Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Devereux DeLacy, 10 April 1813

To John Devereux DeLacy

Monticello Apr. 10. 13.


Your favor of Mar. 4. is just now recieved, and I should be glad to render to mr Fulton any service in my power. of the prospect of utility from the establishment of a steam boat on the Patomac, he is a better judge than I am. James river, from Norfolk to Richmond offers1 the only other establishment occurring to me in this state which could be profitable. but my interior situation, on an upper branch of that river, among the mountains, withdrawing me from all opportunity of seeing or consulting those immediately interested, renders me less capable of judging of the prospect such an establishment would offer, and entirely useless in promoting it. in this situation, I have thought the best service I could render mr Fulton would be to inclose the papers to some person at Richmond, & I have accordingly done so to Doctr Wm Foushee, the most likely person to make a proper use of them. from him you can probably learn what might be expected from such an establishment. Accept the assurance of my respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr De Lacy”; endorsed by TJ.

John Devereux DeLacy (ca. 1781–1837), steamboat entrepreneur, was a native of Ireland and subsequently a merchant in the Bahamas. From 1801–02 he associated himself with William Augustus Bowles in attempts to organize East Florida’s Indian tribes into independent states, capture the lucrative trade with them, and eliminate Spanish power from the region. These efforts entailed much frontier travel and led to his imprisonment by the Spanish authorities, 1801–02. By 1811 DeLacy was an attorney in New York City. The following year Robert Fulton engaged him to establish steamboat lines in Virginia and the Carolinas and to defend his patent rights. In 1813 DeLacy completed a survey for an inland navigation route from Saint Mary’s in East Florida to the James River and Chesapeake Bay. Soon, however, he broke with Fulton and acted as Nicholas J. Roosevelt’s counsel in an unsuccessful lawsuit against Fulton’s monopoly claims. In 1821 DeLacy failed in a bid to become attorney general of Florida Territory. Seven years later he was jailed for failing to pay for a suit of clothes that he had purchased on credit (DeLacy to TJ, 3 Nov., 18 Dec. 1801 [DLC]; J. Leitch Wright Jr., William Augustus Bowles, Director General of the Creek Nation [1967]; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 5:520–4; Alice B. Keith, William H. Masterson, and David T. Morgan, eds., The John Gray Blount Papers [1952–82], 4:178–80; Cynthia Owen Philip, Robert Fulton: A Biography [1985]; DeLacy to James Monroe, 16 Apr. 1821 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1817–25]; Latrobe, Papers description begins John C. Van Horne and others, eds., The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1984–88, 3 vols. description ends , esp. 3:390n; John H. B. Latrobe, A Lost Chapter in the History of the Steamboat [1871], 4–10, 42–4; New York Herald, 15 Apr. 1837).

For DeLacy’s favor of mar. 4., see TJ to William Foushee, 10 Apr. 1813.

1Word interlined in place of “is.”

Index Entries

  • boats; steamboats search
  • DeLacy, John Devereux; and steamboats search
  • DeLacy, John Devereux; identified search
  • DeLacy, John Devereux; letters to search
  • Foushee, William; and steamboats search
  • Fulton, Robert; and steamboats search
  • James River; steamboats on search
  • Potomac River; establishment of steamboats on search