The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series: Volume 2: 16 November 1809 to 11 August 1810

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The definitive edition of Thomas Jefferson's papers from the end of his presidency until his death continues with Volume Two, which covers the period from 16 November 1809 to 11 August 1810. Both incoming and outgoing letters are included, totaling 518 documents printed in full. General themes include Jefferson's financial troubles, which eventually led him to loan himself a large sum of money he was managing for Tadeusz Kosciuszko; his preparations to face a lawsuit stemming from his decision as president to remove Edward Livingston from a valuable property in New Orleans; other legal complications involving his landholdings and the settlement of estates he had inherited long before; his plans to breed merino sheep and share them gratis with his fellow Virginians; and his ongoing interest in the Republican party's success.

Highlights include a long list of books on agriculture that Jefferson probably compiled to guide the Library of Congress in its purchases; descriptions of inventions by Robert Fulton and more obscure figures such as the New Orleans engineer Godefroi Du Jareau; Jefferson's draft letter criticizing the Quakers as unpatriotic, much of which he later deleted; the letter in which he ordered a set of silver tumblers that have become known as the Jefferson Cups; and an important treatise on taxation by the distinguished French political economist Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, published here for the first time.

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Meet the Author

J. Jefferson Looney is Editor of "The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series", sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., Charlottesville, Virginia. He was formerly editor and project director of the "Dictionary of Virginia Biography", and author or editor of several works on the history of Princeton University.

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The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series: Volume 2

16 November 1809 to 11 August 1810

Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2006 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-691-12490-6

Chapter One


From William Thornton

Dear sir City of Washington 16th Novr 1809

I had the honor of your very friendly Letter of the 11th Ultimo, and am much pleased with your wishes to colonize so many Objects of utility and delight. In this Country we have every climate & soil, and certainly whatever will flourish on Earth will flourish with us. I am glad the pair of Sheep got safe, & I will with great pleasure send some more Fig trees in the way you mention, or by some safe conveyance. The dry weather extended to many parts of this Country & the neighbouring States, which will render corn very dear, though to the South, & particularly in Georgia the Crops are very abundant.-I am much obliged by your kind intention of sending me some of the fine Marseilles Fig, which I shall not value merely for their intrinsic worth, but more especially for the sake of the Donor.-Capt. Coles informed me of the increase of your Shepherds' Dogs, and that it was your wish to extend the Breed. I should have expressed a wish to have a pair, but I knew you had many Friends who would perhaps have the same Inclination, & I thought it better to wait. If hereafter you could favour me with theBreed I should be thankful, for I am very sheepishly inclined. -I have now to ask of you a very great favour, not solely for myself, but for our Country. My Friend Washington Bowie Esqre of George Town, a Gentleman of great respectability, worth, & honor, at the Instance of General Mason, Mr Barlow, some others and myself, has been, within these few Days, induced to send a large Vessel from her intended Course, to Spain for Merino Sheep; but well aware of the Difficulty of obtaining them we require the aid of all our influential Friends. We have written Letters to Mr Erving, our Charge d'Affairs, but a few Lines from you to him would rouse his energy in our favour,-and would lay us all under great Obligation. Our Letters may like Sparks of Electricity give a degree of Excitement, but one from you would like lightning irresistibly pervade his System.-The Object is of such consequence to this Country that no Effort should be left untried. If Mr Bowie should succeed he has promised to favour us each with a few at the price they cost, and I will either obtain some for you, on the same Terms (though I did not think it proper to mention this to him, when I proposed writing a line to you on the Subject) or you shall have some of mine, if obtainable. He thinks of sending to Cadiz, where he has good mercantile Friends; though I fear the English will perhaps interfere in an Enterprise so likely to benefit our Country.-If he send to Barcelona (in possession of the French) I fear the Cruisers off Gibralter & Cadiz may interrupt our modern Jason.-Perhaps Tarragona might be better. It will require some advice & caution, & any hint from you will be highly esteemed. A southern Port will be favourable in obtaining them for the Sheep are always driven South in winter.-Mr Bowie will send off his Vessel the latter end of next week, which only gives an opportunity of an answer by the returning or succeeding post.-I am in hopes this may be received in time for it is possible the sailing of the Vessel may be delayed a day or two. My Family reciprocate their best respects to you. I have the honor to be very sincerely & respectfully

