Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 9 May 1801

To James Madison

Washington May 9. 1801.


A person of the name of Thompson, of Amherst county in Virginia has asked my interference for the recovery of his son John Thompson understood to be impressed on board the Squirrel a British vessel of war. the inclosed letter gave him the first information he has recieved from him for some time past, for so long a time indeed that he had apprehended he was dead. he thinks the letter not written by his son, but by some mess mate who had got ashore. but I was not certain whether this was not said as an excuse to cover the illiterate composition of the letter. the father is known to me to be a native of Virginia, having been a fellow collegian of mine and the name subscribed to the letter, it’s address, and it’s contents, prove so as not to be doubted, that he in whose name it is written is not an imposter as nothing more than his identity & citizenship can be justly requisite to obtain his liberation. I will pray you to take such measures as may be efficacious for his recovery and restoration to his family. accept my cordial & respectful salutations.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso. Enclosure not found, but see below.

In a memorandum of 9 May, TJ noted that he had written to the secretary of state “inclosing John Thomson’s original letter, and stating facts relative to the citizenship of the father” (MS in MHi; entirely in TJ’s hand; partially dated). John Thompson of Petersburg, TJ’s Fellow collegian, was a student at the College of William and Mary from 1759 to 1763 (List of Alumni description begins A Provisional List of Alumni, Grammar School Students, Members of the Faculty, and Members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, from 1693 to 1888, Richmond, 1941 description ends , 40; The History of the College of William and Mary From Its Foundation, 1660, to 1874 [Richmond, 1874], 89).

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