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The Founders, Farms and Facts

“The more I am acquainted with agriculture affairs the better I am pleased with them,” wrote George Washington in 1788, shortly before he was elected president of the United States. “Insomuch that I can find no where so great satisfaction, as in those innocent and useful pursuits.”1 After visiting Mount Vernon in 1785, Englishman John Hunter had written that Washington’s “greatest pride now is, to be thought the first farmer in America. He is quite a Cincinnatus and often works with his men himself: strips off his coat and labors like a common man. The General has a great turn for mechanics. It’s astonishing with what niceness he directs everything in the building way, condescending even to measure the thing himself, that all may be perfectly uniform.”2

Many of the American Founders were farmers – and the best of them like Washington and Thomas Jefferson were serious researchers on agronomy. Historian Richard Norton Smith wrote of Washington: “By personal definition he was a farmer, not a planter, and a scientific farmer at that. Nearly half his lands were tilled under a complex rotation plan, enabling him to test sixty different crops. When his efforts to grow grapes failed, the erstwhile vineyard became a laboratory for horse chestnuts and treebox. Since seeds were difficult and costly to obtain in the United States, Washington’s gardener used the old ‘vineyard inclusure’ to nurture rare grasses, pumpkins, and lemon carrots. Exotic varieties of apples, pears, plums, peaches, and cherries also took root there.”3

Although Washington has often been personified as among the least intellectual of the Founders, he was a conscientious student and astute observer of farming. Washington had to study agriculture because he came late to the profession – not giving it his full attention until after he married at age 28. Historian John E. Ferling wrote: “Although he had grown up on Ferry Farm, he had never directed its operations, and he had done precious little work in its fields.”4 Instead, Washington had spent his youth surveying and soldiering. For the rest of his life, plants would preoccupy America’s first president. As he grew older, however, noted historian Garry Wills: “Farming technique was Washington’s principal intellectual discipline, his favorite topic of conversation, the focus of his private correspondence.”5 Historian Harold W. Bradley noted: “Washington was a farmer with the true farmer’s love of the land, believing that ‘the life of a Husbandman’ was of all vocations ‘the most delectable.’ Agriculture, he asserted, was ‘the proper source of American wealth and happiness’; and he predicted that Americans would continue to be ‘an agricultural people...for ages to come.’”6

But the joys and challenges of farming were also a preparation for the joys and challenges of public life. “As a landed proprietor no less than as commander-in-chief, he showed executive ability, the power of planning for a distant end, and a capacity for taking infinite pains,” wrote historian Samuel Eliot Morrison. “Neither drought nor defeat could turn him from a course that he discerned to be proper and right; but in farming as in war he learned from failure, and grew in stature from loss and adversity.”7 Washington arose each day before dawn to study and do office work: “In the early years of marriage he mostly studied agriculture, as an inventory of his copious library shows,” wrote biographer Willard Sterne Randall. “This was Washington’s period of greatest self-education. He ordered the latest books on his favorite subjects from England and France as soon as he learned about their publication from conversations with his neighbors, his relatives, or his contacts in England. But he also read widely on other subjects. He read the Bible and a book about Mohammed – Humphrey Prideaux’s True Nature of Imposture Fully Displayed in the Life of Mahomet – even before Thomas Jefferson acquired and read a translation of the Koran.”8

Like Thomas Jefferson, Washington is better known for his preoccupation with rebuilding Mount Vernon than his pursuit of scientific farming. Historian Garry Wills wrote: “No one was more responsive than Washington to the literal and symbolic appeal of the land. The most formal room at Mount Vernon – the equivalent of Jefferson’s parlor, with its celebration of European arts and science – has nothing but agricultural ornament on cornice, lintels, and mantle.”9 Joel Achenbach wrote that Washington and Jefferson “had certain traits in common. Both men knew their dirt. To be a planter in Virginia required an intimate understanding of soil, climate, pests, weeds, and as their land grew barren under the harshness of tobacco cultivation, they kept searching for new ground to cultivate. Jefferson owned 10,000 acres, including a tract at a separate plantation called Poplar Forest, though he was never in the same league as Washington, who by the end of his life would be among the largest landowners in the country. They each had a natural engineering impulse, always thinking of ways to improve their farms and the tools for wringing food from the soil. Washington had his fishing nets, distillery, barns, and fine breed of jackasses; Jefferson invented a new kind of plow.”10

On June 28, 1793, Thomas Jefferson wrote President Washington to detail the economics of agriculture in his region of Virginia and the impact of crop rotation: “The highlands where I live have been cultivated about sixty years. The culture was tobacco and Indian corn as long as they would bring enough to pay the labor. Then they were turned out. After four or five years rest they would bring good corn again, and in double that time perhaps good tobacco. Then they would be exhausted by a second series of tobacco and corn. Latterly we have begun to cultivate small grain; and excluding Indian corn, and following, such of them as were originally good, soon rise up to fifteen or twenty bushels the acre. We allow that every laborer will manage ten acres of wheat, except at harvest. I have no doubt but the coupling cattle sheep with this would prodigiously improve the produce."11 Jefferson’s crop rotation plan was designed to preserve the soil and operate over a span of seven years.

Washington too was an agricultural innovator and crop rotator. Mount Vernon researcher Jinny Fox detailed his methods: “He rotates crops – first he tries buckwheat and later switches to clover...He builds the first dung repository in America to compose manure...He tries to reclaim marshland for meadows...He plants root vegetables as an experiment in cultivation...”12 Washington was always looking to try something new or better. Historian Garry Wills wrote: “His friends knew that the way to please him was to send him new seeds, or cuttings, or animal breeds.”13 Historian John E. Ferling noted that Washington “was nothing if not innovative. He tried numerous varieties of wheat, planted potatoes with and without manure, sowed and harvested at varying times to gauge the seasonal impact, experimented with plaster of paris as a fertilizer, and would have used mud from the bottom of the Potomac as dressing had he solved the problem of how to extract it.”14 Historian Albert Bushnell Hart claimed that Washington “was in constant correspondence for some years with Arthur Young, who sent him many varieties of seeds. He imported trees and shrubs which he tried out on his plantation. He kept a record of when these plants were set out...he established what I believe to have been the first agricultural experiment station in American history.”15

Washington read widely so he could harvest more abundantly.16 His studies often took place shortly after he arose at 4 in the early morning. Washington biographer Paul Johnson noted: “England was going through an agricultural revolution, thanks to the work of such innovators as ‘Turnip’ Townsend, Jethro Tull, and Coke of Norfolk; their improvements were to make it possible to feed the offspring of the demographic revolution that was just beginning, and to enable the industrial revolution, the first hints of which were apparent, to take place and transform the world. The population of the American colonies was growing, thanks to spectactularly high birthrates and immigration, even faster than Britain’s was. How were these teeming mouths to be fed?” Johnson wrote: “The answer, as Washington saw it, was to expand inland to the rich agricultural land he had examined on the far side of the mountains, and to work it with modern English farming methods.”17