Yr &c William Thornton-

RC (MHi); at foot of text: "Honble Thomas Jefferson"; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Nov. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

From Aron S. Barton

Dear Sir Jay 17 Novr 1809

Dire necesity Obliges me to request of you the Loan of three thowsand Dollars to inable me to [prosecute] a Cotton factory, which I had previusly intended to [Rear] Beliveing You to be the patron of institutions I make this application to you Confidently Believeing you and your friends will Contriburt this Small Sum to My Necesity and Greatly Oblige Dear Sir your Friend-Believeing this to be a Singular request from a young man 28 years Old in the State of Massachusetts Dept of Mane in the Solitary Town of Jay & County of Oxford-What ever Dear Sir you May think Do not expose my Name for I put my Trust in God Believing through his Assistance (with frugality and industry) I Shall arive in peace to that County from which no Traviller returns Known to you and Me and no other Aron S. Barton

RC (MHi); two words illegible; at foot of text: "Thomas Jefferson Esq Late President of the USA"; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Dec. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

From Benjamin B. Ford

Sir Richmond Nov. 17th 1809

Benjn B Bernard some time since obtained a patent from the U States for a Machine said to be either invented or improved upon by him. Whether he did or not I am unprepared to say-sometime afterwards I in conjunction with my brother became possessed of the right for this State (Virga) and upon my application to sundry persons for the premium who had built upon his plan, They refused to pay alledging that since you had retired to Monticello you had expressed your disapprobation of the conduct of Mr Bernard in obtaining the patent, and that you morover thought it not worth any thing

As I am deeply interested in this event I hope you will have the goodness to inform me whether or not the above report be correct that I may take my measures accordingly

I am with Respect Your mo Obd Svt Ben B Ford.

RC (MHi); at foot of text: "Tho. Jefferson. Esqr"; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Nov. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

Benjamin Bowles Ford (ca. 1780-1858) moved in 1811 to Georgetown, Kentucky, where at various times he farmed, ran a school, practiced law, and as clerk of the Scott County Court (William Henry Perin, History of Bourbon, Scott, Harrison & Nicholas Counties, Kentucky [1882], 191; Lindsey Apple, Frederick A. Johnston, and Ann Bolton Bevins, eds., Scott County Kentucky: A History [1985], 98; DNA: RG 29, CS, Scott County, Kentucky, 1820, 1850).

On 4 July 1807 Benjamin B. Bernard complained from Washington, D.C., to Thomas Mann Randolph about delays in obtaining his patent and accused William Thornton, the patent commissioner, of "using every effort to Swindle Me out of my rights" by preparing a patent but threatening to burn it when Bernard fused him a partnership (RC in DLC; addressed: "Thomas M Randolph Esqr Near Milton Virginia"; stamped and postmarked; endorsed by TJ: "Thornton Dr Wm a letter concerng him"). Bernard nevertheless received A PATENT related to "thrashing machines" on 30 Nov. 1807 (List of Patents, 62).

To James Martin

Poplar Forest Nov. 17. 09

According to what passed in conversation between us the other day I inclose you an authority to sell my Ivy creek lands on the terms then stated; that is to say for 1200 pounds paiable one third in hand, a third at the end of a year, & the remaining third at the end of two years; the purchaser giving bond & satisfactory security, or a deed of trust to sell the lands on default of paiment on his account towards paiment of the balance. for your trouble I agree to relinquish to you one twelfth of the price obtained when recieved. I have thought it best not to specify the terms in the authority given, but to refer to our verbal explanations because that paper must be shown:

If the purchaser on closing the bargain with you, will come down to me with his cash paiment & copy of the agreement I shall write & execute a deed to him: and I shall be glad to learn from you what is done, by the Arst post after it is done

I am Sir

Your humble servt Th: Jefferson

SC (MHi); at foot of text: "Mr James Martin"; with enclosure subjoined; endorsed by TJ.

