Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Wilson Cary Nicholas, 4 August 1801

To Wilson Cary Nicholas

Monticello Aug. 4. 1801.

Dear Sir

I was in [hopes] we should have had the pleasure of seeing you here during the court, but I learn you were not at court yesterday. you once intimated to me a possibility that you might be able to spare me a superlative overseer which you had. I do not remember his name. this possibility seems to be strengthened by a late resolution (which your friends lament) of changing the form of your property & perhaps of leaving us. should you have determined to break up your plantations, you will probably have no further occasion for this overseer, in which case he might become [my salvation] on losing Clarke who leaves me this year. certainly if I get my Bedford establishment into indifferent hands I shall be bankrupt. I will therefore pray you, if not wanting for yourself, that you would be so good as to procure me the offer of your overseer, & at the same time to give me previously some idea of what proportion of the crop, you think he would agree to [take?] or what sum of money if we should not agree as to the proportion of produce. this you can judge of by what you have given yourself, and [judging by] […] Clarke’s [way] is so […]ant that, […] of hands, I ought to put an end to it, & return it to what […] gives. should there be no chance of getting this man, I will thank you for a line that I may not lose […] any other […]. in that case too a recommendation of some other would be recieved with thankfulness. accept assurances of my sincere friendship & respect.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. Your friends at Baltimore […] Rob. Smith had entered on the duties of Secy. of the Navy before I left Washington. he moves his family there in the fall.

PrC (MHi); faint; at foot of text: “W. C. Nicholas”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

Late resolution: Nicholas advertised the sale of land, including the 7,000 acres he held on the north side of the James River in Albemarle County, making up five plantations, a large distillery, tobacco warehouses, the tavern at Warren, and the Warren mills (National Intelligencer, 11 Sep.).

Having heard that Bowling Clark was leaving Poplar Forest, Charles Clay wrote TJ from bedford County on 30 July recommending Daniel Fuqua, who was the bearer of the letter, as Clark’s replacement. Clay noted that Fuqua was known in Bedford “as one of the cleverest young Men on a plantation that we have ever had among us, and as paying particular attention to the improvement as well as the produce of the farm.” He claimed that if TJ had not engaged someone else, he “would hardly do wrong by making a tryal of him.” Clay, who had last written TJ in October 1799, concluded by inquiring whether the president planned to visit Bedford during the summer (RC in DLC, endorsed by TJ as received 11 Aug. and so recorded in SJL; Vol. 31:208–9).

On 12 Aug., Nicholas wrote TJ a brief answer from Warren, noting that he had informed Burgess Griffin of TJ’s offer to employ him to manage his estate in Bedford County. Nicholas continued: “he desires me to inform you he will be at your house by the 16th. instant. I have told him that you are willing to give the 12th. part of the crop, which I think is full enough for twenty five hands” (RC in DLC; endorsed by TJ as received 13 Aug. and so recorded in SJL).

TJ hired Griffin, who held the position as overseer at Poplar Forest until 1811 (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 , 2:1080).

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