Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO CHARLES THOMSON - The Works, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789)
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TO CHARLES THOMSON - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 5.
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TO CHARLES THOMSON
Paris Sep. 20, 1787.
—Your favor of April 28 did not come to my hands till the 1st inst. Unfortunately the boxes of plants, which were a day too late to come by the April packet, missed the packet of June 10 also, & only came by that of July 25. They are not yet arrived at Paris, but I expect them daily. I am sensible of your kind attention to them, and that as you were leaving New York you took the course which bade fair to be the best. That they were forgotten in the hands in which you placed them, was probably owing to too much business & more important. I have desired Mr. Madison to refund to you the money you were so kind as to advance for me. The delay of your letter will apologize for this delay of the repayment. I thank you also for the extract of the letter you were so kind as to communicate to me on the antiquities found in the Western country. I wish that the persons who go thither would make very exact descriptions of what they see of that kind, without forming any theories. The moment a person forms a theory his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that theory. But it is too early to form theories on those antiquities. We must wait with patience till more facts are collected. I wish your philosophical society would collect exact descriptions of the several monuments as yet known, and insert them naked in their Transactions, and continue their attention to those hereafter to be discovered. Patience & observation may enable us in time to solve the problem whether those who formed the scattering monuments in our Western country, were colonies sent off from Mexico, or the founders of Mexico itself? Whether both were the descendants or the progenitors of the Asiatic redmen. The Mexican tradition mentioned by Dr. Robertson, is an evidence, but a feeble one, in favor of the one opinion. The number of languages radically different, is a strong evidence in favor of the contrary one. There is an American of the name of Ledyard, he who was with Captain Cook on his last voyage & wrote an account of that voyage, who is gone to St. Petersburg, from thence he was to go to Kamschatka, to cross over thence to the northwest coast of America, & to penetrate through the main continent to our side of it. He is a person of ingenuity & information. Unfortunately he has too much imagination. However, if he escapes safely, he will give us new, curious, & useful information. I had a letter from him dated last March, when he was about to leave St. Petersburgh on his way to Kamschatka.
With respect to the information of the strata of rocks, I had observed them between the Blue Ridge & North Mountain in Virginia to be parallel with the pole of the earth. I observed the same thing in most instances in the Alps between Cette & Turin: but in returning along the precipices of the Pyrinees1 where they hang over the Mediterranean, their direction was totally different and various; and you mention that in our Western country they are horizontal. This variety proves they have not been formed by subsidence as some writers of theories of the earth have pretended, for then they should always have been in circular strata, & concentric. It proves too that they have not been formed by the rotation of the earth on its axis, as might have been suspected had all these strata been parallel with that axis. They may indeed have been thrown up by explosions, as Whitehurst supposes, or have been the effect of convulsions. But there can be no proof of the explosion, nor is it probable that convulsions have deformed every spot of the earth. It is now generally agreed that rock grows, and it seems that it grows in layers in every direction, as the branches of trees grow in all directions. Why seek further the solution of this phenomenon? Everything in nature decays. If it were not reproduced then by growth, there would be a chasm. I remember you asked me in a former letter whether the steam mill in London was turned by the steam immediately or by the intermediate agency of water raised by the steam. When I was in London Boulton made a secret of his mill. Therefore I was permitted to see it only superficially. I saw no water wheels, & therefore supposed none. I answered you accordingly that there were none. But when I was at Nismes, I went to see the steam mill there, & they showed it to me in all its parts. I saw that their steam raised water, & that this water turned a wheel. I expressed my doubts of the necessity of the inter-agency of water, & that the London mill was without it. But they supposed me mistaken; perhaps I was so; I have had no opportunity since of clearing up the doubt. * * *
[1 ]Jefferson meant Apennines.