Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Whitlaw, 19 February 1801

To Thomas Whitlaw

Washington Feb 19. 1801.


As it is now settled that I am to [remain here] I can no longer […] to build myself the nailshop at Monticello which I proposed to you to undertake. I must therefore engage you to do it yourself out & out, and will give you the price you then stated to be the lowest you could take. what that was I do not now recollect with certainty, but I have a note of it at home, made at the time as I [suppose] you have also.1 I shall be at home about the 19th. or 20th. of March, at which time I should be glad [if] you could make it convenient to be ready to begin [the shop]. the […] ought to be got into place by that time. my reason for wishing to be at home when it is begun is in order to […] on the plan & some other particulars. it is probable my waggon could be hired to you by the day [for] a part of the [loading]. I know not what sort of work […] do […] team of mules; but I should expect only a proportion […]. I will thank you to drop me a line directed to this place immediately, that I may know whether I may consider the matter as [set]. I am Sir

Your very humble servt

Th: Jefferson

PrC (MoSHi: Jefferson Papers); faint and blurred; frayed at margin; at foot of text: “Mr. Thomas Whately”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

Thomas Whitlaw, whom TJ addressed and recorded in SJL as “Whately,” is probably the brickmason recorded by Nicholas Lewis as “Thomas Whitlough,” who earlier had built a kitchen oven at Monticello. Whitlaw hired TJ’s slave Jupiter while TJ was in France. In June 1801, Whitlaw was preparing to build the walls of the public tobacco warehouse in Richmond. He was described as “a stone mason celebrated for faithful execution of his work” (Jack McLaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder [New York, 1988], 247, 425; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers…Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93,11 vols. description ends , 9:234, 258).

On 28 Feb., the day after receiving the letter above, Whitlaw responded from “Albemarle” that he was “exceedingly sorry” but previous engagements prevented him from being at Monticello on the date TJ requested. He closed by noting that as soon as the “business on hand” was completed he would be happy to come if TJ still wanted him (RC in MoSHi: Jefferson Papers; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Mch. and so recorded in SJL). TJ paid Whitlaw for stone in 1799 but he does not appear again in TJ’s financial records (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 , 2:1009).

A letter from Whitlaw to TJ of 13 Feb. 1794, recorded in SJL as received the following day, has not been found.

1Preceding six words interlined.

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