Envisaging the West: Thomas Jefferson and the Roots of Lewis and Clark


Letter from Ezra Stiles to Thomas Jefferson

Ezra Stiles to Thomas Jefferson, May 8, 1786
Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress
Ezra Stiles pens a note to Thomas Jefferson, introducing Samuel Wales of Yale University. Stiles also prefaces the enclosed letter from Samuel Parsons (see Samuel Parsons to Ezra Stiles, April 27, 1786.)

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Yale College May 8, 1786


I wrote a Letter last Winter acknowledging the Receipt of your Letter of last Summer, July of which I recieved latter End October - and afterwards the Packet of Books you was so obliging as to send me viz Connossance des Temps 5 Volumes and Bibliotheque Physics Economique four Volumes which at length came to my hand thro the hands of Dr. Johnson member of Congress. They were a Feast to me for which give me leave to repeat my Thanks.

It was but a few days since Dr. Wales thought of trying the Ocean, tis in a Voyage to Europe for his Health and but late last Evening that he concluded to depart this day at noon. This is the true Reason why you are not troubled with a longer Letter on some Things in natural History & Philosophy. I was mistaken in thinking the Ohio Teeth & Bones did not belong to the Elephant. Your learned Letter led me to reexamine the Skeleton of the Elephant in the Phil. Transactions. - But what is not decisive with me is the Tusks found at the Ohio, which are indubitably Elephants.

I inclose a Drawing of works of Earth in Lines of Circumvallation found at Muskingham Maps: on Ohio Maps: , lately taken by Genl. Parsons on the Spot. This with Bricks, seven pieces of Earthen Ware Jug up in the Kentucky Country, shew that there have been

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European or Asiatic Inhabt there in antient ages altho long extirpated. Capt Smith, your antient Virginia Adventurer, says they found some among the Indians who descended from those who read in a Book. I have but a moment, to beg leave to introduce & recommend to your Benevolence the Reverend Wales D.D. Professor of Divty in this College. Col Humphry can inform you he is one of worthiest Characters. I have had in younger years & middle Life a great sense of Honor. -- I have in old age a sense of the high honor of your Friendship - great however as this is, give me Leave however nevertheless to say the exquisite Pleasures of Science are so far Superior to all those that I ardently long for & am even ravished with Literary Comunications. This age will digest the Literature of Ages past - the Result will be glorious. The stages of this Result & the progressive Discoveries & Reasoning thereupon, will ever be highly pleasurable. I know of no Man that that will notice & observe this with greater Attention & Acumen than Gov. Jefferson nor any from whom I can promise my self greater Delights whenever he pleases to honor with a letter.

His most obliged & Humble Sevt
Ezra Stiles