Thomas Jefferson Papers

Oliver Pollock to Thomas Jefferson, 23 April 1811

From Oliver Pollock

Richmond April 23d 1811—


When you recve this you will discover that my carreer of misfortunes and trouble has not yet terminated, nor am I satisfied, notwithstanding all the sacrafices1 of time trouble and expense for the Actual losses sustained by me in my concerns with the public—to you who knew so well there nature their extent and there importance I need not delate—but I may use that Recollection2 as an inducment in my favour to procure the reasonable request now about to be made.

Inclosed you will perceive a Copy of a document Obtained from the Council Chamber of the State. by which it appears that the Copies of the public letters written to me during your Administration are lost.

I am advised that it will be of considerable importance to establish the purport of that correspondence or of the public instructions which were then given.

I have no doubt that this may be done from Your Memory—and can not but flatter my self—that you will do it without difficulty.

I have the Honor to be Your Mo. Obt Servt

Olr Pollock.

Please send to me at my Residence3 in Baltimore

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esq Monticello”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 28 Apr. 1811 and so recorded in SJL.

Oliver Pollock (ca. 1737–1823), merchant, financier, and planter, was born in northern Ireland and immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1760. In 1762 he went to Havana and established a business specializing in trade between Cuba and North America. Pollock moved in 1768 to New Orleans, where his friendship with the Spanish military commander exempted him from trade restrictions on non-Spanish merchants. He also speculated in West Florida land, and in 1772 he established a plantation near Baton Rouge. When the American Revolution began, Pollock embraced the patriot cause, and as the Continental Congress’s commercial agent at New Orleans he made that port an important supply depot for American troops. In 1779 he negotiated bills of exchange that George Rogers Clark drew on behalf of Virginia to assist his Illinois expedition, but Virginia’s refusal to pay these drafts undermined Pollock’s credit. He became overextended in 1781 after guaranteeing bills drawn by Congress, and the latter’s failure to pay them off effectively bankrupted him. Although he gradually regained his fortune, Pollock spent the next several decades obtaining reimbursement from Virginia and the United States (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ).

In public letters dated 6 Nov. 1779, TJ and the Virginia Board of Trade agreed that, at the behest of Governor Patrick Henry, Pollock had exerted himself financially to supply Clark’s Illinois campaign, and that the state should therefore take steps to reimburse him (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 32 vols. description ends , 3:158–9).

1Manuscript: “sacafices.”

2Manuscript: “Recolletion.”

3Manuscript: “Residenc.”

Index Entries

  • Clark (Clarke), George Rogers; 1779expedition of search
  • Henry, Patrick; governor of Va. search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; as governor of Va. search
  • Pollock, Oliver; identified search
  • Pollock, Oliver; letters from search
  • Pollock, Oliver; seeks reimbursement from Va. search
  • Virginia; Council of State search