Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Elisha Boudinot, 1 February 1799

To Elisha Boudinot

Philadelphia Feb. 1. 99.


A friend of mine at Hanau in Germany, Baron Geismar, owning some shares (I believe three) in a copper mine in your neighborhood, has desired and authorised me to have them sold. having applied to the honourable mr Stockdon to recommend me to some person whom I might address for this purpose he was kind enough to permit me to use his name in addressing you. under that sanction I presume to write this letter. I am anxious to know for how much they can be sold, per share? and whether the sale could be made with a reservation to me, till I shall return home & be able to consult a former letter of Baron Geismer’s which I left there, to declare the sale then to be off or on? my reason for the latter proposition is that till I can see that letter again, I do not recollect how much these shares cost baron Geismar, & I should be unwilling to sell them to a loss. I have moreover left at home a blank power of attorney sent me to insert in it the name of the person whom I shall authorize to convey the shares & recieve the money. the paiment of the purchase money should be made quite easy, provided the principal were secured, and a recurrence to the delays of the law rendered unnecessary. I shall return home in March and could send a decision on the sale in all April. the circumstances of this case and my situation must be my apology for presuming to give you this trouble, and for asking information from you. accept assurances of the respect with which I am Sir

Your most obedt. servt

Th: Jefferson

RC (NNPM); addressed: “Elisha Boudinot esq. Newark”; franked and postmarked; endorsed.

Elisha Boudinot (1749–1819), younger brother of Elias Boudinot, practiced law in Newark, New Jersey, and was elected to the state supreme court in 1798 (A History of the City of Newark, New Jersey: Embracing Practically Two and a Half Centuries, 1666–1913, 3 vols. [New York, 1913], 2:603–10; General Catalogue of Princeton University, 1746–1906 [Princeton, 1908], 18).

The letter from Baron Geismar that prompted the inquiry above was likely one of 11 July 1798, now missing but recorded in SJL as received on 22 Jan. 1799. Much of Geismar’s correspondence with TJ has not been located (see note to TJ to Van Staphorst & Hubbard, 30 Apr. 1798).

The Copper mine had been opened in northern New Jersey earlier in the century by Arent Schuyler. In the 1750s Schuyler’s son installed a steam-driven pumping system, using machinery and expertise from England, to keep the mine from flooding. The operation fell into disuse until a group of investors formed the New Jersey Copper Mine Association in the mid-1790s to rehabilitate and develop the mine, offering 640 shares to raise capital (Thomas Oliver Perry, “The Eagle’s Nest: The History of the Schuyler Copper Mine, North Arlington, New Jersey” [M.A. thesis, University of Delaware, 1966], 69–71, 98–101; Collamer M. Abbott, “Colonial Copper Mines,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892– description ends , 3d ser., 27 [1970], 299–301).

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