James Martin subsequently operated a sawmill near Poplar Forest. TJ did business with him on several occasions between 1816 and 1825 (Joel Yancey to TJ, 29 Aug. 1816; TJ to Yancey, 13 Sept. 1816, 6, 19 Mar. 1817, 10 Nov. 1818, 11 Feb. 1820; TJ to Francis Eppes, 17 Feb. 1825).

Martin and TJ had conversed earlier this month about the sale of TJ's IVY CREEK LANDS (Notes on Ivy Creek Lands, 14 Nov. 1809).


Authorization to Sell Ivy Creek Lands

I hereby authorise James Martin who lives adjacent to my lands on Ivy creek, to wit the 374. acres formerly Tullos's & 100. acres formerly Stith's, on the terms explained in conversation together, to make sale of the same which being done agreeable to the said terms, I bind myself to convey & warrant a good title in fee simple to the purchaser, witness my hand this 17th of November 1809

SC (MHi); entirely in TJ's hand; subjoined to covering letter.

To James Steptoe

Poplar Forest. Nov. 17. 1809

Th: JeCerson will thank mr Steptoe to search his records for an entry of Richard Stith, formerly Surveyor of Bedford, for 98. acres of land on Ivy creek or it's waters. the entry was made before 1773. an authentic copy is requested. he salutes mr Steptoe with esteem & respect.

SC (MHi); dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ.

James Steptoe (1750-1826) acted as TJ's agent in Williamsburg from at least 1770 until 1772, while serving as an apprentice to Benjamin Waller, the clerk of the General Court. Steptoe was appointed clerk of Bedford County early in the latter year and held the office until his death. Starting about 1782, he forwarded natural history specimens to TJ as they arrived from the frontier. During his retirement TJ often visited Federal Hill, Steptoe's home about three miles from Poplar Forest (Frederick Johnston, Memorials of Old Virginia Clerks [1888], 67-79; PTJ, 1:73, 28:113-4; MB, 1:30; Chambers, Poplar Forest, 58-9; Richmond Enquirer, 25 Feb. 1826).

From Lafayette

My dear friend La Grange 18h November 1809

I Have Been for a Long time in daily and disappointed Expectations of a Letter from You, Nor do I know when I may obtain the Comfort of Your Correspondence-in the Mean while Much Havock Has Been Made in Europe-I don't Speack of the British Expedition Under Lord Chatam-it is But justice to Say that, whatever Be their intention, they did as Litle Harm as possible Considering their Numbers and the State of the Coast-But in Spain there is a Scene of Energetic Resistance, Mutual Barbarities, Horrid and Hitherto Unavailing destruction-the Emperor of Austria Has thought Himself obliged to Sign a peace, not So Bad indeed as the threats prophesied Against Him, But Such as Greatly diminishes His influence, His territory, and Leaves His friends at the Mercy of the Conqueror -the two only people who Have Spiritedly Opposed our Armies, Spaniards and tyrolians, were Unencumbered with Monarchs and princes-You will Hear, altho' it Has not Been in the Gazettes, How a young man of Eighteen, impressed with the persuasion of a public Service, went from Erfurt to Vienna to Kill Bonaparte, and Being prevented in the Act, freely Stated his Motives, and quietly Encountered death. the Concerns of the Roman church you don't much mind-the only effect of a Mitigated But Real Excommunication of the Emperor Has Hitherto Been to Have the pope driven about as a prisoner and to drive the affrighted Cardinals into Volontary Attendance at the Imperial Chapel-the Roads to paris are Covered with Kings and princes who Come to pay their Court and Receive orders for the Confederacy of the Rhine and other dependances on the Superior Throne. I Had Rather they were popular deputies to a General federation of Liberty and Equality-But I Cannot Help observing what Has Been the prodigious influence of that Revolutionary Movement, altho' Misguided on the way, and of the Enthusiasm and talents of which an Aristocratical Monarchy Should Ever Have prevented the display-it is Now Said Among the most thinking part of Germany and elsewhere that their only way to Reestablish a political Equilibrium is to discard the Ancient institutions and to Recur to what they Call an Equilibrium of principles, or An Equilibre de lumières, all Expressions which, to Be Sure, do not apply to Our Retrogade Oscillation towards absolute monarchy and Hereditary privileges.

