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thomas jefferson hemp

Thomas jefferson hemp

While we have not been able to obtain solid evidence to that effect, in the museums opinion, (given today’s definition of the term) the answer is YES . Without a doubt, Tomas Jefferson (our nations 3d President) by today’s definition WAS INDEED a Marihuana Drug smuggler.

And while we might be accused of it, our purpose here is not to denigrate or in any other way demote the stature of the man. While a complex man, (i.g. he owned slaves), one who fought valiantly for the things that he believed in. If ever the expression, “ Radicalism in Defense of Liberty, is Not A VICE ”, applied, it applied to him. However (by today’s standards), his actions would still be wrong and punishable as a crime.

Need proof, –Do a simple web-search under the name, “ Marc Scott Emery ” (publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine) and see what comes up. Essentially both did the same thing, both are guilty of the same crime. Both therefore (by the DEA’s own definition), ARE MARIHUANA DRUG PEDDLERS. And the same thing can be said about numerous others out there (many of them Cancer patients), who also have sought to do the right thing.

So what proof do we have that Thomas Jefferson was a Drug Smuggler? Let us begin with a word of caution. On numerous occasions (we at this museum) have found some of the must ridiculous things being circulated on the Internet. It appears that some drunk would say something at a party, another drunk would repeat it, and then someone would post it up on the Internet etc., and from there everyone starts quoting it as if it were fact. . . . Numerous Internet websites state (something) as follows:

“ Thomas Jefferson . . . while Ambassador to France, hired Turkish smugglers to buy and bring back Cannabis seeds from China . . which at the time had the best Industrial Hemp plants anywhere . . . so much so, that China (wanting to keep its monopoly), made it a death penalty offence to export any such seeds .. . . . Thus Jefferson risked life and limp to smuggle such seeds etc. . . .”

Yet none seem to be able to establish exactly where this information came from. Did Thomas Jefferson (or in this case, his Turkish agents), risk life and limp to smuggle the Hemp seeds? Is there any proof that he actually did? If this story is true, the museum has not been able to find any proof that will stand up in court, BUT we believe (without a doubt), that he did and for the following reasons:

First, it is a fact that Thomas Jefferson grew Hemp on his plantation. We know this for a fact from his personal letters as well as other writings, some of which have been correlated in book form , the most famous one being “Thomas Jefferson’s –The Farm Book”, which along with other works of his are still in print and offered for sale today. [7]

The following is given as example: [12]

Hemp & flax.
Dr. Logan does not approve of sowing flax with clover.
he does not think flax a great exhauster.
an acre of flax will make 50. lb
nothing will come immediately after flax except turneps.
ground once in flax takes 5. or 6. years before it will bring flax again.

hemp. plough the ground for it early in the fall & very deep, if possible
plough it again in Feb. before you sow it, which should be in March.
a hand can tend 3. acres of hemp a year.
tolerable ground yields 500. lb to the acre. you may generally count on
100 lb for every foot the hemp is over 4. f. high.
a hand will break 60. or 70. lb a day, and even to 150. lb.
if it is divided with an overseer, divide it as it is prepared.
seed. to make hemp seed, make hills of the form & size of cucumber hills, from 4. to
6. f. apart, in proportion to the strength of the ground. prick about a dozen
seeds into each hill, in different parts of it. when they come up thin them
to two. as soon as the male plants have shed their farina, cut them up that
the whole nourishment may go to the female plants. every plant thus
ended will yield a quart of seed. a bushel of good brown seed is enough for an acre.

[The Farm Book, by Thomas Jefferson – pg95]
Courtesy Massachusetts Historical Society
Thus it can be said that he had more than a passing interest in the subject. And while knowledge of the subject, does not imply guilt, it does establish his desire to obtain such Hemp seeds. Next, let’s look at this Hemp breaker that he invented.

1.4 – Thomas Jefferson’s Hemp Breaker;
As established above, Thomas Jefferson was a grower (of the Medical Marihuana Plant), but his interests went way beyond just planting it. The following letters show his concern over the matter”

[Click on image to see the full letter]
Courtesy Library of Congress

1815 December 29. (Jefferson to George Fleming). “Hemp. is abundantly productive and will grow for ever on the same spot, but the breaking and beating it, which has always been done by hand, is so slow, so laborious, and so much complained of by our laborers, that I have given it up, . . . ; and in the mean time a method of removing the difficulty of preparing hemp occurred to me, so simple and so cheap, that I return to it’s culture and manufacture. To a person having a threshing machine, the addition of a hemp break will not cost more than . . . [10]

Concerns that led him to develop and invent a Hemp breaker for use on his farm.

