition to the articles of our culture. I have the honour to be with the greatest respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedt & most humble sert

Th: Jefferson

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. Jefferson addressed the letter to: “The President of the United States. to be lodged at Taylor’s ferry on the Roanoke. to which place the post-master at Petersburg is desired to forward it by the first private conveyance. for the Petersburg mail.” Taylor’s ferry on the Roanoke River in Mecklenburg County, Va., was on a more westerly route than GW’s original itinerary.

1Long Island, N.Y., native and Revolutionary War privateer Thomas Truxtun (Truxton; 1755–1822) commanded the 310–ton Canton, Philadelphia’s first China trader, which had returned to the city from Calcutta and the East Indies on 29 April with papers containing intelligence directly from India, extracts of which editor Benjamin Franklin Bache printed in the General Advertiser and Political, Commercial and Literary Journal (Philadelphia), 30 April, 2, 10 May, 1791. See also Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia), 4 May 1791.

2Charles Cornwallis, Earl Cornwallis (1738–1805), arrived in India in 1786 as governor general. In a campaign against Tippoo Saib, sultan of Mysore, Cornwallis in January 1791 assumed command of Gen. William Medows’s forces and marched against Tippoo’s stronghold at Seringapatam, but he was forced to abandon his campaign against the sultan in mid-May 1791 (see Wickwire, Cornwallis, description begins Franklin and Mary Wickwire. Cornwallis: The Imperial Years. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1980. description ends 136–53). Cornwallis and the Mysore war featured prominently in parliamentary debates on 28 Feb. and 2 Mar. 1791 (see Parliamentary History of England, description begins The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803. 36 vols. London, 1806–20. description ends 28:1271–1364, esp. 1318–22, 1362, 1363).

3For the departure of John Adams, see GW to Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson, and Henry Knox, 4 April 1791 and note 1. For Robert Morris’s Genesee land speculations in New York, see Lear to GW, 8 May 1791 and note 4.

4On 7 Aug. 1791 Arthur Noble delivered to the president on behalf of himself and William Cooper “Some Samples of Maple Sugar Manufactured at Coopers town in the State of New york,” claiming “that a Suffi⟨cie⟩nt quantity of this Sugar may be made in A few years to Suply the whole United States” (DLC:GW). GW’s reply of 8 Aug., “The President of the United States is much obliged by the polite attention of Messiur’s Cooper and Noble—he thanks them for the present of Maple Sugar, and learns, with great pleasure, the progress of that promising manufacture,” was reprinted in the Albany Register on 29 Aug. 1791 (Taylor, William Cooper’s Town description begins Alan Taylor. William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic. New York, 1995. description ends , 125, 468 n.30). Jefferson became an avid proponent of American maple sugar and gave GW some sugar maple seeds in 1792 that GW instructed his farm manager to plant at Mount Vernon (see Jefferson to GW, 16 Oct. 1792, Anthony Whitting to GW, 31 Oct. 1792, and GW to Whitting, 4 Nov. 1792; Betts, Jefferson’s Garden Book description begins Edwin Morris Betts, ed. Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824: With Relevant Extracts from His Other Writings. Philadelphia, 1944. description ends , 157 n.1, 159, 166–69, 179, 210, 375, 417).

5Before leaving France Jefferson commissioned Stephen Cathalan, Jr., at Marseilles to send a number of olive trees to the Agricultural Society of South Carolina in Charleston (William Drayton to Jefferson, 25 Nov. 1787, Jefferson to Cathalan, 7 Sept. 1790, 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 12:380–82, 17:497–98). Jefferson on 30 April 1791 received Cathalan’s letter of 22 Jan. informing him of the shipment to Baltimore of forty trees and a chest of olives for planting. On 1 May Jefferson requested Robert Gilmor & Co. to forward the plants from Baltimore to Charleston (Jefferson to Drayton, 1 May, to Robert Gilmor & Co., 1 May, ibid., 20:332–33).

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