Washington put those studies to practical application. In the spring of 1760, he “experimented with a plow he designed, using his carriage horses to pull it,” wrote biographer Willard Sterne Randall. “On the second attempt, after he ‘spent the grater part of the day in making a new plow of my own invention,’ he ‘found she worked very well.’ By adding more teeth to a drag harrow; he was able to break up the soil more finely ‘for harrowing in grain.’ Some of his experiments failed. He tried to grow oats in wintertime. Any experienced Virginia farmer could have told him the climate was too cold – the crop failed. But Washington had to try out everything for himself.”18 In his final days of president, Washington was concerned about agricultural improvements on his farm: “The Albany Pea, which is the same as the field Pea of Europe, I have tried and found it grew well; but it is subject to the same bug that perforates the garden pea, and eats out the kernel; so it will happen, I fear, with the pea you propose to import....”19 For Washington, peas needed to be pest free and the results need to be positive.

The Founders not only studied agriculture, they wrote each other about it. Historian Walter Stahr wrote that Washington and John Jay “were gentlemen farmers, so they wrote one another not only about politics but also about plants and animals. Jay sent along some rhubarb seed and asked Washington to report ‘whether it will flourish in your climate.’ He suggested that “our country would do well encourage the breeding of mules, but the difficulty of obtaining good male asses, as yet much retards it. Since Washington had ‘one of the best kinds, would it not be useful to put him to some of the best females now in the country, and by that means obtain a tolerable breed?’ Washington responded that he had indeed ‘disseminated the breed of my Spanish Jack to many of the smaller kind of this country.’”20

After the American Revolution, King Charles III of Spain had sent General Washington two Spanish mules. One died en route and the survivor was named “Royal Gift” by Washington. Unfortunately, the Royal Gift refused to condescend to mate with any of Washington’s mares, of which he had nearly three dozen. Eventually, Washington borrowed a potential mate from a neighbor and the resulting progeny was named “Compound.” Washington wrote:“A female ass which I have obtained lately has excited desires in [Royal Gift] to which he almost seemed a stranger. Making use of her as an excitement, I have been able to get several mares served.” Biographer Willard Sterne Randall wrote: “The breed of American mule [Washington] created at Mount Vernon was to spread over the South and West, providing cheap cartage for farmers and teamsters for more than a century. By the time of his death, Washington had replaced two-thirds of the horses on his farms with the rugged mules, and when he traveled as president, he proselytized his new breed.”21

The Founders’ fascination for things agricultural was virtually unbridled. “There is not a sprig of grass that grows [that is] uninteresting to me,” Thomas Jefferson said.22 He wrote that “I have often thought that if heaven had given me a choice of my position and calling, it should have been on rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden.”23 Jefferson wrote that “those who labour in the earth...are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he had made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.”24

In May 1791, Secretary of State Jefferson and Virginian Congressman James Madison took a vacation trip to northern New York and back through Vermont, the Berkshires and Connecticut which suspicious Federalists thought was designed more to propagate politics than plants. “Jefferson’s notes written along the way offer abundant descriptions of trees, flowers, wildlife, lakes, rivers, and related matters, and not a word on politics. Madison’s notes on the journey are crowded with comments on farmland, crops, and the price of wheat and likewise are devoid of politics,” wrote Jefferson biographer Noble E. Cunningham, Jr.. Historian Richard Brookhiser noted that Jefferson and Madison “admired Lake George, shot squirrels, and studied the Hessian fly, a grain pest, for the American Philosophical Society.”25 According to Jefferson biographer Claude G. Bowers: “The one reference to the journey in the correspondence of Madison merely says that ‘it was a very agreeable one, and carried us through an interesting country, new to us both.’ In none of these letters do we find a single reference to politics or politicians.”26

Jefferson’s letters home during the trip reflected the environmental focus of his journey. Jefferson wrote his daughter that Lake Champlain was “without comparison the most beautiful water I ever saw: formed by a contour of mountains into a bason [sic] 35 miles long, and from 2 to 4 miles broad, finely interspersed with islands, its waters limpid of chrystal and the mountain sides covered with rich groves of Thuya, silver fir, white pine. Aspen and paper birch down to the water edge, here and there precipices of rock to checquer the scene and save it from monotony. An abundance of speckled trout, salmon trout, bass and other fish with which it is stored, have added to our other amusements the sport of taking them.”27

Jefferson biographer Willard Sterne Randall wrote: “Thomas Jefferson was...an Enlightenment man of science. He saw as the essence of his task the choice of the right device to express ‘the American mind.’ He had the mind of an inventor who knew what innovations had come before him, which to adopt, which to adapt, which to throw away.”28 To observe was to measure and the Founders were measurers. Planter Robert Carter was an eccentric neighbor of George Washington. Although poorly educated as a child, he was an avid reader as an adult. Biographer Andrew Levy wrote that Carter “measured things: he bought thermometers and barometers, spent solitary hours with surveying equipment and a telescope.”29

The pursuit of scientific knowledge went hand in hand with the pursuit of political progress. Jefferson acknowledged he took “with great satisfaction every example of bending science to the useful purposes of life.”30 Willard Sterne Randall wrote: “When [Jefferson] arrived in Philadelphia in 1797 as vice president-elect, he carried in his baggage the bones of a prehistoric animal for the American Philosophical Society collection. At the President’s House in Washington, he was often seen working with flowers and plants; a pet mockingbird entertained him as he plied his garden and carpenter’s tools or, seated at his drafting board, pored over maps and charts. And he sometimes stole away on secret solitary expeditions up the Potomac and into surrounding hills and woods. Wrote Mrs. [Samuel Harrison] Smith in her diary, ‘Not a plant from the lowliest weed to the loftiest tree escaped his notice....He would [get off his horse and] climb rocks or wade through swamps to obtain any plant he discovered or desired and seldom returned from these excursions without a variety of specimens.’”31 At home in Monticello, Jefferson collected hundreds of books on botany and agriculture – while keeping his own extensive records of his plantings and discoveries from 1767 to 1824. Scholar M. L. Wilson wrote that Jefferson’s book collection was the “great specialized agricultural library” of the time.32

Although Jefferson did not explicitly say it, slavery was an impediment to the practice of sensible agricultural practices because it encouraged abuse of the land. In Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson observed that the country's abundance of land was a mixed blessing: "The indifferent state of agriculture among us does not proceed from a want of knowledge merely; it is from our having such quantities of land to waste as we please. In Europe the object is to make the most of their land, labor being abundant; here it is to make the most of our labor, land being abundant."33 Historian Roger G. Kennedy wrote: “In the 1790s, Arthur Young, the English agronomist, began corresponding with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the two most celebrated American planters. Young was bold enough to ask how they explained the capital base in land. Jefferson’s response was, ‘We can buy an acre of new land cheaper than we can manure an old one.’ Washington was rueful but equally blunt: plantation management, he told Young, had become a business of seeing to it that ‘a piece of land is cut down,’ meaning stripped of its timber, and then ‘kept under constant cultivation, first in tobacco and then in Indian corn (two very exhausting plants), until it will yield scarcely anything’ at all.’”34 By the beginning of the 19th century, Virginia’s most valuable asset was not land, but slaves.