[Click on image to see the full letter]
Courtesy Library of Congress

1816 May 8. (Jefferson to Charles Willson Peale ). “In a former letter I mentioned to you that I had adapted a hemp break to my sawmill, which did good work. I have since fixed one to my threshing machine in Bedford, which breaks and beats about 80. lb a day with a single horse. The horizontal horsewheel of the threshing machine drives a wallower and shaft, at the outer end of which shaft is a crank which lifts a common hemp-break the head of which is made heavy enough to break the hemp with it’s knives, and to beat it with it’s head.” – from his book “The Farm Book” [9]

[Click on image to see Document]
Courtesy Massachusetts Historical Society
[part of a picture that is suppose to depict his Hemp Breaker]

An aside – In order to understand the need for Hemp breakers, maybe the best way to think of the matter is to pretend that you need to crack open and get inside a bamboo stock. [remember this is the early 19th century] Easy to contemplate, but very hard to do in practice. And while the Hemp stock is a lot easier to crack and break open, still (as Thomas Jefferson’s letters show), it’s suppose to be no easy matter.

1.5 – Jefferson the Smuggler
Next, let’s look at the fact that Thomas Jefferson was a smuggler and engaged in criminal activity while serving as ambassador in Europe. We know this for a fact because his own writing state as much. Probably his most famous such activity [as per the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia – a copy of which can be found at — http://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/rice#_note-2 ]

“ As Ambassador . . .to the court of Louis XVI from 1785 to 1789, Thomas Jefferson . . . some gentlemen of South Carolina asking him for samples of difference varieties of rice–prompted him to undertake the most ambitious journey of his life. In 1787, he traveled from Paris to Lombardy in Italy, where he purchased the tool the Italians used to clean their rice. At this time, it was illegal to export rice in the husk from Piedmont, and as he was informed, it was punishable by death. Despite this law, Jefferson smuggled some unhusked grains of rice out of the country in his coat pockets and made arrangements with a muleteer to smuggle more to Genoa. He confesses, “I could only bring off as much as my coat and surtout pockets would hold.” [8]

[Click on image to see the full letter]
Courtesy Library of Congress
So we know that it was within his character to have disregard for stupid laws, AND that he was (in a physical sense) a smuggler. So why stop there, why not the best Hemp Seeds that he could obtain. [Editorial Note – NOTE that in this case he was literally risking “Life and Limb” ]

Last of all, there are the cryptic statements to that effect in his writings – And while granted they are so cryptic that they could mean anything. This of and by itself adds credibility to the argument that the story is true. After all, put yourself in Jefferson’s shoes, you would have to tell those around you about the seeds, BUT wouldn’t you talk in cryptic language to protect the identity of the your Turkish smugglers (who probably still had dealings with China).

Thus ALL the evidence, his Modus Operandi, his geography at the time, his position, etc., (while not conclusive) do point to his activities in that area. This museum is as certain as can be that THOMAS JEFFERSON (if around today) would be in the same jail cell as Marc Emery.

Thomas Jefferson Grew Hemp

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

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Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp. (Spurious Quotation)

Quotation: “Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see.”

Variations: None known.

Sources consulted: (searching on “hemp” and “smoking”)

  1. Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition
  2. Thomas Jefferson Retirement Papers
  3. Ford Edition
  4. Lipscomb-Bergh Edition (via Google Books)

Status: This statement has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It appears to be of extremely recent vintage (first noticed online in 2008), and only made its way into print sources as of 2013.1

Thomas Jefferson did grow hemp, but there is no evidence to suggest that Jefferson was a habitual smoker of hemp, tobacco, or any other substance. Some have pointed to a supposed reference in Jefferson’s farm book to separating male and female hemp plants as evidence that he was cultivating it for purposes of recreational smoking; no such reference exists in Jefferson’s farm book or any other document.

George Washington did record the practice of separating hemp in his own diary: “Began to seperate the Male from the Female hemp at Do.&—rather too late.”2 Arthur Young, well-known English agricultural writer, explained the separation of hemp as follows: “This may arise from their [the male] hemp being coarser, and the stalks larger.”3

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