Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Craven Peyton, 1 November 1801

To Craven Peyton

Washington Nov. 1. 1801.

Dear Sir

In my letter of Oct. 8 covering a Columbia bank note for 1240 D. 27 c I recommended to you to dispose of it without delay. I had more reasons for this than would have been proper then to mention. that bank is now in a crisis which may end mortally. if that note is still in your hands or any where else so as not to have cleared us of all responsibility for it, if it be sent to me by return of the 1st. or 2d post after you recieve this, I shall be able to secure it. otherwise it will not be in my power. if you are entirely clear of it, let it go unless it be in Colo. C. L. Lewis’s hands on whose account I would meet the inconvenience it would cost me to get it saved. I shall be glad to hear from you on this subject by return of post, as I have considerable anxiety about it. health happiness & my best wishes

Th: Jefferson

RC (facsimile in Profiles in History, Catalogue No. 9, September 1989). PrC (ViU); in ink at foot of text: “Mr. Craven Peyton”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

That bank is now in a Crisis: Gallatin feared that if the run on the Bank of Columbia continued, the bank would have to stop payments. The Treasury secretary conversed with Comptroller John Steele, a stockholder in the institution, over measures to be pursued to restore the bank’s credit, including the “resignation of so many directors as will secure a majority in the direction, on whom reliance may be placed for the execution of any measures which may be recommended.” On 3 Nov., Gallatin reiterated the points in a letter to Steele. Gallatin questioned: “If there is an actual danger of a stoppage of payment, can the shopkeepers of George town alone, prevent it by their deposits & encouraging the circulation of notes?” Believing that a loss of confidence in the bank notes in circulation would “be injurious to the revenue, commerce & wealth of the U. States,” Gallatin pledged: “Upon the whole, I feel willing to go certain lengths towards the support of the Columbia Bank; greater certainly than they expected from me; greater than will be pleasing to most of my friends; but not greater than a sense of my duty may impel.” The officers at the Bank of Columbia contended that the bank’s credit had been injured by “malicious reports lately circulated and published in handbills, and in some of the newspapers.” To restore confidence, the bank allowed “a few intelligent Stockholders” to examine the bank’s transactions. On 4 Nov., Steele and four others issued a statement indicating that they had minutely examined the affairs of the bank and found “that the Specie funds compared with the amount of Notes in circulation and all claims of every nature on the Bank” completely confirmed “the safety and stability of the institution” (Wagstaff, John Steele description begins Henry M. Wagstaff, ed., The Papers of John Steele, Raleigh, N.C., 1924, 2 vols. description ends , 1:230–3; Washington Federalist, 9 Nov. 1801).

Colo. C. L. Lewis’s hands: Charles Lilburne Lewis was Peyton’s father-in-law and one of TJ’s brothers-in-law. He was also TJ’s cousin and the brother of Bennett Henderson’s widow, Elizabeth Lewis Henderson (Vol. 28:474n; Vol. 31:199n).

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