Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Richard Richardson, 16 December 1797

To Richard Richardson

Philadelphia Dec. 16. 97.


Within a day or two after my arrival here, I called on Mr. Traquair, the Stonecutter, to whom I meant to apply for you. I explained to him your character and motives for wishing to pass a winter in learning to cut stone. He approved much of your motives, and immediately entered cordially into the desire to serve and aid you. On the subject of giving you board for your work he said he did not know whether it would be in his power to lodge you, as his house was small and his wife had a day or two before brought him his eighth child, but he promised to consult his wife and let me know. I have not seen him since; but I am so perfectly satisfied that if he cannot board you, he will nevertheless give you all the instruction in his power and employ you solely with a view to your instruction, that you may safely come on [immediately?] after the Christmas holidays; and in the mean time I will make the best bargain for you that I can. You may take the stage at Fredericksburg, and on the 5th. day you will be here. Enquire for me at Francis’s hotel, South 4th. street between Market and Chesnut. I am Sir Your humble servt

Th: Jefferson

RC (Joseph Rubinfine, West Palm Beach, Florida, 1990); torn; at foot of text: “Mr. Richard Richardson.”

Richard Richardson (b. ca. 1775), a Virginia native, began working as a bricklayer at Monticello in 1796. At TJ’s prompting he went to Philadelphia in early 1798, where he studied stonecutting and plastering for several months, after which he returned to Monticello, where he was regularly employed through 1800, during the last year as an overseer. In June 1801, after learning that his services would no longer be needed there, he received news from TJ that Joseph Richardson, his uncle, had left him an estate in Jamaica, which he promptly proceeded to claim. He visited the United States in 1804 but returned to his sugar plantation in Jamaica the same year. TJ last heard from Richardson in a letter of 27 July 1809, at which time he invited his brother George to visit him and outlined plans to return to the United States (TJ to Richardson, 8 Jan. and 1 June 1801, and enclosure; Richardson to TJ, 20 July 1801, 5 Aug. 1804; TJ to Dudley Richardson, 2 Nov. 1809; TJ to George Richardson, 15 July 1823; 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 , ii, 945; Jack McLaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder [New York, 1988], 336–7).

Letters from Richardson to TJ of 28 Dec. 1796 and 26 Jan. 1797, recorded in SJL as received on 23 and 29 Jan. 1797 respectively, have not been found. SJL records a letter from TJ to Richardson of 11 Mch. 1797, which is also missing.

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