of American Affairs with Respect to Europe what Shall I Say? the Conduct of Great Britain Has Been and Continues to Be insolent, Spiteful, and Uncandid-there the United States Have to Encounter not only a General principle of Maritime Ambition and despotism, But a particular Remembering, Anticipating National Jealousy-in france where the people at large and even the members of Government would Like to improve the Circumstance into a Vindication of Neutral Rights, and a more intimate intercourse with America, the Mistaken, Unaccountable, and Axed policy of the Emperor Has an effect quite the Reverse of what Common Justice, National interest, and His own Hatred to England ought to dictate-I am So Sensible of that plain truth that I Every day Hope His great powers of Sagacity and Calculation will at Last discover that in his plan to Bring about Great Britain He Has taken the wrong End.

I Have No News from Louïsiana-No titles or documents Have Come to Hand which Has Hitherto Baffled Every Attempt to Liberate my fortune-the greater part of My debt is increasing in a Ruinous Manner By Additional interest-the Exigible part is dreadfully pressing, and Nothing But personal Benevolence Can Have Hitherto Parried the ill Consequences of delay-I would More Severely Blame Myself for Hopes too Sanguine Had I Not Some Excuse in the Recollection of Letters Received and writen at Very Ancient and Successive dates which show that Unfortunate chances only, independant of My friends and myself, Could Have Left me in this state of disappointment and danger-Since their Early and incessant kindness, and the Bounty of Congress, Have, in the Most Moderate of their Expectations, Given me Superabundant Relief.

When I See the immense weight which Has Been Accumulating upon me I feel Uneasy about Your own opinion, However partial I know it to Be, with Respect to My pecuniary Conduct-this Encourages me to Have Copied for You, altho' it is interwoven with Some Complimentary Expressions, the observations on My Monney'd Vicissitudes which I now inclose-there You will See that, altho' I May Be not Exempt of Blame, my Situation is not So far past Apology as Might Be Supposed-there, while You are pleased to think to whom I owe it is Not past Recovery, You will also See the Necessity to Urge the Compliment of an Enterprise So friendly and So Momentous. The Vessel Being Ready for Sea I will not this time write to the president, Mr Gallatin, nor Mr duplantier whom I Have By the Last Opportunity adressed on the Same Subject-to You, My dear friend, I Refer Myself for doing, Saying, and writing What You think fit-M. LaBouchere of Amsterdam Has kindly Undertaken a New Attempt to Consolidate into a General Loan the totality of the Sum I owe-the absence of titles, want of documents, and the increasing inconveniences of Unexplained delays Cannot fail to influence the Conditions and May, as on former Occasions, totally defeat the plan of A Relief the Last part of it Has Become indispensably Urging-I Can Hardly trust Myself to think, and am Ashamed to write, Even to You, that Such an Enormous Sum as that Capital and those Accumulated interests Have Been once more forced into my pecuniary Calculations-But When My fortune is Cleared I am only to follow the Œconomical Line in which I Have now and forever Confined Myself.

After What I Have Said, and knowing what I feel, it would Be Superfluous to Mention My Confidence in You-yet altho' there is Nothing New I And a great pleasure in the Expression of the Affection and regard Which forever devote to You

Your friend Lafayette

M. et mde de tessé are in pretty Good Health-My children Beg their Best Respects Being offered to You-present me most Respectfully to Mrs Randolph, and Mention me to our friends not forgetting mr Coles.

RC (DLC); addressed: "to Mr Jefferson"; endorsed by TJ as received 17 June 1810 and so recorded in SJL. FC (DLC: Lafayette Papers, La Grange microfilm). Tr (DLC). Enclosed in James Madison to TJ, 15 June 1810.


Excerpted from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series: Volume 2 Copyright © 2006 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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