Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William Chamberlayne, 17 August 1810

To William Chamberlayne

Monticello Aug. 17. 10.


Towards the latter end of the last year Colo Thos M. Randolph informed me he had in his possession, on hire, 4 negroes of the property of the late mr Shackleford which he did not mean to keep another year, & knew that they would be to hire, & at the same price of £50. which he had given. I agreed to take them at that price, and they were to come to me after the Christmas Hollidays when their time with him was out. one of them, Tom Buck, asked permission of him to go down the country, which he positively refused, and ordered him to come to me with the others after the holidays. the others came, but Tom Buck contrary to orders went down the country. he returned (as well as I recollect) about the beginning of Feb. and went to the place where two of the others were employed. I did not hear of it for 2. or 3. days, and then learned that he was sick. I went to see him, and found him neither in a condition to be recieved as a laborer, nor able to go away if rejected. both feet were frost-bitten and extremely bad, tho’ they seemed to be getting better. I had him taken care of,1 but after about 3. weeks, they had changed so as to threaten mortification and to require a more skilful treatment than we were competent to to secure his life. I sent him therefore to Charlottesville to the care of Dr Everett, & had him boarded in a house convenient to the Dr. at the end of about 3. months (some time in May), the Doctr informed me his feet were then so near being healed that common dressings & attentions would now suffice. we brought him away, & by advice of the Doctor made cloth shoes to protect his feet, which were yet entirely tender. he has been taken care of ever since, but still continues unable to walk, except about the house, and it is impossible to say when the skin of the feet will be hard enough for him to get out. indeed I doubt if they will ever again be sound. I have thought it necessary to state these circumstances to you, and have delayed it so long only in the hope of being enabled to announce to you at the same time his perfect recovery. but that not having yet taken place, I thought it improper longer to delay apprising you of them, and coming to an understanding respecting him. he has never done a hand’s turn for me; but has been recieved and taken care of as an object of humanity, and for the benefit of his owners who were not here to see to him. the moment he is able to work, his wages shall commence, and I take for granted I shall be allowed in account what is paid and to be paid for his board in Charlottesville, and the Doctor’s attendance of which I have not yet recieved an account. for our own care and attentions to him I ask nothing, but that his bread alone be allowed at the price paid for it here; for as it was a place newly settled I had to buy all the provisions for it. I trust that these propositions will appear to you entirely reasonable, and that you will be so good as to favor me with such explanations on the subject as that we may have a mutual understanding with respect to him.2 accept the assurances of my respect

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); at foot of first page: “Genl Wm Chamberlayne near N. Kent C. H.”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosed in TJ to Chamberlayne, 11 Dec. 1810.

William Chamberlayne (ca. 1765–1836), merchant, mill owner, and planter, resided at Poplar Grove in New Kent County. He represented that county in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1791–96 and 1801–02, and sat in the Senate of Virginia, 1805–18. In 1800 Chamberlayne was a member of the Republican party’s state committee of correspondence. He was promoted to brigadier general of the Virginia militia in 1807 (ViHi: Chamberlayne Papers; Malcolm Harris, Old New Kent County: Some Account of the Planters, Plantations, and Places in New Kent County [1977], 1:128, 2:725–6; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends ; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers . . . Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , 9:79, 85; Richmond Whig & Public Advertiser, 6 Sept. 1836).

The 4 negroes whom TJ agreed to hire on 25 Dec. 1809 were Frederick, Tom Lee, Tom Buck, and Nancy (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1251). Chamberlayne served as the estate executor of Lyne Shackelford (shackleford), who died in 1806 (Henrico Co. Will Book, 5:260 [Vi microfilm]). The place newly settled was Lego.

1Manuscript: “off.”

2Word interlined in place of “this subject.”

Index Entries

  • Buck, Tom (slave) search
  • Chamberlayne, William; and slaves of Shackelford estate search
  • Chamberlayne, William; identified search
  • Chamberlayne, William; letters to search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; doctors in search
  • Christmas; mentioned search
  • Everette, Charles; treats slaves search
  • Frederic (slave) search
  • frostbite search
  • health; and treatments search
  • health; frostbite search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; slaves hired search
  • Lee, Tom (Shackelford estate’s slave) search
  • Lego (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); slaves at search
  • Nancy (Shackelford estate’s slave) search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); slaves of hired to TJ search
  • Shackelford, Lyne; estate of search
  • slaves; hired by TJ search