Thomas Jefferson Papers

Stephen Kingston to Thomas Jefferson, 12 September 1816

From Stephen Kingston

Philadelphia 12 Septr 1816


In the pursuit of Justice no excuse is necessary for addresing it’s general advocate I therefore take the liberty of inclosing the papers herewith. As the principle at issue has been under your consideration, permit me to entreat you will have the goodness to peruse those documents & favor me with your opinion whether this case is not within the spirit of the treaty of 1783? I need not add the high sense with which the favor solicited will be received.

With great sincerity of Respect and consideration I have the honor to subscribe Sir Your most Obedient and humble servant

Stephen Kingston

Be kind enough to return Mr Harris’s letter.

RC (DLC); between dateline and salutation: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr”; postscript adjacent to closing and signature; endorsed by TJ as received 19 Sept. 1816 and so recorded in SJL.

Stephen Kingston (d. 1836), merchant, was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States as a minor by 1783. He settled in Philadelphia shortly thereafter. President James Madison appointed Kingston United States consul at Havana in 1812, but the Spanish government there soon forced him to leave the island. He subsequently returned to his adopted hometown, and he retired from trade in the mid-1820s (Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer; or, the Chronicle of Freedom, 16 Apr. 1785; DNA: RG 29, CS, Pa., Philadelphia, 1790, 1830; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 39 vols. description ends , 25:626–8; Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., 4:79; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:240, 241 [24, 25 Mar. 1812]; Kingston to James Monroe, 12 Sept. 1812 [DNA: RG 59, CD, Havana]; Kingston to John Rhea, 25 Jan. 1814 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17]; Thomas Wilson, ed., The Philadelphia Directory and Stranger’s Guide, for 1825 [Philadelphia, 1825], 79; Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 9 Feb. 1836).

The enclosed papers, not found, accompanied a note from Kingston that reads “Mr Jefferson is respectfully requested to return the inclosed to S.K.” (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 208:37062; undated; unsigned; endorsed by TJ as received 19 Sept. 1816 and so recorded in SJL). The documents apparently pertained to a controversy over a piece of land in Philadelphia that Kingston had purchased in 1807 “from William and John Oxley and others in the island of Barbadoes.” A question “whether the wills of said Oxley’s ancestors have been proved conformable to the laws of Pennsylvania” later cast doubt on Kingston’s title. The case dragged on in the courts until November 1823, when the state supreme court confirmed Kingston’s right to two-thirds of the property. Five years later the Pennsylvania legislature affirmed his title to the final third (Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [1813–14 sess.], 95; Facts, and Observations on the Facts, originating the bill, entitled “An Act for the Relief of Stephen Kingston” [Philadelphia, 1815]; Thomas Sergeant and William Rawle Jr., Reports of Cases adjudged in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 3d ed. [1851–75], 10:382–91; Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, from the fourteenth day of October, one thousand seven hundred [1810–44], 10:143 [10 Apr. 1828]).

Kingston seems to be referring to the fifth article of the treaty of Paris of 1783, which dealt with “the Restitution of all Estates, Rights and Properties” owned by British citizens that had been seized during the Revolutionary War (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:154).

Index Entries

  • Harris, Mr.; and S. Kingston’s ownership of Philadelphia land search
  • Kingston, Stephen; and ownership of Philadelphia land search
  • Kingston, Stephen; identified search
  • Kingston, Stephen; letter from search
  • Oxley, John; Philadelphia lands of search
  • Oxley, William; Philadelphia lands of search
  • Paris; Treaty of (1783) search
  • Pennsylvania; legislature of search
  • Pennsylvania; supreme court of search
  • Philadelphia; controversy over ownership of land in search