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Dabney Carr to Thomas Jefferson, 1 December 1815

From Dabney Carr

Winchester. Dec’r 1st 1815.

My Dear Sir.

When I last saw my lamented brother Peter (then on his death bed) we were conversing about our father, & particularly of the motion made by him in the Virginia Assembly, for appointing Committees of correspondence—I remarked, that I thought it, but justice to his memory, & a duty on his Sons, to make this fact, known to the world—& suggested, that the life of P Henry, which Mr Wirt was then writing, would furnish an appropriate vehicle—my brother was very much struck with the idea, & earnestly begged me, to attend to it, & have it done; adding that you were particularly acquainted with the circumstances, & he was sure, would with pleasure, give a statement of them—a few days after this conversation I was at Monticello, & you may recollect Sir, mentioned the subject to you. You detailed to me the particulars, shewed me the inscription you had prepared, for my father’s tomb=stone; & also Mazzei’s book, in which the motion is mentioned as having been made, by him. I then took the liberty of requesting you to give me a statement of the facts, which you readily promised to do, after refreshing your memory by a recurrence to the documents. Will you pardon me Sir, for now recalling this subject to your recollection, & asking, that you will, at your first leisure hour, forward me the, statement accompanied, by a brief sketch of my father’s1 character? I have written to Mr Wirt, & he replies, that he will with much pleasure give it a place in his book.

In the 2d Vol of Marshall’s life of Washington, I find him giving the whole credit of originating this measure, of appointing Committees of correspondence, to massachussetts—as you may not have the book, I will transcribe the passage—in pa. 149 under date of 1770. Sept: he says “From the commencement of the contest, Massachussetts appears to have deeply felt, the importance of uniting all the colonies, in one system of measures & in pursuance of this favorite idea, a committee of correspondence, was at this session elected, to communicate, with such committees, as might be appointed, by other Colonies.” after a few intervening remarks he adds “The example was afterwards followed by other Colonies, & the utility of this institution, became apparent, when a more active opposition, was rendered necessary.”

Is not this incorrect Sir? I think I understood you to Say, that Virginia & Massachussetts acted about the same time; & that the messengers bearing the propositions of the two States met each other—if so, we ought not to suffer the Old Dominion, to be robbed of her fame, & made to follow in the wake of Massachussetts.

I should not beg your immediate attention to this affair, if I were not apprehensive, that Mr Wirt’s book is so far advanced, as to render an early communication to him, necessary.

with every sentiment of affectionate respect. yrs &C

D Carr

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 15 Dec. 1815 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Marc Auguste Pictet, 31 Jan. 1816, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Monticello Albemarle County for the Milton post office”; franked; postmarked Winchester, 3 Dec.

For the inscription TJ prepared for the gravestone of his friend and brother-in-law Dabney Carr (1743–73) in the cemetery at Monticello, see PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 38 vols. description ends , 27:673–5. In Philip mazzei’s book, Recherches historiques et politiques sur les États-Unis de l’Amérique Septentrionale (Paris, 1788; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3005), 1:140–1, Mazzei credited Carr with initiating the proposal in the Virginia General Assembly for the establishment of a Committee of Correspondence. Mazzei described Carr as an “homme recommandable par les qualités les plus rares” (“commendable man with the rarest of qualities”). He also noted that a relative of Carr’s to whom Carr was “tendrement attaché” (“tenderly attached”), presumably TJ, had “consacré la mémoire par une inscription qu’il a fait graver sur son tombeau” (“consecrated his memory with an inscription that he caused to be engraved on his tomb”).

William Wirt gave Carr a place in his book, stating that the measure proposing a Committee of Correspondence had been “brought forward by Mr. Dabney Carr, a new member from the county of Louisa, in a committee of the whole house, on the 12th of March, 1773” (Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry [Philadelphia, 1817; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 4 (no. 131)], 87).

1Manuscript: “fathers” followed by a comma.

Index Entries

  • American Revolution; and committees of correspondence search
  • Carr, Dabney (1743–73) (TJ’s brother-in-law); and Va. Committee of Correspondence search
  • Carr, Dabney (1743–73) (TJ’s brother-in-law); TJ’s epitaph for search
  • Carr, Dabney (1773–1837) (TJ’s nephew); and father’s legacy search
  • Carr, Dabney (1773–1837) (TJ’s nephew); letters from search
  • Carr, Dabney (1773–1837) (TJ’s nephew); visits Monticello search
  • Carr, Peter (1770–1815) (TJ’s nephew); and father’s legacy search
  • Henry, Patrick (1736–99); W. Wirt’s book on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; relations with Carr family search
  • Life of George Washington (J. Marshall); accuracy of search
  • Marshall, John; Life of George Washington search
  • Massachusetts; Committee of Correspondence search
  • Mazzei, Philip; Recherches historiques et politiques sur les États-Unis de l’Amérique Septentrionale search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Carr, Dabney (1773–1837) search
  • Recherches historiques et politiques sur les États-Unis de l’Amérique Septentrionale (P. Mazzei) search
  • Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (W. Wirt); and D. Carr (1743–73) search
  • Virginia; Committee of Correspondence search
  • Wirt, William; Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry search