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William Short to Thomas Jefferson, 18 July 1816

From William Short

Philadelphia July 18 —16

Dear sir

Your favor of May 5. is the last I have had the pleasure of recieving from you. It crossed on the road one I wrote to you of May 7. This last was to inclose to you, as agreed on with Mr Higginbotham, his mortgage & last bond. I hope & take for granted they were recieved by you & that Mr H. has disposed of them to his satisfaction. I am the more certain of this, as he would certainly have written to me on the subject had he not recieved them.   This terminates the affair between Mr H. & me. I wish I could say the same of Mr Carter. I always apprehended delay & difficulty with him—& in this I am not disappointed—To my first letter he sent an answer after so long a delay that I had despaired of it, expressive in general terms of his good disposition—I then wrote to him to state the acct as I understood it with the interest at 5. pct & requested him if he found it accurate to send me a bond or some specialty for it—To this I got no answer—after waiting a month, I wrote a second time on the 1st inst.—To this I have no answer either, & now I do not expect one—So that I have got already to a non plus. I did not apprehend so much difficulty in getting a bond or written promise—I thought that would come at the time of realizing the paper. I know not how I am to procure from him this specialty—He seems fully aware of the advantage of witholding it.—To pay 5. pct—on the simple sum, is of course much better than 6. pct on the compound sum of principal & interest.

Some time ago M. de Grouchy told me he was going with his friend Genl Clausel to make you a visit at Monticello, & requested me if I should write to you, to mention it. I learned at that time from M. Correa that you were in Bedford—And this I mentioned to Grouchy—He is as you know the brother of Mde de Condorcet—I did not understand from him whether his visit was grounded on her former acquaintance with you, or whether he had a letter from lafayette, with whom he is intimate, or whether he went on the principle generally of paying respect to you—The French you know form to themselves duties of this kind. I have been also requested by a person of a perfectly opposite character, to mention to you when I should write, that it had been his intention when he lately waited on the President at Montpelier, to have extended his visit to Monticello in order to pay his respects to you—but he learned at Mr M’s that you were not at home. It is his intention however to do himself that honor on some future occasion. This is M. Hide de Neuville, the new French minister, He & poor Grouchy are in very different situations, but each has had his vicissitudes. Neuville is also a member of the house of Deputies & represented as one of the Ultra Royalist party. Political or party spirit may blind him to a certain degree, but his heart is most excellent.

I have kept for la bonne bouche to inform you that Correa & Dr Wistar purpose going together to visit you during this summer. The former as you know of course, is entering on the diplomatic career—He was giving us a course of botanical lectures when the information was first recieved here. He did not abandon it, but has now just finished the course—His translation to Washington will be a real loss to us inhabitants of Philadelphia—Still we joy in his joy.

I am really sorry to learn that you are so much overwhelmed & obliged to be anchored to a writing table—You are certainly entitled to “the softest pillow for the head of old age”—I was far from wishing to throw you again into “the furnace of politics.” I thought that the tracing your own memoirs might be a soothing labor, & a most valuable legacy to your country, peculiarly useful & instructive to those who from the nature of things must always, at least during the present constitution, govern this country—I mean the organs of the democratic party. If your own experience has induced you to change or modify any of your political opinions, & it is the wise man particularly who is enlightened by experience, you might leave this as a legacy to your successors—For instance if you think it a dangerous policy to admit foreigners into our political rights,1 if you think it would increase the love & pride of country to make birth the sole & exclusive door of entry into this sanctuary, if you think that this Republic may be, as Rome was, lost by this kind of bastard amalgamation, your voice & solemn warning would, I think be listened to: You are now beyond the power of party influence, & it would therefore respect you—But already such is the power & influence of foreign editors in this country, that no man who is a candidate for popular favor can advise a reformation with impunity—See what has happened to Crawford—I know nothing of the man—I never saw him, but it is evident that he is lost by the mere hint that he gave, which indeed was done in a very unnecessary manner.     The ideas that I recollect to have read in your notes on Virginia, appear to me to be perfect on that subject—(I have lost my copy of this work—If you have one to spare I will be much obliged to you for it.)   There are other changes that are desirable in our constitution—It is impossible that your experience should not have discovered some I should think—& I think a recommendation from you either given now or left as a legacy would be listened to with pleasure & certainly with profit. The idea of having been useful to your country not only during your whole life, but to continue to be so after your death must be a motive worthy of you—However I will urge nothing more, being persuaded that whatever you may do in this behalf will be rightly done.

What I have asked I asked for your country’s sake—one thing more I will ask for your sake—I know your sentiments on the infamous traffic in human flesh—many others know them also—but there are some who do not—& all know you inhabit a slave State & are an owner of slaves, which the candid will acknowlege to be the unavoidable lot of an inhabitant of such a state—Congress have taken some steps towards the preventing their subjects from being involved in this foul traffic—but experience shews it is not sufficient—I could wish you would in some public way urge on them the rooting out this infamous evil—There are scoundrels living in Rhode Island particularly, who openly carry it on & make so much the more profit that many2 are prevented from engaging in it—Adieu my dear sir—God bless & preserve you. Believe me ever & for ever your friend

W Short

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to James Monroe, 9 Oct. 1816, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Monticello mail to Milton—Virginia”; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 19 July. Recorded in SJL as received 28 July 1816.

la bonne bouche: “the best for last.”

In an official letter of 13 Mar. 1816 to John Gaillard, the president pro tempore of the United States Senate, William H. crawford argued that federal policy might better incorporate Native Americans into “the great American family of freemen” rather than continuing “to receive with open arms the fugitives of the old world, whether their flight has been the effect of their crimes or their virtues.” This mere hint that some immigrants were fugitives from European justice proved controversial (ASP, Indian Affairs, 2:26–8; Chase C. Mooney, William H. Crawford, 1772–1834 [1974], 85–9). In his related ideas in the Notes on the State of Virginia, TJ suggested that it was impolitic for the government to encourage mass immigration from countries with monarchies (Notes, ed. Peden description begins Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden, 1955 description ends , 83–5).

Congress had taken some steps to discourage the transatlantic slave trade by passing a 2 Mar. 1807 law forbidding the importation of slaves into United States territory effective 1 Jan. 1808 (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 2:426–30).

Letters from David Higginbotham to TJ of 4 and 5 July, not found, are both recorded in SJL as received 10 July 1816, the latter from Charlottesville. SJL also lists a missing letter from Higginbotham to TJ of 14 Sept. 1816, received from Milton that same day.

1Word interlined in place of “family.”

2Word interlined in place of “others.”

Index Entries

  • Carter, William Champe; and W. Short’s land search
  • Clausel, Bertrand, comte; plans visit to Monticello search
  • Condorcet, Marie Louise Sophie de Grouchy, marquise de; family of search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; as Portuguese minister plenipotentiary search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; botanical lectures of search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; mentioned search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; proposed visit of search
  • Crawford, William Harris; on immigration search
  • Grouchy, Emmanuel, marquis de; family and friends of search
  • Grouchy, Emmanuel, marquis de; plans visit to Monticello search
  • Higginbotham, David; and W. Short’s land search
  • Higginbotham, David; letters from accounted for search
  • Hyde de Neuville, Jean Guillaume; as French ambassador to U.S. search
  • Hyde de Neuville, Jean Guillaume; proposed visit of to Monticello search
  • immigration; TJ on search
  • immigration; W. H. Crawford on search
  • immigration; W. Short on search
  • Indian Camp (W. Short’s Albemarle Co. estate); sale of to D. Higginbotham search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; mentioned search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); visitors to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); visits Montpellier (Madison family estate) search
  • Montpellier (Montpelier; J. Madison’s Orange Co. estate); visitors to search
  • newspapers; W. Short on search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); and immigration search
  • Short, William; and Indian Camp search
  • Short, William; letters from search
  • Short, William; on immigration search
  • Short, William; on importation of slaves search
  • Short, William; on newspapers search
  • Short, William; urges TJ to write memoir search
  • slaves; importation of search
  • Wistar, Caspar; proposed visit to Monticello of search