31
31
Jefferson, Thomas, as Vice President
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("TH: JEFFERSON")
Estimate
16,00022,000
LOT SOLD. 16,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT
31
Jefferson, Thomas, as Vice President
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("TH: JEFFERSON")
Estimate
16,00022,000
LOT SOLD. 16,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Gallison Hall: The James F. Scott Collection

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New York

Jefferson, Thomas, as Vice President
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("TH: JEFFERSON")
1 1/2 pages on a bifolium (watermarked r williams | 1795), Monticello, 20 September 1799, to William Bache (at Philadelphia), autograph address with franking signature ("free | Th: Jefferson") on integral blank, seal tear and repair, address leaf very lightly soiled with repaired pinholes at intersecting folds. Half green morocco folding-case, russet morocco spine labels
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Provenance

Sotheby's Parke Bernet, New York, November 29, 1979, lot 625

The James S. Copley Library, Sotheby's New York, October 15, 2010, lot 617

Literature

Oberg, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 31: 188-90

Catalogue Note

Jefferson advises Benjamin Franklin's grandson on the legal aspects of a land purchase in Virginia, explaining "you are not of the craft of the law, and I have been." William Bache, who received a medical degree from Penn in 1794, decided in early 1799 to move to Virginia with his bride. Jefferson here outlines the younger man's options in handling the purchase of 603 acres in Albemarle County from the insolvent James Key.

"mr Key called on me some days ago & wrote to me yesterday. he has purchased in N. Carolina adjoining his father in law, and his paiment is to be made in October. he represents that a failure will be entirely disastrous. ... your bargain is absolute. you are entitled to keep the lands, & as no damages have been previously settled on failure in paiments ... they will be settled by a jury. it is very uncertain to what sum they may be wrought up by loss of Key's purchase, delay of his removal, loss of preparation for it, loss of a crop the ensuing year by removing too late to put one into the ground, & all other considerations which they will take care to swell. as you are not of the craft of the law, and I have been, I have thought it best to appraise you of this, because possibly ... you may obtain money where you are on lesser sacrifices than the damages assessed by a jury would amount to. it would be better to pay almost any interest per month which could be asked, than to incur this risk. I understand that your first paiment would secure Key's purchase, so that that sum with as much as would remove his family being furnished him I have no doubt he would wait a little for the balance. I have made these observations merely to enable you to decide for yourself which of the two species of sacrifice you would prefer. Key has declared himself ready to make a deed at any time."

Perhaps in an effort to cause Bache to reconsider his move from Pennsylvania, Jefferson describes a gloomy outlook for Virginia planters, who were suffering from both poor weather and from a recent act suspending commerce with France. "We have had most disastrous rains lately. our tobacco & fodder are much reduced in quantity & quality, the wheat in stacks subjected to great loss, and the seeding the ensuing crop so retarded as to lessen our hopes from that. ... tobacco is in the dust. the computation is that this state loses this year five millions of dollars by the suspension of commerce with France; for the purpose of starving Frenchmen in the article of tobacco. In the mean time the same law, so far as it can affect the interest of other produce (say other states) is repealed."

Jefferson began his letter with an allusion to the onging construction of Monticello. Since Bache lived in Philadelphia, the center of what Dumas Malone called the "skilled-labor market," he might well have assisted Jefferson in hiring carpenters and other craftsman to work on the house. "We have been long in expectation of seeing you, but ... in the mean time your carpenters have gone on tolerably well. they will finish the ensuing week all their work except some small matters which will need further instructions from you, and which can be done in about a fortnight. I do not know what arrangements you have made as to the brickwork. I do not hear of any person entering on that, & in the mean while the season for it is passing off." At the end of the letter, Jefferson briefly returns to the subject of building Monticello, also referring to the construction of Edgehill, the house he designed for his daughter Martha and her husband, Thomas Mann Randolph: "mr Randolph's buildings & mine have gone on most slowly. I have not been able to get a single room yet added to my former stock, and now I see that little will be added this season."

The Baches were unable to make a living out of their Virginia lands. In 1802, Jefferson, by then president, appointed Bache to establish a naval hospital in New Orleans. Two years later Bache returned to Philadelphia, where he served as surveyor of the port until his untimely death at forty-one in 1814.

Gallison Hall: The James F. Scott Collection

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New York