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Thomas Jefferson on an elk skeleton

Does SIZE matter?
I have made a particular acquaintance with Monsieur de Buffon, and have a great desire to give him the best idea I can of our elk. You could not oblige me more than by sending me the horns, skeleton and skin of an elk, were it possible to procure them … Everything of this kind is precious here [France] .
Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1786, 5673

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Buffon was a renowned French naturalist who had written extensively on the subject. Without proof, he maintained that animal life in America was inferior to that in Europe, that species here were smaller and less healthy than their continental cousins. Jefferson was indignant for two reasons. One, because he believed it was untrue, and two, he considered it an affront to America.
Although Jefferson was always on a quest for more information about American wildlife, he had a special interest in acquiring LARGE bones to prove Buffon wrong. This letter is written from France. He was trying to find someone who would kill an American elk, and send the “horns, skeleton and skin” to him in Paris.
Jefferson’s zeal sometimes cost him dearly. Read this humorous-but-sad account of his contemplating a large bill from someone he’d commissioned to secure him a moose skeleton.
John Foley, editor of the Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, quotes an admission from Buffon to Jefferson in Parton’s Life of Jefferson, “I should have consulted you, sir, before publishing my natural history, and then, I should have been sure of my facts.”

The size of your audience doesn’t matter to Mr. Jefferson.
He has spoken to as few as a dozen and as many at 1,400.
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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