Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 15 November 1815

From James Madison

[Washington, 15 Nov. 1815]

Dear Sir

Mr Gray, son of Mr William Gray so distinguished for his wealth & his patriotism, wishing with his lady to pay their respects at Monticello, I can not do less than favor the opportunity by a line of introduction. I am unacquainted with him, otherwise than by his introduction thro’ a friend here; but doubt not that he will be found worthy of your civilities which will be acceptable to his father as well as himself. They are on a visit to Georgia, where Mrs Gray’s father resides. It may not be amiss to intimate that Mr G’s political connections may not altogether correspond with the sentiments of his father. On this point however I am not certain. His view in desiring the present letter1

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); clipped, with loss at foot of text of conclusion of letter, signature, and, presumably, the dateline (supplied from TJ’s endorsement and SJL); endorsed by TJ as received 15 Dec. 1815 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in William R. Gray to TJ, 22 Nov. 1815.

William Rufus Gray (1783–1831), merchant, was the son of William Gray, a prominent Massachusetts merchant and public official, and the brother of Francis C. Gray, who visited TJ earlier in 1815. Gray was a native of Salem, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1800. In 1802 he successfully petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to change his name from William Gray to William Rufus Gray. Moving to Boston about 1803 and acting as his father’s agent, Gray became a merchant in his own right by 1805. In 1820 he became a director of the Boston office of discount and deposit for the Bank of the United States. Gray died in Boston (Thomas L. V. Wilson, The Aristocracy of Boston; who they are, and what they were [1848], 17–8; Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1925 [1925], 182; Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, passed at Several Sessions of the General Court [Boston, 1802]: 12 [23 June 1802]; Edward Gray, William Gray of Salem, Merchant [1914], 9, 19, 33; Boston Repertory, 15 Oct. 1805; The Boston Directory [1805]: 58; [1830]: 158; Providence Patriot, 6 Dec. 1820; Salem Gazette, 2 Aug. 1831).

Mary Clay Gray (1790–1867) was raised in Savannah. She moved with her family to Boston when her father, Joseph Clay, accepted a position as pastor of the First Baptist Church there in 1807. She married William R. Gray in 1809 in Newark, New Jersey, and lived thereafter in Boston (Montgomery Cumming, comp., Table of the Descendants of Joseph Clay of Savannah, Ga., 1741 to 1804 [1897]; Sprague, American Pulpit description begins William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 1857–69, 9 vols. description ends , 6:487–8; Newark Sentinel of Freedom, 24 Oct. 1809; DNA: RG 29, CS, Mass., Boston, 1860; Boston Daily Advertiser, 18 Nov. 1867).

The elder William Gray’s political connections were originally to the Federalists, but he broke with the party over the Embargo of 1807 and was elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts on a Republican ticket in 1810 (DAB).

William R. Gray also obtained a letter of introduction to TJ from James Monroe, Washington, 16 Nov. 1813 [1815], in which Monroe indicated that “Mr. Gray & his lady of Boston” very much wished to meet TJ during their southern tour, and that “Mr. Gray is the son of the late Lt. Governor of Mass. who is so well known to you for his PATRIOTISM, & ATTACHMENT TO THE REPUBLICAN CAUSE” (Tr in Ben Bloomfield auction catalogue, List DI–3 [ca. Apr. 1950], item 108; printed extracts only; original described as being in Monroe’s hand, signed by him, and addressed to “Thomas Jefferson, Monticello”; not recorded in SJL and probably never received by TJ). Monroe’s letter to Gray of the same date offering to supply him with letters of introduction is in CSt.

1Remainder of letter clipped and missing.

Index Entries

  • Gray, Mary Clay (William Rufus Gray’s wife); identified search
  • Gray, Mary Clay (William Rufus Gray’s wife); introduced to TJ search
  • Gray, Mary Clay (William Rufus Gray’s wife); proposed visit to Monticello search
  • Gray, William; as Mass. lieutenant governor search
  • Gray, William; family of search
  • Gray, William Rufus; identified search
  • Gray, William Rufus; introduced to TJ search
  • Gray, William Rufus; proposed visit to Monticello search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); introduces M. C. Gray search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); introduces W. R. Gray search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); letters from search
  • Monroe, James; introduces M. C. Gray to TJ search
  • Monroe, James; introduces W. R. Gray to TJ search
  • Monroe, James; letter from accounted for search