Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William Short, 20 August 1814

To William Short

Monticello Aug. 20. 14.

Dear Sir

Since my short letter by mr Rives I have to acknolege the reciept of your two favors of June 9. & July 30. a few days before the last came to hand I had written to Colo Monroe & prayed him to name a day in the autumn (when the fall of the leaves shall have rendered a survey in the woods practicable) and to procure an engagement from Champe Carter to attend and let us have a surveyor and arbitrators on the spot to settle the questioned boundary. I delayed answering your last letter in the hope that he might, in the instant of recieving my letter write to me off-hand. having failed to do this the time of his answering is too indefinite to postpone further the giving you the present state & prospect of the business which you desire.

The state of the case is this. John Carter, eldest son of the family sold to Monroe, bounding him ‘on the South by a run on the Eastern side of Dick’s plantation, & running thence to the source of the sd run.1 but no line was actually marked or examined by either party. it is said that John Carter had no right to sell but that Champe from family considerations concluded to acquiesce. I do not know that this fact is true, having it only from neighborhood report. Champe afterwards sold to you, and attended us in surveying & marking the line. ascending the run far above Dick’s plantation, it forked each run being equally large & extending nearly to the top of the mountain, but the Southern branch something the nearest. we knew nothing of the line specified in Monroe’s deed, but mr Carter professing to know it & to lead the surveyor, started from the fork and run a straight line between the two branches to the top of the mountain, thus dividing the interval which the two branches rendered doubtful; but not a word of any doubt was then expressed; I presumed he knew what was right, and was doing it. Colo Monroe, sometime after his return from Europe mentd to me in conversation that the line as run between you & him by mr Carter was, as he had been informed questionable, but he could not then explain to me how: nor did I ever learn how till after the sale to Higgenbotham. indeed from the continued silence on the subject I believed the claim dropped till I recieved a line from Higgenbotham informing me mr Hay had notified him of it, and Colo M. soon afterwards called on me, shewed his deed, and explained to me for the first time the nature of his claim. we agreed that mr Carter should be desired to attend, that we would take two neighbors as arbitrators, go on the land and settle the question on view. the topics of your right are these. I. if Champe Carter’s confirmation of John’s sale were necessary to supply the defect of title, then the demarcation of the line which he made in person was a declaration of the precise extent to which he did confirm. II. the run which was made the boundary to it’s source, branching by the way, and each branch being equally entitled to be considered as the run whose source was to decide, neither could claim exclusively to be called Dick’s run; the compromise made by mr Carter by running the line between them was a fair one, and after an acquiescence of 21. years, and that length of actual & adverse possession in you, ought to be considered as satisfactory to the parties; and especially when no effective step had been taken to maintain a contrary claim till after the land had been long notified as for sale & a sale actually made. the delay of the settlement has entirely rested with the other party. Price, who knows the two branches, thinks there may be about 25. acres between them, one half of which only is within the actual line.

Next as to the prospect. on closing this letter I shall write to John Carter, who lives in Amherst, for information as to his right, and his idea of the boundary, & if his information is of consequence I shall either get his deposition taken by consent of parties, or require his personal attendance as a witness. I must press upon Colo Monroe the fixing a day when he can attend, and some one to act for him, if he does not attend. Champe Carter I suppose will readily agree to be bound if he does not attend. I should have been very confident of finishing this at Monroe’s next visit, for he is anxious to finish it but that the call of Congress the 19th of Sep. will render his attendance difficult. if so, I will endeavor to prevail on him to appoint some one here to act for him; for his personal presence2 cannot be of much importance.

I think the downfall of Bonaparte a great blessing for Europe, which never could have had peace while he was in power. every national society there also will be restored to their antient limits, and to the kind of government, good or bad, which they chuse. I believe the restoration of the Bourbons is the only point on which France could be rallied, and that their re-establishment3 is better for that country than civil wars whether they should be a peaceable nation under a fool or a warring one under a military despot of genius. to us alone this brings misfortune. it rids of all other enemies a tyrannical nation, fully armed, and deeply embittered by the wrongs they have done us. they may greatly distress individuals in their circumstances; but the soil and the men will remain unconquerable by them, and drinking deeper daily a more deadly, unquenchable and everlasting hatred to them. how much less money would it cost to them,4 and pain to us, to nourish mutual affections & mutual interests & happiness. but the destructive passions seem to have been implanted in man, as one of the obstacles to his too great multiplication. while we are thus gnawed however by national hatreds we retire with delight into the bosom of our individual friendships in the full feeling of which I salute you affectionately.

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViW: TJP); endorsed by Short as received 21 Sept. in New Brunswick. PoC (MHi); endorsed by TJ.

Short’s missing letter of july 30 is recorded in SJL as received 5 Aug. 1814 from Philadelphia.

1Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

2In RC TJ here canceled “must.” In enhancing the PoC, he did not reproduce the same deletion.

3Reworked from “establishment.”

4Reworked from “less would it cost them.”

Index Entries

  • Carter, John Champe; and Albemarle Co. land search
  • Carter, William Champe; and Highland–Indian Camp boundary dispute search
  • Carter, William Champe; and W. Short’s land search
  • Carter, William Champe; sells land to J. Monroe search
  • Europe; TJ on tyranny in search
  • France; Bourbon dynasty restored search
  • Hay, George; and Highland–Indian Camp dispute search
  • Higginbotham, David; and W. Short’s land search
  • Highland (J. Monroe’s Albemarle Co. estate); boundary dispute search
  • Indian Camp (W. Short’s Albemarle Co. estate); boundary dispute search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; European affairs search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; European society search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Monroe, James; and Highland–Indian Camp boundary dispute search
  • Monroe, James; and W. Short’s land search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; abdicates search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • Price, Joseph; manages W. Short’s Indian Camp estate search
  • Rives, William Cabell; visits W. Short search
  • Short, William; and Indian Camp search
  • Short, William; and W. C. Rives search
  • Short, William; letters from accounted for search
  • Short, William; letters to search