Thomas Jefferson Papers

List of Unretained Letters, [ca. 9 June 1794]

List of Unretained Letters

[ca. 9 June 1794]

List of letters of which no copies have been retained.

Mr. Bolling’s
1794. June 7.

to Thos. Pleasants 4. mile creek, to engage Nanny
Brewer to come to Monticello immediately after harvest
to make 100,000 bricks, and to fix her wages. I to
send a horse for her.
Eppington. June 8. to James Brown to send me a copy of Donald &
Burton’s account and promising to send him a statement of
the money I recieved from Clow & Co.
do. do.  to Colo. Gamble to send my groceries left with
Heath by a waggon to Charlottesville, and the fish by
water by Colo. Lewis’s boats.
do. June 9. to Colo. Skipwith. Apologising for not calling on
him and informing him of the proceedings proposed
against R. Randolph’s representatives for indemnification
to us against Bivins’s judgment, and that Marshall thinks
favorably on the question whether we shall be liable for the

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 97: 16656); entirely in TJ’s hand; undated.

This list documents four of the five letters TJ is known to have written during a brief trip to Richmond to attend to some of his financial affairs. Almost certainly setting out on 29 May—and going and returning by way of Chestnut Grove, the home of John Bolling, and Eppington, the seat of Francis Eppes—he arrived at the capital on 2 June and returned to Monticello on 10 June. This was the only extended journey TJ made during his present retirement from office (for his itinerary and business, see MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 29 May-10 June 1794, and notes).

A reply from Thomas pleasants, Jr., of 11 June 1794, recorded in SJL as received from Raleigh a week later, is missing, as are 10 other letters exchanged by TJ and Pleasants between 2 Apr. 1795 and 18 Sep. 1795. For the full text of TJ’s letter to James Brown, the only extant letter on the list, see the preceding document.

A reply from Robert gamble of 10 June 1794, recorded in SJL as received from Richmond a day later, has not been found. SJL also records 26 letters that TJ exchanged with Gamble between 31 July 1794 and 22 May 1796, none of which have been found.

For the other missing letter written during the journey, see note to TJ to Thomas A. Taylor, 19 Feb. 1795.

Bivins’s judgment against the executors of John Wayles’s estate concerned a suit for collection of a bond for £740 sterling which Richard Randolph gave to James Bivins, captain of The Prince of Wales out of Bristol, England, on 30 Dec. 1772, for which Wayles acted as security. (For a description of this bond, see note to Wayles to Bivins, 25 Jan. 1773, Document ix of a group of documents on the debt to Farell & Jones and the slave ship The Prince of Wales, printed in Vol. 15: 655.) The bond was still unpaid when Randolph died in 1786. Since the Virginia courts, for the most part, remained closed to British creditors seeking recovery of prewar debts prior to the implementation of the Jay Treaty, little could be done to collect the debt until 1790, when a recourse was offered by the establishment of United States circuit courts with jurisdiction over civil suits between foreigners and American citizens for claims over $500 (Hobson, “British Debts,” description begins Charles F. Hobson, “The Recovery of British Debts in the Federal Circuit Court of Virginia, 1790–1797,” VMHB, XCII (1984) description ends 179–81).

On 14 Jan. 1791 James Bivins, Jr., heir of the Bivins estate, and Thomas Wigan, Jr., who succeeded his father as executor of the estate, both of Bristol, England, gave James Caton and John Nevison, merchants from Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia, respectively, the power to prosecute, if necessary, to obtain payment of the 1772 bond, with interest, from the estates of Randolph and Wayles “or any or either of them respectively” (Power of Attorney from James Bivins, Jr., and Thomas Wigan, Jr., to James Caton and John Nevison, 14 Jan. 1791, in Vi: USCC). The Virginia merchants hired John Wickham who immediately obtained a subpoena of Wayles’s executors, initiated the case during the United States Circuit Court’s 1791 fall term at Richmond, and filed a bill in chancery on behalf of Wigan and Bivins by April 1792. Although John Marshall is listed as attorney for Wayles’s executors, it is unclear what action, if any, he took in behalf of the defendants (Rule Book No. 1, p. 51–2, 64–5, 78–9, in same).