Whether at home or abroad Thomas Jefferson was not a typical tourist. Biographer Claude G. Bowers noted as U.S. Minister to France that Jefferson “struck out into the country to judge for himself of the condition of the peasants, looked into the pots on the fire to see what they ate, felt their beds to see if they were comfortable. He inquired into their wages and the working conditions of the artisans of the cities....”35 When Jefferson traveled through southern France in 1787, he was a dedicated observer – especially of agricultural phenomena. “I am never satiated with rambling through the fields and farms, examining the culture and cultivators, with a degree of curiosity which makes some take me to be a fool, and others to be much wiser than I am.”36 He wrote: “The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.”37 From Nice in southern France, Jefferson wrote the Marquis de Lafayette a detailed observation of his trip from the perspective of an agronomist:

The soil of Champagne and Burgundy I have found more universally good than I had expected, and as I could not help making a comparison with England, I found that comparison more unfavorable to the latter than is generally admitted. The soil, the climate, and the productions are superior to those of England, and the husbandry as good, except in one point; that of manure. In England, long leases for twenty-one years, or three lives, to wit, that of the farmer, his wife, and son, renewed by the son as soon as he comes to the possession, for his own life, his wife's and eldest child's, and so on, render the farms there almost hereditary, make it worth the farmer's while to manure the lands highly, and give the landlord an opportunity of occasionally making his rent keep pace with the improved state of the lands. Here the leases are either during pleasure, or for three, six, or nine years, which does not give the farmer time to repay himself for the expensive operation of well manuring, and therefore, he manures ill, or not at all. I suppose, that could the practice of leasing for three lives be introduced in the whole kingdom, it would, within the term of your life, increase agricultural productions fifty per cent; or were any one proprietor to do it with his own lands, it would increase his rents fifty per cent, in the course of twenty-five years. But I am told the laws do not permit it. The laws then, in this particular, are unwise and unjust, and ought to give that permission. In the southern provinces, where the soil is poor, the climate hot and dry, and there are few animals, they would learn the art, found so precious in England, of making vegetable manure, and thus improving these provinces in the article in which nature has been least kind to them. Indeed, these provinces afford a singular spectacle. Calculating on the poverty of their soil, and their climate by its latitude only, they should have been the poorest in France. On the contrary, they are the richest, from one fortuitous circumstance. Spurs or ramifications of high mountains, making down from the Alps, and as it were, reticulating these provinces, give to the vallies the protection of a particular inclosure to each, and the benefit of a general stagnation of the northern winds produced by the whole of them, and thus countervail the advantage of several degrees of latitude. From the first olive fields of Pierrelatte, to the orangeries of Hieres, has been continued rapture to me.38

Jefferson continued on to Italy. He was more than an observer on the trip as he collected seeds that might enhance American produce. Historian Donald Jackson wrote of Jefferson: “Although he loved plants for themselves, he was especially fond of those which promised new practical applications.”39 Jefferson broke Italian law to smuggle rice out of the country in order to help southern plantation owners. Jefferson himself wrote John Jay, then in charge of America’s foreign relations under the Articles of Confederation: "I wished particularly to know whether it was the use of a different machine for cleaning, which brought European rice to market less broken than ours, as had been represented to me by those who deal in that article in Paris. I found several persons who had passed through the rice country of Italy, but not one could explain to me the nature of the machine. But I was given to believe that I might see it myself immediately on entering Piedmont. As this would require but about three weeks, I determined to go and ascertain this point, as the chance only of placing our rice above all rivalship in quality, as it is in color, by the introduction of a better machine, if a better existed, seemed to justify the application of that much time to it. I found the rice country to be in truth Lombardy, one hundred miles further than had been represented, and that though called Piedmont rice, not a grain is made in the country of Piedmont." He learned the Italian milling machine was identical to that used in America so he decided that he needed to investigate the grain itself. He learned that "the government of Turin is so sensible, that, as I was informed, they prohibit the exportation of rough rice on pain of death. I have taken measures, however, which I think will not fail for obtaining a quantity of it, and I bought on the spot a small parcel, which I have with me. As further details on this subject to Congress would be misplaced, I proposed, on my return to Paris, to communicate them, and send the rice to the society at Charleston for promoting agriculture, supposing that they will be best able to try the experiment of cultivating the rice of this quality, and to communicate the species to the two States of South Carolina and Georgia."

Jefferson added: "The mass of our countrymen being interested in agriculture, I hope I do not err in supposing that in a time of profound peace, as the present, to enable them to adapt their productions to the market, to point out markets for them, and endeavor to obtain favorable terms of reception, is within the line of my duty."40 Biographer James Parton noted: "Jefferson, falling back on the higher law, 'took measures with a muleteer to run a couple of sacks across the Apennines to Genoa;' but, having small faith in the muleteer's success, he filled the pockets of his coat and overcoat with the best rice of the best rice-producing district in Italy, and sent it, in two parcels by different ships to Charleston. The muleteer failed to run his sacks; but this small store reached the Charleston society, who distributed it among the rice planters, a dozen or two grains to each."41 Historian M. L. Wilson noted: “He sent seeds, cuttings, and observations on vineyards, the cultivation of fruits, the production of silk, the milling of rice, and the manufacture of flour to his friends at home....His correspondence with the South Carolina Society for Promoting and Improving Agriculture stresses the importance of experimentation in the development of husbandry.”42

Jefferson placed a high value on such activities in promoting American agriculture and the improved produce that would result. At home and abroad, he collected, solicited and received seeds from others and distributed them in turn. After receiving the seeds from a bread-tree in 1797, Vice President Jefferson wrote the French donor: "The successive supplies of the same seeds which you are kind enough to give me expectations of receiving from you, will, in like manner, be thankfully received, and distributed to those persons and places most likely to render the experiment successful. One service of this kind rendered to a nation, is worth more to them than all the victories of the most splendid pages of their history, and becomes a source of exalted pleasure to those who have been instrumental to it."43 Throughout his adult life, Jefferson kept careful daily records of the success and failure of new varieties of fruits and vegetables planted on his property.

