Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Strange, 18 September 1806

Monticello Sep. 18. 06.


In the year 1770. Wm. Mc.Gehee being indebted to James & Robt. Donald on dealings in Albermarle & Richmond conveyed his lands in Albemarle (193. acs.) by an absolute deed as security for the debt. in 1773. he sold the lands to me & I undertook to pay £15. towards the redemption of the mortgage, which he said was the whole due on it. in Sep. of that year I saw mr Shepherd an agent of the company & informing him I was to pay that sum, enquired what was due on the mortgage. he answered that Mc.Gehee’s debt to Donalds & co. was 15.14 with interest besides costs of the suit to foreclose the mortgage. but there is a tobacco note of 744. ℔. transfer tobo. to be credited? I wrote these words in my pocket book from his mouth. whether I paid him, or any other, the sum I cannot now find, the transaction being so old an one. I presume the books of the co. will shew, & if it was not paid I am ready to pay it. I gave the lands to Philip Mazzei without price or warranty, so that I was not answerable to him. it has been sold 4. or 5. times since to innocent purchasers, & from 1774. has been in possession of those persons. I find on the records of this county traces of the suit for foreclosure, but it is supposed the bill was lost with the records, & the suit was never dismissed, but appears to have been lost sight of. the company has seen these various transfers & constant possession without saying a word of their claim, & have now brought a writ of right to recover the land itself. the remedy to this is obvious & certain, a bill in chancery to enjoin the suit & redeem the land on paiment of the debt & just interest. but I am persuaded you cannot wish to put the present owner, Micajah Carr, to this vexatious course and to tie the thing up in Chancery for generations. as I was particularly intimate with this whole transaction, mr Carr applied to me, & I advised him to do nothing till I would write to you & get an answer, as I was certain you would at once do what was right without involving the parties in an abyss of law. my testimony in the case is the stronger, as it goes to charge myself with the paiment of Mc.Gehee’s debt & interest. but as he is bound to put in a defence unless this suit is arrested I must ask the favor of an immediate answer from you before I leave this which will be the last of the month. otherwise he cannot delay his injunction. in hopes therefore of hearing from you by return of post I tender you my salutations & assurances of respect.

Th: Jefferson

MHi: Coolidge Collection.

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