James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Slaughter Jr., 20 March 1820

From Robert Slaughter Jr.

Culpeper. 20th. March 1820


You will no doubt be surpris’d on reading this and at the same time think it assuming in me to be thus intermedling in other peoples affairs in which I have no concern but the motive I hope will be taken in its proper point of view and plead an apology.

The Death of the late Mr. Alexr. Shepherd1 has I am afraid left his family (which now too frequently happins) in a very distressd situation. From what information I have the Widow and 5 Children will have for their support only her Dower right in 700. Acres of Land.

Communicating with her on her future prospects she seems quite disponding not knowing of any friend she can in confidence look up to for aid in her present distressd situation.

The Negroes are all on sale as you may observe in the Herald.2 There is among them two families of Negroes consisting of a Man his Wife and two Children each. With these two families of Negroes and her Land she flatters herself she wd be able to support herself & Children in tolerable Comfort.

The purport of this is solliciting your friendly aid to the family. Feeling a confident hope that yr friendly aid will be extended to them as far as yr convenience will admitt of.

A line on or before the day of sale on the Subject will be a favor as I am trying to make friends to buy these two families of Negroes for the Widow and Children. With sentiments of Esteem & Respect Dear Sir yrs Obt. Servt.

R. Slaughter Jr3

RC (DLC). Addressed to JM at Orange, and marked “Mr Wm D Clarke.” Docketed by JM.

1Alexander Shepherd (1770–1819) was a Culpeper County, Virginia, planter. His wife, Elizabeth (Betsy) Conway Madison Shepherd (ca. 1780–1850), whom he married in 1798, was the daughter of JM’s brother, Francis (Daily National Intelligencer, 9 Oct. 1819; Chapman, “Who was Buried in James Madison’s Grave?,” 259).

2The advertisement by William Shepherd for the sale of “about 30 likely Negroes” set for 30 Mar. 1820 at Culpeper Court House was published in the Fredericksburg Virginia Herald on 1 Mar. 1820.

3This was probably the Robert Slaughter Jr. who was appointed a justice of the peace for Culpeper County, Virginia, in 1783, and who also served as a trustee of Stevensburg Academy, which opened in 1802, and as a vestryman of St. Mark’s Parish (Scheel, Culpeper, 62–63, 68; Green, Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia [1989 reprint], 1:90).

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