Back home, in 1813 former President Jefferson detailed the way that previous generations of Virginians had abused the land: “Our country is hilly and we have been in the habit of ploughing in straight rows whether up or down, in oblique lines, or however they lead ; and our soil was rapidly running into rivers. We now plough horizontally, following the curvatures of the hills and hollows, on the dead level, however crook the lines may be. Every furrow thus acts as a reservoir to receive and retain the waters, all of which go to the benefit of the growing plant, instead of running off into the streams. In a farm horizontally and deeply ploughed, scarcely an ounce of soil is now carried off from it.”44 Jefferson’s use of contour ploughing was ahead of his contemporaries. Historian Roger G. Kennedy wrote that “the planters’ reliance upon slavery forbade their improving agricultural practice by putting expensive tools in the hands of the labor force. So disabled, they saw no choice but to continue their hasty, wasteful production of row-crop staples. In the short and medium term, their incapacity to risk modernization of agricultural technique and technology left them at the mercy of the violence oscillations of the price of tobacco.”45

Jefferson’s Virginia friend and neighbor, James Monroe, had a similar interest in scientific agriculture. Monroe biographer Harlow Giles Unger noted that in 1807 on his return from diplomatic postings in Europe, Monroe “turned to the task of making Highland a profitable farming enterprise, along the lines of what Washington had done at Mount Vernon. Instead of tobacco, which exhausted soil nutrients in four to six years, he converted his lands to fields of grain, some of which he processed in his own mill and still....To keep his fields fertile, he rotated his crops, setting some fields aside for a season of clover, limed with plaster of plaster – a practice he had learned in France to revitalize the soil.”46

For the Founders, practice followed observation. Historian Garry Willis noted Jefferson’s attention to observation and records: “Year after year Jefferson recorded the first appearance of each species of bird, the year’s first frog or butterfly, the time of every flower’s opening.”47 Jefferson scholar Jack McLaughlin wrote: “There is a record, for example, of his counting the number of garden peas that make a pint – 2,500. One puzzles over the kind of personality that would engage in and record this kind of event. But he as ardent a gardener as he was a reader, this record allowed him to determine the exact number of rows of peas that a pint of seed would produce. And peas were his favorite vegetable. While in Washington he recorded, over a period of eight years, the days of the month of the earliest and latest appearance of some thirty-seven varieties of fruit and vegetables at the Washington vegetable market. One asks, what earthly reason could have motivated him to seek this information? The response is that the data enabled him to compare the agricultural climate of Washington with that of other parts of the country, particularly with Monticello, where he kept parallel accounts of the harvest dates of a long list of garden products.”48 Historian Charles T. Harrison noted that Jefferson “planted more than a hundred different species of trees at Monticello, and several hundred species of shrubs and herbaceous plants.”49

arry Wills noted on July 4, 1766, Jefferson merely recorded “an entry on the purchase of a thermometer and seven pairs of women’s gloves, the amount he gave to charity, and four readings of the temperature.”50 The breadth of Jefferson’s interests was breathtaking. Historian Bernard Bailyn noted that Jefferson “was a fabulous polymath: politician, diplomat, architect, draftsman, connoisseur of painting, anthropologist, bibliophile, classicist, musician, lawyer, educator, oenologist, farm manager, agronomist, theologian (or rather, antitheologian), and amateur of almost every branch of science from astronomy to zoology, with special emphasis on paleontology.”51 Jefferson himself saw agriculture as “a science of the very first order. It counts among its handmaids the most respectable sciences such as chemistry, natural philosophy, mechanics, mathematics generally, natural history, botany.”52

In December 1778, John Adams wrote to a Massachusetts friend from France that “it is some Comfort to me to think that I shall be soon a private Farmer, as well as you, and both pursuing our Experiments in Husbandry.”53 Adams was not as dedicated a scientific observer as Jefferson but as American minister to England in the late 1780s, he also took trips and walks in the countryside. “Once, for no reason other than intellectual curiosity, Adams rode to Windsor to call on the famous English Astronomer Sir William Herschel, whose crowning achievement had been the discovery of the planet Uranus,” wrote Adams biographer David McCullough. Adams’ daughter “recorded that she had never known her father so gratified by a visit of any kind.”54 At one point in 1786, Jefferson visited Adams in London on a diplomatic mission. Together the two men took a vacation – visiting twenty houses in the English countryside guided by a book called Observations on Modern Gardening. Three decades later in December 1818, Adams wrote Jefferson: “There is nothing to try Mens Souls nor to excite Mens Soul but Agriculture. And I say, God speed the Plough, and prosper [the] stone Wall.”55

After leaving the presidency in 1801, John Adams retired to his 600-acre farm, whose name he changed from Stoneyfield to Peacefield. “Adams loved joining in the work as much as ever – for the exercise and ‘pure air,’ the companionship of men he had known and worked with for years, and the pride he took in seeing things done just so. But it all had to be taken with utmost seriousness. Stoneyfield was no gentleman’s farm and he no gentleman farmer,” wrote biographer David McCullough.56 Biographer James Grant noted: “Adams never had a cross word for the soil. On the circuit he collected information on local farming methods to use in improving his own property. Agriculture was not only a source of income but also a cherished avocation. He thought long and hard about his fences, watercourses, property lines, livestock, and fertilizer.”57

Historian John Ferling, however, contended that Adams “frequently recited his love of farm, but he was not really a farmer. He hired two servants and two farmhands, and placed the four largely under Abigail’s management.” Still, Adams “certainly performed more physical labor in his fields and marshlands than either [Washington or Jefferson]. Adams occasionally dug ditches, shoveled and transported manure, spread fertilizer, slaughtered livestock, and worked under the hot sun in his fields both at harvest time in the early autumn and in May, July, and September when the hay was stacked following the mowing of the meadows.”58

Adams and Jefferson shared a interest in the basics of country living. On one solitary rural English walk, according to Jack Shepherd in The Adams Chronicles, Adams “‘carefully examined’ large ‘heaps of Manure’ and found them ‘composed of Straw, and dung from the Stables and Streets of London, mud, clay, or Marl, dug out of the Ditch, along the Hedge, and Turf, Sward cutt up, with Spades, hoes and shovels in the Road. This is laid in vast heaps to mix.”59 Adams’ interest in manure was practical and recurring. Indeed, historian Edmund Morgan observed that Adams “had a positive obsession with manure.”60 A decade earlier, soon after Abigail Adams’ suffered a miscarriage, Adams began his next letter with the earthy statement: “I am sorry to find by your late Letter what indeed I expected to hear, that my Farm wants manure.” It was, after all, Abigail who was the real farmer in the family. Friend James Warren wrote Adams that Mrs. Adams “was like to outshine all farmers.”61

Adams biographer James Grant wrote that Adams loved farm work, “including the sweaty and earthy parts.”62 John Ferling certainly overstated the case when he wrote: “Adams...never displayed any inclination to practice scientific agriculture on his farm, nor ever evinced much interest in scientific pursuits in his correspondence. “63 Historian Edmund S. Morgan wrote that Adams “sank the profits from his law practice, which were not great, into buying more land for his farm. He was always daydreaming about it when his mind should have been on more important business.” Morgan noted that Adams “was forever writing in his diaries and his letters about the land he was clearing, the stone walls he was building, and the mountains of manure he was acquiring or was going to acquire – especially the last.”64

