Extract from Adam Hodgson’s Account of a Visit to Monticello

We arrived at Monticello, three miles farther, about eleven o’clock, ascending the South West Mountain, on which the house is situated, by a winding carriage-road through the wood. I sent in my letter to Mr. Jefferson, who soon afterwards came out and gave me a polite reception, leading me through the hall, hung with mammoth bones and Indian curiosities, to a room, ornamented with fine paintings. A young lady was playing on a piano-forte, but retired when we entered. Our conversation turned principally on the Indians, and the fine timber of the United States. With respect to the former, he considers them quite on a level, as respects intellectual character, with the Whites, and attributes the rapid civilization of the Choctaws, compared with that of the Creeks, on whom, perhaps, greater efforts have been bestowed, to the advantages possessed by the former for the growth of cotton, which had gradually induced them to spin and weave. He observed, that notwithstanding the fine specimens which have been preserved of Indian eloquence, the Indians appear to have no poetic genius; and that he had never known an Indian discover a musical taste; that, on the contrary, the Africans almost universally possess fine voices and an excellent ear, and a passionate fondness for music. With this I have often been struck, as I passed through the Southern States, especially when I have seen them assembled at public worship, or packing cotton at New Orleans.

Published in Hodgson, Letters from North America, written During a Tour in the United States and Canada (London, 1824; Poor, Jefferson’s Library, 7 [no. 349]; TJ’s copy in IGK), 1:313–9, 320; at head of text: “Richmond, 21st June, 1820.”
Adam Hodgson
Date Range
June 17, 1820
Quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson
Hodgson, Letters from North America (London, 1824)
Hodgson, Remarks during a Journey through North America in the years 1819, 1820, and 1821 (New York, 1823)