Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Coghlan to Thomas Jefferson, 10 April 1811

From William Coghlan

Columbia W: Tennessee April 10th 1811—

May it please your Excellency

You will perhaps be somewhat surprized at being addressed by a person entirely unknown to your Excelcy, At such a distance, & on such a subject as you will not perhaps, expect1 I need not say (such a subject) as fame errs or you have been often addressed on the same subject & much to the satisfaction of the applicants. But that I may not intrude on your Excellencys time & patience I shall State my Case to you in as brief a manner as possible— I am a man turned of fifty bred to a mechanical business but now rendered unable to work by the Rheumatism, after Many losses & Misfortunes by sea & land too numerous to trouble your Excelcy with I was over persuaded to come to this western Country as being a healthy fertile & plentifull Country & where I could support my helpless family to wit a wife & five small Children on easy terms, I accordingly arived here about Eighteen months ago togeather with another man with the following property between us, Viz. two Stills a wagon & four indifferent horses a Military land warrant for 640 acres of land & no money, we could not get the warrant located unless we gave one half for the other, after some time we were compelled to sell it for two Shillings per acre we could only barely support ourselves by our Stills the other man sold his part & is gone back to N: Carolina where we came from I could not go on account of some debts I contracted for provisions a few cows &C: to support my Family & am now indebted about $120 which I am unable to pay & am at the eve of loosing every little thing I possess & seeing my poor family perrish if not relieved, If I could sell what little I have at near its Value I could pay without troubling your Excelcy or selling my still the only support of my poor family but money is so scarce here that nothing will sell for money & nothing will satisfie my creditors but money, I offered them property it wont do, I offered to pledge as security for $100 for one year six cows & calves two horses forty hogs two beds & some little articles of household furniture all worth at least $200 & twenty per Cent. intrest but could not obtain a loan unless I gave thirty per Ct. & deposit double as much property as I possessed which was out of my power to do. therefore must be surely undone & unable to return to some of the southrn States where I could support my distressed family by some means here I Can do nothing at the business I was bred too Viz Painting & Glaizing—But knowing your Humane Benevolent & Charitable Character & hearing of the many similar distressed Cases which your Excelcys timely Charity & benevolenc has relieved I was prompted (I hope by Heaven) to apply to you Excelcy for relief I know the little that would relieve me and my distressed family & enable me to support them in future would never be felt by your Excely except the heart felt pleasure it would give you to reflect that you saved a poor distressed family from inevitable distruction, Therefore I beg & Intreat of your Excelcy for the love of God to assist me & save my poor helpless family from Starvation, My oldest who bares your Excelcys Name A name always revered by me & will while I exist, is my chief assistant but he & I both unacquainted with labouring work are not able to support the rest, therefore earnestly supplicate & implore your Excys assistance & trust in God you will look upon our distress: situation with a favourable & compassionate Eye, in full Confidence of hearing from your Excelcy soon I remain Joined by my Family in fervent prayers & sincere & unfeigned wishes for your Health & Felicity in this world & Eternal Glory in the next your Excellency’s most devoted most humble & most obedt servt & Petitioner

Wm Coghlan

RC (DLC); dateline adjacent to signature; at foot of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 May 1811 and so recorded in SJL.

William Coghlan was a painter and glazer in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1790s (Jacob Milligan, The Charleston Directory; and Revenue System of the United States [Charleston, 1790], 7; Charleston City Gazette, or the Daily Advertiser, 8 Sept. 1791).

In 1782 North Carolina offered privates in its regiments of the Continental army a bounty consisting of a land warrant for 640 acres in a military district on the Cumberland River in modern Tennessee. Soldiers with higher ranks received proportionally more land (The State Records of North Carolina, ed. William L. Saunders and Walter Clark [1886–1907], 24:419–22).

1Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • charity; requests to TJ for search
  • Coghlan, William; identified search
  • Coghlan, William; letters from search
  • Coghlan, William; seeks loan from TJ search
  • health; rheumatism search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; loans requested of search
  • North Carolina; and land warrants search
  • rheumatism; as disability search
  • Tennessee; land warrants in search