George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Law, August 1796

Mount Vernon Augt 1796

Dear Sir

Since my arrival here, I have been rather unwell, but the kind attentions of Mrs Washington & the assiduous Care of Eliza soon restored me.

As I lay on my bed after a walk in the Garden where I saw the Nankeen Cotton plant & the Bamboe, it occurred to me what an advantageous import of seeds & plants might be introduced at this period from Asia, but too soon this pleasing idea was discouraged, by a doubt where they could be deposited.

In Calcutta a Botanical Garden is established (with a sensible Superintendant), from which almost every district in Bengal & Bakar now produces the Cinnamon & the most valuable of Spices & the Teak a large Tree superior to the Oak for Shipbuilding as it lasts near an 100 Years+I have a Book to prove this which I will submit to perusal.

at present individuals in America have many curious & useful plants, but they perish with their owners by the neglect of their Successors. The French Nation have lately sent a Collection of plants to New York but they will be lost for want of a public Garden & a City of Merchants will not readily purchase & support one.

That such a Garden must be some where soon established is certain, In England each University has one & there are several public ones. but when or where will be the Question after 1797—& it may be forgotten that an extensive Centrical Spot is already appropriated in the Capital of the United States for that purpose; which may receive annual additions from Mount Vernon & whilst it imparts comfort to you in your walks may receive the aid of your information.

When a Botanist is appointed he should I think receive Lres & Packages duty free or be repaid the expence of his Lres (which is better). & thus he will collect information & plants from all Quarters—& may convey the same to every State of the Union.

Pardon the presumption of this address & be assured that no private motive would ever induce me to intrude one moment upon your public or domestic concerns.

When I consider that my mind may hereafter condemn me should I not avail myself of this happy opportunity & when I know that your mind must be occupied with remote considerations I feel as if I had discharged a duty in thus addressing You. I remain With unfeigned Esteem & affectn yr mt faithful & obt

Thomas Law

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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