Adams’ observations on manure were not unique to him. In a brief retirement at Monticello in the mid-1790s, one of Thomas Jefferson’s interests was “the ideal process for making manure,” according to historian Joseph Ellis.65 George Washington took the study even further. In the 1760s he paid close attention to the composition of compost on his plantation, – making sure that it contained the right amount of sheep dung and cow dung. Late in life, Washington investigated the possibility of manufacturing non-organic fertilizers. Washington began his study of manure when as a teenager he visited Barbados. “Their dung they are very careful in saving, and curious in making which they do by throwing up large heaps of Earth and a number of Stakes drove therein Sufficient for Sixteen head of Cattle to Stand seperately tied too [sic] which they are three months together trampling all the trash etc[.] and then its fit to manure the Ground.”66

Both Jefferson and Washington applied their ingenuity to agriculture and did so enthusiastically. “No occupation is so delightful as is the culture of the earth,” wrote Jefferson in 1811.67 According to Jefferson biographer Dumas Malone, “Nothing was more characteristic of him than his concern to free mankind from the scourge of communicable disease; and, just as he hoped that farmers could make their own plows after his model, he wanted vaccination to be brought to the level of common capacities, so that it could be practiced by the mass of people in their own homes without expense.”68 Scholar M. L. Wilson noted that Jefferson’s preoccupation with the design of his moldboard plow “engaged Jefferson’s mind from time to time for more than a quarter of a century.”69 Thomas Jewett noted that Jefferson’s plow was designed to dig deeper than ordinary plows: “With this tool he could plow to a depth of about six inches.”70 Jefferson wrote Charles Peace in 1813: ‘Our country is hilly and we have been in the habit of plou[g]hing in straight rows whether up and down, in oblique lines, or however they lead; and our soil was rapidly running into rivers. We now plough horizontally, following the curvatures of the hills and hollows, on the dead level, however crooked the lines may be. Every furrow thus acts as a reservoir to receive and retain the waters, all of which go to the benefit of the growing plant, instead of running off into the streams.”71

Though unquestionably a confirmed city-dweller, Benjamin Franklin bought a New Jersey farm after he retired from the printing business in 1748. “Apparently he turned his farm into a sort of miniature experiment station, carrying on projects in drainage, in crop rotation, and especially in the utilization of the newer grasses and liming and fertilization,” wrote historian Earle D. Ross. “With Jared Eliot he exchanged seeds and plants and compared the experiences of sandy Jersey with those of rocky New England.”72 America’s foremost scientist and inventor described his efforts to cultivate part of the three hundred acre spread in a letter to a friend: “This meadow had been ditched and planted with Indian corn, of which it produced about sixty bushels per acre. I first scoured up my ditches and drains, and took off all the weeks; then I ploughed it and sowed it with oats in the last of May [1748]. In July I mowed them down, together with the weeds which grew plentifully among them, and they made good fodder. I immediately ploughed it again and kept harrowing till there was an appearance of rain; and, on the 23d of August, I sowed near thirty acres with red clover and herd-grass, allowing six quarts of herd-grass and four pounds of red clover to an acre in most parts of it; in other parts, four quarts herd-grass and three pounds red clover. The red clover came up in four days and the herd-grass in six days; and I now find that where I allowed the most seed it protects itself better against the frost.”73

The management of Franklin’s farm reflected his meticulous, scientific side: “I would know every particular relating to this Matter [of a particular kind of hedge], as the best Thickness, Height, and slope of the Bank; the Manner of erecting it, the best Time for the Work, the best Way of planting the Hedge, the Price of the Work to Labourers per Rod or Perch, and whatever may be of Use for our information here, who being in many Places to be at a Loss for Wood to make Fence with,” Franklin wrote.74 Eventually, the farm would be turned over to Franklin’s son and later to his grandson. Ever-practical Franklin cherished the practical over the classical. Historian Earle D. Ross wrote that “many years in advance of his time, Franklin advocated instruction in the science and practice of agriculture. In his proposal for the Philadelphia Academy in 1759 he included the oft-quoted suggestion: ‘While they are reading Natural History, might not a little Gardening, Planting, Grafting, Inoculating, etc., be taught and practiced; and now and then Excursions made to the neighbouring Plantations of the best Farmers, their methods observ’d and reason’d upon for the information of Youth?”75

And as a diplomat, Franklin was an agricultural agent for American farmers. “The great business of the continent is agriculture,” wrote Franklin late in life. “We are sons of the earth and seas, and, like Anteus in the fable, if in wrestling with a Hercules we now and then receive a fall, the touch of our parents will communicate to us fresh strength and vigor to renew the contest.” As early as 1751, Franklin had written: “Land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap as that a labouring man, that understands husbandry, can in a short time save money enough to purchase a piece of new land sufficient for a plantation, whereon he may subsist a family, such are not afraid to marry; for, if they even look far enough forward to consider how their children, when grown up, are to e provided for, they see that more land is to be had at rates equally easy, all circumstances considered.”76 Franklin never liked to work any more than necessary – although he always liked to appear to work hard as a young man. “Agriculture may diminish its labor and double its produce,” he predicted – perhaps wishfully.77

Clearly, Franklin appreciated the economic impact of agriculture. In 1769, Franklin wrote Henry Home in 1769: “There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbours. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way...wrought by the hand of God in his favour, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.”78 Biographer Carl Van Doren observed that “Franklin was one of the earliest Americans to perceive that the agricultural resources of the country should not be wasted, and that farming must be something of a business and a science as well as a way of life.”79

Alexander Hamilton was just as urban and even less a farmer than Franklin – although after building “The Grange” in northern Manhattan, he facetiously referred to himself as a one. Hamilton wrote a more expert friend about his small farm in Harlem: “In this new situation, for which I am as little fitted as Jefferson [is] to guide the helm of the U[nited] States, I come to you as an adept in rural science for instruction.”80 Nevertheless, later in the same year of 1802, after he had largely retired from active politics, Hamilton acknowledged: “A garden, you know, is a very useful refuge of a disappointed politician.”81 Still, noted biographer Ron Chernow, “Hamilton was a quintessentially urban man, who preferred to commune with books, not running brooks.” Treasury Secretary Hamilton’s powers of observation were focused on finance and manufacturing. His observations were more commercial than botanical. Chernow wrote: “During his second day in office, he issued a circular to all customs collectors, demanding exact figures of the duties accumulated in each state. When they sent back suspiciously low numbers, Hamilton, who knew something about smuggling from St. Croix [where he grew up], suspected that it must be rife along the eastern seaboard.”82

