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


Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Hutchins

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Hutchins, January 24, 1784
Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson writes to geographer Thomas Hutchins with questions and remarks about one of Hutchins' pamphlets, "A Topographical Description of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina, Comprehending the Rivers Ohio, Kenhawa, Sioto, Cherokee, Wabash, Illinois, Mississippi, &c...With a Plan of the Rapids of the Ohio, A Plan of the Several Villages in the Illinois Country, a Table of the Distances Between Fort Pitt and the Mouth of the Ohio." In his remarks, Jefferson notes several mistakes in the work.

Annapolis Jan. 24. 1784.

I have been recurring to your pamphlet (which I borrowed for that purpose) for the times at which the inundations begin & end in the Missouri Maps: , Missisipi Maps: , Illinois Maps: , Ohio Maps: , Wabache Maps: , but I do not find it mentioned there. Will you be so kind as to give me as accurate an account of these times as you can? Does the Tanissee overflow periodically? I suppose not. Will you give me leave to correct an error in your pamphlet page 13, where you say that the country extending from Fort Pitt Maps: to the Missisipi Maps: & on both sides watered by the Ohio Maps: & it's branches contains at least a million of square miles. I think the Ohio Maps: in all it's parts & branches cannot water more than the fourth of that. Count the degrees in your map into which it pushes it's branches. You will find them not quite 80, but suppose them made 80 by the branch of the Tanissee which heads in S. Carolina. A degree in the middle of this space would contain about 3000 or 3100 square miles & of course 80 would contain about 250,000. I think the whole United states reduced to a square would not be more than one of 900 miles each way & of course that the whole U.S. do not contain a million of square miles. Excuse my freedom. I think this an error in your pamphlet and would wish to know from you whether I see it wrong.

I am with much esteem, Sir, Your most obedt. servt,
Th. Jefferson
900 900 810,000