Nature and the Environment (Quotations)

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1785 October 28. (to James Madison). "The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on."[1]

1786 October 12. (to Maria Cosway). "How sublime to look down on the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet!"[2]

1787 July 30. (to William Drayton). "By varying too the articles of culture, we multiply the chances for making something, and disarm the seasons in a proportionable degree of their calamitous."[3]

1787 December 20. (to James Madison). "I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe."[4]

1790 December 23. (to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "...There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me..."[5]

1793 July 7. (to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "I never before knew the full value of trees...What would I not give that the trees planted nearest round the house at Monticello were full grown."[6]

1793 July 21. (to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "When the earth is rich it bids defiance to droughts, yields in abundance and of the best quality."[7]

1799. (Memoir on the Discovery of Certain Bones of a Quadruped of the Clawed King in the Western Parts of Virginia). "In fine, the bones exist: therefore the animal has existed. The movements of nature are in a never ending circle. The animal species which has once been put into a train or motion, is still probably moving in that train. For if one link in nature's chain might be lost, another and another might be lost, till this whole system of things should vanish by piece-meal; a conclusion not warranted by the local disappearance of one or two species of animals, and opposed by the thousands and thousands of instances of the renovated power constantly exercised by nature for the reproduction of all her subjects..."[8]

1800. (A Memorandum Services to My Country). "The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to it's culture."[9]

1801 August 14. (to Joseph Rapin). "While I wish to have every thing good in it's kind, and handsome in stile, I an a great enemy to waste and useless extra expense, and see them with real pain."[10]

1803 June 20. (to Meriwether Lewis). "Other objects worthy of notice will be...the remains or accounts of any [animal] which may be deemed rare or extinct."[11]

1803 November 8. (to David Williams). "The general desire of men to live by their heads rather than their hands, and the strong allurements of great cities to those who have any turn for dissipation, threaten to make them here, as in Europe, the sinks of voluntary misery."[12]

1804 August 16. (to John Page). "According to the rules of philosophizing, when one sufficient cause for an effect is known, it is not within the economy of nature to employ two."[13]

1806 December 8. (to Edmund Bacon). "We must use a good deal of economy in our wood, never cutting down new, where we can make the old do."[14]

1811 August 20. (to John Stuart). "I have often thought that if heaven had given me not see, that the probabilities against such annihilation are stronger than those for it."[15]

1818 April 11. (to Francis van der Kemp). "It might be doubted whether any particular species of animals or vegetables which ever did exist, has ceased to exist."[16]

1823 April 11. (to John Adams). "The argument which they [disciples of Ocellus, Timaeus, Spinosa, Diderot and D'Holbach] rest on as triumphant and unanswerable is that, in every hypothesis of Cosmogony you must admit an eternal pre-existence of something; and according to the rule of sound philosophy, you are never to employ two principles to solve a difficulty when one will suffice...on the contrary I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in it's parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of it's composition...It is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter to motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist, in their present forms, and their regenerator into new and other forms. We see too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in it's course and order...Certain races of animals are become extinct; and, were there no restoring power, all existence might extinguish successively, one by one, until all should be reduced to a shapeless chaos."[17]


  1. PTJ, 8:682.
  2. Ibid, 10:447.
  3. Ibid, 11:648.
  4. Ibid, 12:442.
  5. Ibid, 18:350.
  6. Family Letters, 121-122.
  7. Ibid, 122.
  8. American Philosophical Society IV: 255-256.
  9. Peterson, Writings, 703.
  10. Massachusetts Historical Society.
  11. Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978), 1:63.
  12. L&B, 10:431.
  13. Ford, 10:96.
  14. Massachusetts Historical Society.
  15. L&B, 9:350.
  16. Library of Congress.
  17. Cappon, Adams-Jefferson Letters, 2:592.