To research his Report on Manufactures in 1791, “the indefatigable Hamilton canvassed manufacturers and revenue collectors, quizzing them in detail about the state of production in their districts. As usual, he aspired to know everything: the number of factories in each district, the volume of goods produced, their prices and quality, the spurs and checks to production provided by state governments,” wrote Chernow. “To obtain a firsthand feel for American wares, he even wanted to touch them, to feel them. ‘It would also be acceptable to me,’ he told revenue supervisors, ‘to have samples in cases in which it could be done with convenience and without expence.’ As he accumulated swatches – wool from Connecticut, carpets from Massachusetts – Hamilton, with a flair for showmanship, laid them out in the committee room of the House of Representatives, as if operating a small trade fair, an altogether new form of lobbying.”83 Biographer Forrest McDonald noted: “A number of powerful, influential, and strong-willed men in government, foremost among them, James Madison, failed to perceive that Hamilton’s newly acquired storehouse of information placed his understanding qualitatively beyond their reach; like Hamilton’s friend [Robert] Troup, they underestimated his capacity for research and were therefore inclined to mistake his depth for facility. That mistake, together with Hamilton’s facile manner, his unwillingness to suffer fools gladly, and his natural combativeness, was certain to generate misunderstanding and probably conflict.”84

Princeton University president John Witherspoon, the leading clergyman of the American Revolution, was also an amateur farmer. According to biographer Jeffry H. Morrison, Witherspoon “experimented with horticulture at his country home, Tusculum (he liked to style himself a ‘scientific gardener’), and, more important, was elected a member of the scientifically minded American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia in 1769...Witherspoon was appointed to the Committee on Mechanics and Architecture and the Committee on Husbandry and American Improvements.”85 Even Rev. Witherspoon used slaves to work his 500-acre farm.

Both Jefferson and Franklin paid particular attention to the weather – collecting data to help the nascent art of weather prediction. Biographer Alf J. Mapp, Jr., observed that one “factor that gave value to Jefferson’s observations was the superb organization of his intellect. The foyer at Monticello might be cluttered with seemingly meaningless array of curiosities that had engaged his attention, and the floor of his study might be covered with books and papers, but his mind automatically classified the vast amount of data that came to it through reading, conversation, and scientific examination. His skill in communicating his observations both evidence his high competence in organization and increased their value to others.”86

The Founders had a keen interest in numbers. As biographer Paul Johnson observed: “Washington was an excellent mathematician with a positive gift for logistics. His accounts were always reliable (unlike Jefferson’s which, though copious, often do not add up or make any sense).”87 Historian Alf J. Mapp, Jr., wrote of Washington: “A self-taught architect who transformed a modest dwelling into the beautiful Mount Vernon, a knowledgeable collector and commissioner of significant paintings, and a lover of music, Washington was even more zealous in the pursuit of facts. Before Washington was a national leader. His participation in the Continental Congress of 1774 elicited from Patrick Henry an impressive compliment: ‘If you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the great man on that floor.”88

Washington and Jefferson both analyzed agricultural data. Franklin and Jefferson analyzed American demographic data. “By natural increase alone, [Franklin] declared, the population of the continental colonies doubled every twenty to twenty-five years, hence in another century the greatest number of Englishmen would be living on this side of the Atlantic.”89 Jefferson’s grandson remembered that Jefferson’s “powers of conversation were great, yet he always turned it to subjects most familiar to those with whom he conversed, whether laborer, mechanic, or other; and if they displayed sound judgement and a knowledge of the subject, entered the information they gave, under appropriate heads, for reference, embodying thus a mass of facts upon the practical details of everyday life.” John Adams tried to pass on the pursuit of observation to his oldest son, writing the young Harvard Student that he should observe and question his teachers: “Ask them about their tutors; manner of teaching. Observe what books lie on their tables....”90 Scholar Michael Novak noted that “from his youth, Adams had loved historical research...and had made himself master of Anglo-Saxon law, canon law, the laws of the Germanic tribes, classical Greek and Latin authors, and of course the laws of Great Britain.”91

The Founders’ powers of observation also found more theoretical outlets. They were students of political theory and public affairs. Historian Gordon S. Wood wrote: “As early as 1775 Edmund Burke had noted in the House of Commons that the colonists’ intensive study of law and politics had made them acutely inquisitive and sensitive about their liberties. Where the people of other countries had invoked principles only after they had endured ‘an actual grievance,’ the Americans, said Burke, were anticipating their grievances and resorting to principles even before they actually suffered.”92 Historian Forrest McDonald wrote that “between 1776 and 1787, increasing numbers of public men took the trouble to learn about the history of republics and to study the writings of theorists of republicanism; and many who did so displayed their erudition in orations and in political tracts published in the newspapers.”93

Planter George Mason was one of the most influential and well-studied of the Founders – although he also one of those most reluctant to assume public roles. His academic studies led to the creation of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights that was adopted by the Virginia legislature in June 1776. Mason biographer Robert A. Rutland wrote: “The intellectual armament Mason brought to the debates had been in perfect working order. Unconsciously he had been preparing for just such an encounter since the first stepped into his uncle’s library at Marlborough. Mason knew the strengths and weaknesses of the ancient republics as well as he knew the strengths and weaknesses of his Gunston Hall field hands. He had charted his way so thoroughly through English constitutional history that every significant precedent was recorded in his mind as a guidepost for future reference.”94

James Madison, like Mason a delegate on the Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention, was himself a practical political scientist and the most systematic scholar of the Founding – particularly on the history of republican government. Historian William Lee Miller noted that “in preparation for the Annapolis convention [in 1786] and what might followed, surrounded by his books, Madison undertook his study of the constitutions of ancient and modern republics.” Madison’s research was exhaustive – in part because of the books he had collected with the help of Thomas Jefferson in Paris who sent him at least two trunks. Miller noted that Madison “was regularly the best prepared and the most well read of the participants in the many political events through which he lived for half a century. He persuaded others by having the facts and the ideas, the knowledge and the thought, already worked out more deeply and thoroughly than any one else present.”95

Jefferson’s pursuits were similarly scholarly. Biographer Willard Sterne Randall wrote that “Much of Jefferson’s revolutionary political thinking as well as his later diplomatic and presidential writing were influenced by a combination of his studies of Enlightenment philosophes and his nearly twenty years of studying the laws of biblical, Greek and Roman eras up to much more recent writings by scholars of English Common Law and Continental law. His early legal studies were often the result of pioneering cases on slavery, divorce, and religious freedom that he took on without fee and argued before Virginia’s highest court. His preeminence as a constitutional lawyer, therefore, helps to explain his selection as the leading legal spokesman of the American Revolution.”96

