Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Short, 2 July 1799

From William Short

Jeff. July. 2. 99—Send him the book by Griffith on rural architecture & speak of the art—speak of Fultons book on canal navigation—& his inventions in other useful arts—such men ought to confine themselves to their own country—such useless persons as myself indifferent where they live &c—sorry to appear a stranger to my country—Imperious circumstances have & do postpone the change in mode of life announced to him—Hope he will write by the commissnrs. expected here—they will settle differences—in the mean time write me by the packets to the care of M & S. at Ham. & Delt. here—mention Coll. S.—wish the affair could be settled—suppose my brother too far off—B.H. or Browne might perhaps be employed, if he think proper—PaskieIndian camp to be tenanted out by way of experit.—beg him to appoint an agent for details & to keep accts.—hope the 9. m. dollars settled—wish to know how employed—to know also how many canal shares—their original & present price—the price they cost me—& the dividend I receive—beg him to excuse the trouble, & above all to write to me—Send him a Virgil stereotype—inclose a letter for my brother—desire to be recalled to & kept in the memory of my friends—hopes those of my countrymen who are not my friends have so completely forgotten me as not to know where I am—

FC (DLC: Short Papers); entirely in Short’s hand; part of an epistolary record of his letters to TJ and others from 26 Apr. 1799 to 30 Aug. 1800. Recorded in SJL as received 3 Oct. 1799. For probable enclosures to this letter, see TJ to Peyton Short, 16 Oct. 1799.

Thomas Waters Griffith, born in Baltimore in 1767, learned French and bookkeeping before going to France in 1791 to establish himself in business. In and out of France during the Terror and under the Directory, he acted as U.S. consul at Le Havre and returned to the United States in August 1799. The previous year his book, L’indépendance absolue des Américains des États-Unis, had been published in Paris. He later wrote Sketches of the Early History of Maryland (1821) and Annals of Baltimore (1824). In February 1801 John Adams appointed him American commercial agent at Rouen (Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer, ed., My Scrap-Book of the French Revolution [Chicago, 1898], 9–21, 40–50, 54–7, 67–9; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:166, 382, 385). Griffith’s only known correspondence with TJ was a letter of 2 Sep. 1799, now missing, that according to SJL was received from New York on 3 Oct., the same day that TJ got the letter above. A visit from Griffith, mentioned in TJ’s 26 Mch. 1800 letter to Short, evidently took place in Philadelphia on 9 Jan. of that year. According to SJL, on that day TJ received two letters “by mr Griffith,” one of 3 July 1799 from Short and another written on 1 May of that year by Hector St. John (that is, St. John de Crèvecoeur). Neither piece of correspondence has been located. In the same epistolary record that contains the letter of 2 July printed above, Short noted the communication of 3 July, summarizing it only as “a letter of introduction for Griffith” (FC in DLC: Short Papers; entirely in Short’s hand).

The book on rural architecture was François Cointeraux’s work on packed-earth or pisé construction, École d’Architecture Rurale (see below). Fultons book: Robert Fulton, A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation (London, 1796), which advocated an innovative canal system that would use railcars or hoists, rather than locks, to raise and lower boats. In 1799 a French translation was published in Paris, where Fulton, a native of Pennsylvania, had gone in 1797 after spending a decade in England, where he first turned his attention to engineering and invention. Later, after returning to the United States, Fulton did some experimentation with pisé building (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends Nos. 1177, 1230; Fulton to TJ, 26 Oct. 1808).

The postponed Change in mode of life was Short’s anticipated marriage to the widowed Duchesse de La Rouche-foucauld (Short to TJ, 6, 24 Aug., 9 Oct. 1798). Commissionrs. Expected here: William Vans Murray and the other envoys to France; see TJ to Madison, 19 Feb. 1799.

M & S. at Ham. was the Hamburg firm of Matthiessen & Sillem; see Short to TJ, 6 Aug. 1800. Delt. here: F. C. A. Delamotte at Le Havre. Short desired an accounting from his uncle, Colonel Henry Skipwith, who had managed Short’s financial affairs in the U.S. from 1786 to 1792. Benjamin Harrison, B.H., had also earlier acted for Short in business matters, and James Brown was the Virginia representative of the firm Donald & Burton (Shackelford, Jefferson’s Adoptive Son description begins George Green Shackelford, Jefferson’s Adoptive Son: The Life of William Short, 1759–1848, Lexington, Ky., 1993 description ends , 135–6; Short to TJ, 27 Dec. 1797, 24 Aug. 1798; TJ to Short, 1 May 1798; John Harvie to TJ, 15 May 1798). For Short’s purchase of land from Frederick Paskie (Paschke), see his letter to TJ of 9 Oct. 1798, and for his wish to rent his Albemarle County property called Indian camp to tenants rather than farm it with slave labor, see TJ’s letters of 12 Mch. 1797 and 1 May 1798 and Short’s of 30 Mch., 27 Dec. 1797, 27 Feb., 15 Apr., and 6 Aug. 1798.

In his letter of 2 Sep. 1795 Short explained the dispute over Edmund Randolph’s handling of $9,000 of his diplomatic salary—the 9. m. Dollars that appears throughout Short’s correspondence with TJ in this period. For the status of that issue, see Timothy Pickering to TJ, 25 Feb. 1799, and TJ to Short, 26 Mch. 1800. Short’s investment in Canal shares of the James River Company is discussed in the correspondence between him and TJ of 27 Feb., 1 May, and 6 Aug. 1798.

Virgil stereotype: Publius Virgilius Maro. Bucolica, Georgica, et Aeneis (Paris, 1798), published in Latin by Pierre and Firmin Didot as an “editio stereotypa” using a new printing process (Short to TJ, 27 Feb., 15 Apr. 1798; see also Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 4465). In the previous volume in this series the Editors mistakenly surmised that Cointeraux’s book and the Virgil were the two unidentified books that Elbridge Gerry brought for TJ from Short and gave to Horace Binney for delivery (Vol. 30:578).

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