94
94
Jefferson, Thomas, Third President
Estimate
70,000100,000
JUMP TO LOT
94
Jefferson, Thomas, Third President
Estimate
70,000100,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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Jefferson, Thomas, Third President
Letter signed ("Th:Jefferson"), 4 pages, 4to (9 5/8 x 7 1/4 in.; 245 x 185 mm), Charles City, Virginia, 9 July 1773 to English merchants Farrell and Jones, together with an invoice signed ("Th:Jefferson"), regarding the settlement of his father-in-law's estate; expert repairs to fold separations; red cloth folding-case, blue morocco spine, red morocco lettering pieces.
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Literature

Not in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson

Catalogue Note

Jefferson grapples with the complex task of settling his father-in-law's estate. "Your favors of April 23 1773 came to hand a few days after the death of Mr Wayles an event of which I doubt not Mr. Evans had before advised you. we are assured that you sympathize on this occasion with his family and friends here, as a correspondence kept up, and we hope approved thro' a long course of years must have produced on your part some degree of that friendship which we know him to have expressed and felt for you the favors received at your hands he spoke of with particular warmth to the hour of his death, a very few days before which he added a codicil to his will almost solely to secure to you a proper return. the words of it, relating to yourselves, are as follows. 'Messieurs Farrell and Jones have on every occasion acted in a most generous manner to me. I shall therefore make them every grateful return in my power. I therefore direct that my estate be kept together and that the whole tobacco made therein be shipped unto the said Farrell and Jones of Bristol until his debt and interest shall be fully and compleatly paid and satisfied unless my children find it to their interest to pay and satisfy the same in a manner that may be agreeable to the said Farrell and Jones.'" The task of settling the estate fell on Jefferson as well as his two brothers-in-law, Francis Eppes and Henry Shipwith, who are mentioned in the letter.

John Wayles, Patty's father, had died 28 May 1773. Wayles was land-rich (Patty's share of her father's estate was 11,000 acres) and owned 135 slaves but much of his estate was not liquid. Jefferson discovered that Wayles owed £10,200 sterling to three British bankers in addition to £6,770 for a consignment of 405 slaves Wayles had committed for with his business partner, Richard Randolph.

Because the Crown refused to allow Americans their own currency and insisted debts be paid in gold and sterling, planters often resorted to shipping tobacco to acquit their debts, before selling off their lands and slaves. Jefferson is hopeful that he can sell some of Wayles's land, which in addition to a shipment of tobacco, would lower the debt owed Farrell and Jones. "... some part of Mr. Wayles's lands were so poor and unprofitable that, had there been no debt, we should have thought them not worth keeping. These herefore we have determined to sell and apply the produce of the sale towards lessening your debt, and we think ourselves within bounds when we expect that produce will (on giving a credit suited to the present situation of our country) be at least 4000£ sterling to this are to be added the tobacco's shipped, and to be shipped the last and the present year. the remainder alone then will fall on the future crops of the estate, a fund which we shall inviolably apply to that purpose, and on which we shall take care there shall be no other draw back than a small invoice for such British goods as will be necessary for the use of the plantations."  Jefferson draws attention to the tobacco shipment once more in his final paragraph. " You will receive by Capt. Emmes all the tobaccos of the estate except 20 hogsheads which mr. Wayles had directed to be shipped this year to Cary and Co. of London ... Emmes has at the time of writing this letter about 50 hogsheads on board under our order, and will within a few days take in the residue, which we expect will be about 20 more."

Jefferson emphatically mentions the consignment of slaves that Wayles and Randolph had undertaken by underlining his text. "The Guinea consignment you were so kind as to engage the last year for Messieurs Wayles and Randolph becomes a matter of serious attention. two courts have now passed at which considerable sums should have been paid, yet little is done, and at so low an ebb is the circulating money of  this colony at present that the business of a collector is of all others the most subject to disappointments."  For the reasons that Jefferson enumerated, the sale of the slaves had been going very slowly. Wayles had written Jefferson to that effect on 20 October 1772. The shipload of slaves was one of Wayles's largest debts and land had to be sold off quickly to satisfy Farrell and Jones. On 15 July, a Notice for the sale of Wayles properties was published in the Virginia Gazette. The properties to be sold were 2,520 acres in Cumberland, known as St. James, 1,420 acres in Goochland and Cumberland counties and 1,480 acres in Charles City County.   On 9 September, Jefferson and his co-executors published a further notice of the sale of an additional 2,570 acres in the Gazette. Unfortunately, Jefferson and his co-executors accepted notes against future payments. The notes were later paid back with badly depreciated money during the Revolution, and Jefferson was forced to pay the Wayles debt all over again (Randall, Thomas Jefferson, p. 179).

Jefferson also encloses an invoice for goods needed to keep Wayles's plantation operating, these comprised chiefly various linens used to make men's shirts and hunting frocks and women's shifts, gowns, and petticoats, thread, shoe thread, Monmouth caps, hose, yarn,  salt, and pots and pans. Once Wayles's debts had finally been paid off, the portion of his estate issued to the Jeffersons was equal to Jefferson's patrimony. He would have some 17,000 acres and  a third of the slaves owned by his father-in-law, including the Hemings family. Ironically, it was slavery that allowed Jefferson to abandon his unproductive law practice and devote his energies to the cultivation of Monticello and to the political crises then brewing.  

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York