Jefferson’s colleague on the drafting committee for the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, also took a scholarly approach. In a “Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law,” Adams wrote: “Let us study the law of nature; search into the spirit of the British constitution; read the histories of ancient ages; contemplate the great examples of Greece and Rome; set before us the conduct of our own British ancestors, who have defended for us the inherent rights of man-kind against foreign and domestic tyrants and usurpers, against arbitrary kings and cruel priests, in short, against the gates of earth and hell. Let us read and recollect and impress upon our souls the views and ends of our own more immediate forefathers, in exchanging their native country for a dreary, inhospitable wilderness. Let us examine into the nature of that power, and the cruelty of that oppression, which drove them from their homes. Recollect their amazing fortitude, their bitter sufferings,—the hunger, the nakedness, the cold, which they patiently endured,—the severe labors of clearing their grounds, building their houses, raising their provisions, amidst dangers from wild beasts and savage men, before they had time or money or materials for commerce.””97 Adams biographer James Grant wrote that Adams used his knowledge of political theory and practice to write the Massachusetts constitution: “Adams set about amortizing the cost of a quarter-century’s reading and writing. As a practicing lawyer, he had sometimes coveted the wealth of his more acquisitive colleagues. In those green moods, he would chastise himself for squandering his resources on study. Now it was legal and historical knowledge that the times demanded. He knew, as few others did, the Massachusetts charter of 1691. He had read the new American constitutions in the light of the great political philosophers.”98

Washington’s observations were less bookish than Adams’ but equally important. James Madison wrote of Washington that although not “idolizing public opinion, no man could be more attentive to the means for ascertaining it.” According to Madison, George Washington “spared no pains to gain information from all quarters; freely asking from all whom he held in esteem...a free communication of their sentiments.”99 In his twenties, Washington observed British military practices. “Immersing himself in the details of army life, Washington studied firsthand how to be a general. Each day, he borrowed the orders of the day and copied them into his journal, learning to emulate their forms and their language. He also made friends with Braddock’s aides and officers,” wrote biographer Willard Sterne Randall.100 Biographer John Ferling wrote of Washington’s early experiences in the French and Indian War, that he became of keen student and observer: “He had worked diligently to discover what made an officer an effective leader. He found that he must keep some distance between himself and those beneath him. He discovered too that while it was unwise to be unfriendly, and imprudent to be acerbic, a formal demeanor set the proper tone. He never lost sight of the fact that he was their leader, not their friend. He sought their trust, even their love. Yet he never desired intimacy or real familiarity with his underlings. His aide-de-camp best described Washington. The colonel habitually manifested ‘a commanding countenance,’ he remarked.”101

he Founders’ generation understood the power of observation. Ezra Stiles, who became president of Yale, recorded temperature and other weather data for more than three decades. The Founders were particularly keen observers of nature – both Jefferson and Franklin spent transatlantic voyages making observations and spent their time in Europe seeking new knowledge. Biographer Carl Van Doren wrote: “Going about ordinary affairs, he was more curious than ordinary men and followed up what they only looked at. The ants he observed were in his closet, the pigeons in a box on the wall of his house. To warm his house, he devised a new kind of stove. To protect his house, he thought of the lightning rod. Watching the weather, he followed in his mind the course of a north-east storm for a thousand miles. Out of sympathy for his ailing brother he fashioned his catheter. Science came so naturally to him that he blamed himself for not being more patient and systematic.”102 On his very last transatlantic trip, Franklin reconfirmed earlier observations about the Gulf Stream current that warmed Europe.

Franklin “was the world-renowned tamer of lightning, the man who had disarmed the heavens, who had vanquished superstition with reasons. Into Enlightenment Paris he rode on his own coattails,” wrote Franklin chronicler Stacy Schiff. “He was America’s first international celebrity.”103 What he left in the field of ideas was equally important. Biographer Carl Van Doren wrote that on this last voyage Franklin composed “his Maritime Observations, in form [of] a letter to Julien-David Le Roy, brother of Franklin’s electrical friend, took up the rigging of ships; a device to keep hausers from breaking at the sudden swell of a wave; the use of water-tight compartments in a ship to prevent sinking (an early and important contribution); fire, lightning, collision with other ships or icebergs; the construction and operation of Pacific proas, Eskimo kayaks, Indian canoes; paddlewheels to serve as auxiliary to the wind; swinging anchors to retard the motion of vessels during gales in water too deep for anchorage; the Gulf Stream’s cause and uses; improved diet for sailors; suggestions for the management of lifeboats and escape from wrecks; advice to passengers as to the stores they should taken with them on shipboard. Once Franklin intended to stop, ‘but the garrulity of an old man has got hold of me, and, as I may never have another occasion of writing on this subject, I think I may as well now, once and for all, empty my nautical budget.’” He continued in encyclopædic high spirits and ended with a paragraph on the evil uses of navigation in transporting useless luxuries and carrying on the cruel slave trade.”104 Van Doren wrote: “Franklin had always taken knowledge where he found it. At seat in 1757, bound for London, he noticed that two of the ships left wakes which were smoother than the others. The captain supposed the cooks had emptied greasy water through the scuppers.” So Franklin devised an experiment to demonstrate that oil calmed stormy waters. Van Doren noted: “No one had Franklin’s knack at the large experiments which could stir a general curiosity.”105 Many Founding Mothers were as curious as the Founding Fathers. The self-educated Abigail Adams was widely known for her opinions. Benjamin Franklin said of his wife Deborah: “I always discovered that she knew what I did not know; and if something had escaped me, I could be certain that this was precisely what she had grasped.”106

America was Franklin’s and the Founders’ greatest experiment – scientific agriculture at its best. The one in which the Founders had the greatest and most lasting success. The country the Founders planted, water and fertilized would grow to be a healthy hybrid. Time, distance, and myth have reduced appreciation of how much the Founders were studying hard and experimenting diligently – borrowing from other models, modern and ancient. Historian Gordon S. Wood noted: “The coherence and significance of the Americans’ incredible jumble of references from every conceivable time and place come ultimately from the overriding purpose to which these references were put – the understanding of what John Adams called ‘the divine science of politics.’”107 Wood observed that “by the early nineteenth century fact-collecting had become a national obsession. Americans collected data of all sorts – the number of tanneries, paper mills, distilleries, and so on in each state; the number of people in various villages who had lived to eighty, ninety, or a hundred; the number of leaves on a tree. No one could divine to what use all these ‘authentic facts’ might be put; all they knew was that ‘the history of human science is a collection of facts,’ and the facts could speak for themselves.”108