In the undated bill in chancery, Wickham cited the bond given by Randolph to Bivins, noting that Wayles had not only served as security but that the bond had remained in his hands “for safe keeping.” The letter from Wayles to Bivins of 25 Jan. 1773 and a copy of the original bond were annexed to the bill as evidence. Declaring that the plaintiffs would be unable to recover the debt from Randolph’s heirs because they did not have the original bond and because “his whole Estate has been exhausted in the payment of other Debts so that they are wholly remediless,” the bill requested that Wayles’s executors, namely, TJ, Francis Eppes, and Henry and Anne Skipwith, be cited as defendants. Demanding “relief as is consistent with Equity and good Conscience,” the plaintiffs requested a subpoena of the defendants (Tr in same, in clerk’s hand; endorsed in same hand).

On 26 July 1791 a writ was issued directing the United States marshal to summon “Henry Skipwith and Ann Skipwith late Ann Wayles and Thomas Jefferson the executors of John Wayles deceased” to appear before the federal circuit court at Richmond on 27 Nov. 1791 to answer the bill in chancery exhibited against them by Wigan and Bivins. The summons was executed on the Skipwiths in Cumberland, Virginia on 24 Aug. 1791 (MS in same, printed form with emendations, being a writ for a subpoena, bearing seal, issued by William Marshall, clerk, endorsed by deputy marshal with notation, “Jefferson not found”; Rule Book No. 1, p. 51–2, in same).

Shortly after receiving the summons, Henry Skipwith reported the contents to TJ noting especially the omission of the Eppes family from the document. Acknowledging that the exclusion was significant, TJ sent queries to Francis Eppes about the suit and assured Skipwith that even if all were not named, each would be responsible for a third of the judgment (Skipwith to TJ, 4 Sep. 1791; TJ to Skipwith, 5 Oct. 1791; TJ to Eppes, 5 Oct. and 13 Nov. 1791).

On 11 Aug. 1792 the court issued a second writ requiring the Wayles executors to appear before the judges on 22 Nov. 1792 to answer the bill entered against them. Only Henry and Anne Skipwith were named in this document with TJ’s name being written and canceled. Deputy marshal Paul I. Carrington served the summons on the Skipwiths on 24 Sep 1792 (MS in Vi: USCC, being a writ, bearing seal, issued by William Marshall, clerk, endorsed as an alias attachment, with additional note indicating that the writ was “For not answering a Bill of Complaint exhibited against them” by Wigan and Bivins, endorsed by Carrington, minuting his fees; Rule Book No. 1, 64–5, 78–9, in same).

On 7 June 1793 the court issued a decree in the case, noting that the failure of the defendants to file an answer to the bill, along with the exhibits and argument of counsel in behalf of the plaintiffs, caused the court to rule in favor of Wigan and Bivins. The court ordered Henry and Anne Skipwith, as executors of the Wayles estate, to pay £740 sterling ($3,288.89), with interest at 5 per cent from 30 Sep. 1773 and court costs, unless the defendants showed “cause to the contrary” during the term of court after which they were served with the decree. Wickham endorsed the decree noting that he had served the document on Henry Skipwith on 30 Nov. 1793 (Tr in same; certified by William Marshall, clerk; endorsed; proved in Henrico on 13 Nov. 1794 on the oath of John Harvie). As far as it can be ascertained, Wayles’s executors made no attempt to answer this decree. They were already planning a suit against Richard Randolph’s executors to collect this debt (see Bill in Chancery of Wayles’s Executors against Heirs of Richard Randolph, [on or before 2 Mch. 1795], and note). In March 1796 TJ sent Wickham a partial payment for his portion of the Bivins debt (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 8 Mch. 1796, and note).

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