Thomas Jefferson Papers

Henry Banks to Thomas Jefferson, 21 October 1809

From Henry Banks

Richmond 21. Oct. 1809


I have the honor, herewith to send you, a publication relating to the Manufactory of Arms. Upon perusal you will find a development of a greater tissue of fraud and folly than has ever been before exhibited in this country. Altho many of the guilty persons are unmasked yet there are others, and it is with regret that I speak it, who deserve to be equally exposed.

To you it must be obvious that no public consideration ought at this time to weigh more than that of arming the Militia with proper Weapons, and it will be equally a sourse of regret, when you perceive that altho half a Milion of dollars of the peoples Money have been dissipated, there are at this time but few muskets fit for use and still fewer which deserve confidence. The reasons for this public Calamity are fully disclosed in the book now sent

Were I not well assured of the deep Interest which you take in the welfare of your country, and particularly of this State I should not have called your Attention to a Subject which will afford nothing to amuse, and as little to satisfy you with the manner in which the best interests of this commonwealth have been managed

With the highest approbation of the manner in which you have conducted the helm of our public Vessel, and equal confidence and hope, that you will still cherish a fostering Care for its future prosperity as well as safety, I have presumed thus to call your attention to matters which deserve a stronger hand than I have been abl[e] to exert.

I am most respectfully Your fellow citizen

Henry Banks

RC (DLC); frayed; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Oct. 1809 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Banks, A Compendious View of the Establishment & Operations of Manufactory of Arms, and of the Late Public Investigation from the Commencement to the Expulsion of the Officers in February, 1809 (Richmond, 1809).

Henry Banks (1761–1836) was a merchant, lawyer, and pamphleteer in Richmond whose extensive land speculations in Kentucky and western Virginia were ultimately unsuccessful. TJ sold him and Thomas A. Taylor his Elk Hill plantation in 1793, accepting as security a mortgage on a large tract of Banks’s land in Greenbrier County which became an asset of TJ’s when payment for Elk Hill was not forthcoming. On behalf of Hunter, Banks & Company, Banks sued TJ in 1795 for the value of several vessels impressed by Virginia during the British invasion of 1781. As the wartime governor, TJ was the defendant only nominally, and he had himself removed from the suit before its eventual dismissal. In 1806 Banks published a series of newspaper articles lauding Napoleon. By 1823 he had moved to Frankfort, Kentucky (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 24:22n, 28:245–6, 353n; Joseph I. Shulim, “Henry Banks: A Contemporary Napoleonic Apologist in the Old Dominion,” VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893– description ends 58 [1950]: 335–45; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends nos. 3400–1; Clay, Papers description begins James F. Hopkins and others, eds., The Papers of Henry Clay, 1959–1992, 11 vols. description ends , 3:449–50n).

Index Entries

  • A Compendious View of the Establishment & Operations of Manufactory of Arms (Banks) search
  • Banks, Henry; A Compendious View of the Establishment & Operations of Manufactory of Arms search
  • Banks, Henry; identified search
  • Banks, Henry; letters from search
  • Elk Hill (TJ’s Goochland Co. estate) search
  • Goochland County, Va.; Elk Hill search
  • Virginia; Manufactory of Arms search