  1. (Letter from George Washington to Arthur Young, December 4, 1788).
  2. (Letter from Robert J. Hunter, November 17, 1785).
  3. Richard Norton Smith, Patrician, p. 138.
  4. John E. Ferling, The First of Men: A Life of George Washington, p. 64.
  5. Garry Wills, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment, p. 232.
  6. James Morton Smith, Washington: A Profile, p. 156 (Harold W. Bradley, “The Political Thinking of George Washington”).
  7. James Morton Smith, Washington: A Profile, p. 50 (Samuel Eliot Morrison, “The Young Man Washington”).
  8. Willard Sterne Randall, George Washington: A Life, p. 202.
  9. Garry Wills, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment, p. 232.
  10. Joel Achenbach, The Grand Idea: George Washington’s Potomac and the Race to the West, p. 32.
  11. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, June 28, 1893).
  12. Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect: George Washington, His Slaves and the Creation of America, p. 104.
  13. Garry Wills, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment, p. 233.
  14. John E. Ferling, The First of Men: A Life of George Washington, p. 330.
  15. Albert Bushnell Hart, George Washington as a Business Man, Bulletin of the Business Historical Society, January 1931, p. 15.
  16. John Ferling, Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution, p. 46.
  17. Paul Johnson, George Washington: The Founding Father, p. 44.
  18. Willard Sterne Randall, George Washington: A Life, p. 210.
  19. Joel Achenbach, The Grand Idea: George Washington’s Potomac and the Race to the West, p. 201.
  20. Walter Stahr, John Jay, Founding Father, p. 243.
  21. Willard Sterne Randall, George Washington: A Life, pp. 414-415.
  22. Thomas J. Fleming, The Man from Monticello, p. 3.
  23. Alf J. Mapp, Thomas Jefferson: Passionate Pilgrim, p. 216.
  24. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia.
  25. Richard Brookhiser, Alexander Hamilton: American, p. 105.
  26. Claude G. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America, p. 81.
  27. Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson, p. 168.
  28. Willard Sterne Randall, Thomas Jefferson: A Life, p. 273.
  29. Andrew Levy, The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Cater, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves, p. 43.
  30. (Thomas Jefferson, April 29, 1804).
  31. Willard Sterne Randall, Thomas Jefferson: A Life, p. 569.
  32. M. L. Wilson, “Thomas Jefferson - Farmer,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, June 14, 1943, p. 218.
  33. (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia).
  34. Roger G. Kennedy, Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase, p. 17.
  35. Claude G. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America, p. 99.
  36. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Marquis de Lafayette, April 11, 1787).
  37. John P. Foley, editor, The Jefferson Cyclopedia, p. 25.
  38. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, April 11, 1787).
  39. Donald Jackson, Thomas Jefferson and the Rocky Mountains: Exploring the West from Monticello, p. 69.
  40. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, May 4, 1787).
  41. James Parton, Life of Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States, p. 308.
  42. M. L. Wilson, “Thomas Jefferson - Farmer,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, June 14, 1943, p. 218-219.
  43. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to M. Giroud, May 22, 1797).
  44. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Charles Wilson Peale, April 17, 1813).
  45. Roger G. Kennedy, Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase, p. 47.
  46. Harlow Giles Unger, The Last Founding Father, p. 202.
  47. Garry Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, p. 118.
  48. Jack McLaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder, p. 22.
  49. Charles T. Harrison, “Review of Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766-1824", William and Mary Quarterly, January 1945, p. 105.
  50. Garry Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, p. 119.
  51. Bernard Bailyn, To Begin The World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders, p. 41.
  52. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to David Williams, November 14, 1803).
  53. (Letter from John Adams to James Warren, December 2, 1778).
  54. David McCullough, John Adams, p. 343.
  55. (Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, December 30, 1818).
  56. David McCullough, John Adams, p. 572.
  57. James Grant, John Adams: Party of One, p. 102.
  58. John Ferling, Setting the World: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution, p. 55.
  59. Jack Shepherd, The Adams Chronicles: Four Generations of Greatness, p. 133.
  60. Edmund S. Morgan, The Meaning of Independence: John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, p. 6.
  61. David McCullough, John Adams, p. 171.
  62. James Grant, John Adams: Party of One, p. 31.
  63. John Ferling, John Adams: A Life, p. 174.
  64. Edmund S. Morgan, The Meaning of Independence: John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, p. 6.
  65. Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, p. 173.
  66. Paul Zall, editor, Washington on Washington, p. 11.
  67. (Letter from Jefferson to Charles Willson Peale, August 20, 1811).
  68. Dumas Malone, Jefferson the President: First Term 1801-1805, p. 185.
  69. M. L. Wilson, “Thomas Jefferson - Farmer,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, June 14, 1943, p. 219.
  70. Thomas Jewett, “Thomas Jefferson: Agronomist,”Early America, Summer-Fall, 2005, http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/2005_summer_fall/agronomist.htm.
  71. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Charles Willson Peale, April 17, 1813).
  72. Earle D. Ross, “Benjamin Franklin as an Agricultural Leader,” The Journal of Political Economy, February 1929, p. 55.
  73. Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin, pp. 177-178.
  74. (Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Jared Elliot, October 25, 1750).
  75. Earle D. Ross, “Benjamin Franklin as an Agricultural Leader,” The Journal of Political Economy, February 1929, p. 58.
  76. Esmond Wright, editor, Benjamin Franklin: His Life as He Wrote It, p. 124. (“Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, People of Countries, Etc,” 1751).
  77. James Parton, The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, p. 413.
  78. Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution, p. 108.
  79. Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin, p. 178.
  80. (Letter from Alexander Hamilton to Richard Peters, January 29, 1802).
  81. (Letter from Alexander Hamilton to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, December 29, 1802).
  82. Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, p. 640, 292.
  83. Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, p. 375.
  84. Forrest McDonald, Alexander Hamilton: A Biography, p. 140.
  85. Jeffry H. Morrison, John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic, p. 7.
  86. Alf J. Mapp, Jr., Thomas Jefferson: Passionate Pilgrim, p. 372.
  87. Paul Johnson, George Washington: The Founding Father, p. 9.
  88. Alf J. Mapp, Jr., The Faiths of Our Fathers: What America’s Founders Really Believed, p. 71.
  89. Verner W. Crane, Benjamin Franklin and a Rising People, p. 69.
  90. David McCullough, John Adams, p. 364.
  91. Michael Novak, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding, p. 168.
  92. Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, pp. 4-5.
  93. Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution, p. 67.
  94. Robert A. Rutland, George Mason: Reluctant Statesman, pp. 56-57.
  95. William Lee Miller, The Business of May Next: James Madison & the Founding, pp. 7, 10.
  96. Willard Sterne Randall, Thomas Jefferson: A Life, pp. xvii-xviii.
  97. John Adams, “Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law,” 1765.
  98. James Grant, John Adams: Party of One, p. 222.
  99. Paul Zall, editor, Washington on Washington, p. xv.
  100. Willard Sterne Randall, George Washington: A Life, pp. 120-121.
  101. John Ferling,Setting the World: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution, p.f 33.
  102. Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin, p. 182.
  103. Stacy Schiff, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America, p. 2.
  104. Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin, p. 727.
  105. Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin, p. 436.
  106. Cokie Roberts, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, p. 26.
  107. Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787, p. 8.
  108. Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, pp. 360-361.
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