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Thomas Jefferson to William Short, 9 November 1813

To William Short

Monticello Nov. 9. 13.

Dear Sir

You have heretofore been apprised of a claim of Colo Monroe to a corner of your tract of land on the top of the mountain, which he supposes included within the lines of his prior deed. some years ago he mentioned this to me; but as mr Carter had conducted your survey in person, I imagined Colo Monroe had been illy informed, and as he never repeated the thing to me, I presumed he had become satisfied. on hearing however of the sale to Higgenbotham, when he was here in Sep. he made his claim formally to him, who communicated it to me. I immediately called on Colo Monroe on the subject. he explained the information on which he supposed we had run on his lines, but without knowing the fact. we agreed at once that a surveyor should be employed to run the lines of his deed (of which he gave me a copy) that we would both desire the attendance of mr Carter, who would be ultimately responsible to you, and so settle the thing at once. I wrote to mr Carter, desiring him to fix any day he pleased, before this present date, and we would all attend with him. Colo Monroe wrote also. I had hoped thus to inform you of the renewal of the claim and1 it’s final settlement at the same time. but I have no answer from mr Carter. I have therefore this day written to him again, informing him that I shall set out to Bedford on the 17th shall be absent a month, and requesting him to fix a day as soon after that as he can, and to attend. Colo Monroe guesses there may be about 30. acres in question; but it is a mere guess. if it proves true, the price you were to recieve for it will be to be deducted from the bonds, and mr Carter will have to refund to you what he recieved and interest, which will probably leave on you a loss of about a dollar an acre. I will not suffer it to rest until it is finally and justly settled, & will accompany the surveyor on the lines.

From the fork of James river, & the falls of the other rivers upwards and Westwardly, we have had the most calamitous year ever seen since 1755. it began with the blockade, so that the fine crops of the last year, made in these upper parts, which could not be at market till after Christmas, were shut up by that and lost their sale. after keeping my flour till the approach of the new harvest, I was obliged to sell it lest it should spoil on my hands, at a price which netted me only 47. cents a bushel for my wheat, of course a total sacrifice. in the year 1755. it never rained from April to Nov. there was not bread enough to eat, & many died of famine. this year, in these upper regions, we had not a single rain from Apr. 14. to Sep. 20. say 5. months, except a slight shower in May. the wheat was killed by the drought as dead as the leaves of the trees now are. the stems fell before the scythe without being cut, & the little grain in the head shattered on the ground. from 500. as sowed here, I have not got in 1500. bushels, not three times the seed. our corn has suffered equally. from 270. acres planted, and which in common years would have yielded me from 800. to 1000 barrels, I shall not get a barrel an acre, and a great portion of that will be what are called nubbings, being half formed ears with little grain on them. corn consequently starts with us at 3 D. and being the principal food of our laborers, it’s purchase will be a heavy tax. I am told the drought has been equally fatal as far as Kentucky. there have been a few local exceptions here from small bits of clouds accidentally passing over some farms. should the little wheat we have made be shut up by a continuance of the blockade thro’ the winter, we shall be absolutely bankrupt by the loss of two successive crops. this is really the case for exclaiming ‘O fortunati mercatores’!

I found in Correa every thing good and valuable as you had notified me. the only circumstance of regret was the necessity of parting with him. what a misfortune that we cannot liberalize our legislators so far as to found a good academical institution. Wm & Mary college, removed to a central and healthy part of our state, it’s funds enlarged and constitution amended, with such a man as Correa for it’s president instead of the simpleton Bracken, would afford a comfortable look2 into futurity. but there is something in the constitution of our legislatures which does not permit a choice of the best wood for that fabric. a parcel of petty fogging academies too, as they presume to call themselves, with one or two masters, barely able to teach the rudiments of Latin, and the use of the chain & compas, fill us with Blackstone lawyers and Sangrado doctors, sufficient to starve out real science, which is accordingly totally extinct in this state. but war, famine, and ignorance are too much for the subject of one letter. affectionate & respectful salutations therefore.

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViW: TJP); at foot of first page: “W. Short esq.”; endorsed by Short as received 15 Nov. 1813.

The tract of land was the Indian Camp estate in Albemarle County. o fortunati mercatores: “O happy traders!” from Horace, Satires, 1.1.4 (Fairclough, Horace: Satires, Epistles, and Ars Poetica description begins H. Rushton Fairclough, trans., Horace: Satires, Epistles, and Ars Poetica, Loeb Classical Library, 1926, repr. 1970 description ends , 4–5). The fictional Dr. sangrado was a quack whose patients often died while under his care (Alain René Le Sage, Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane, 4 vols. [Paris, 1715–35; repr. London, 1769; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4346]).

SJL records a missing letter from Short to TJ of 9 Nov. 1813 as received 13 Dec. 1813 from New York.

1Preceding six words interlined.

2Word interlined in place of “view.”

Index Entries

  • Bracken, John; and College of William and Mary search
  • Carter, William Champe; and Highland–Indian Camp boundary dispute search
  • Chesapeake Bay; British blockade of search
  • corn; at Monticello search
  • corn; effect of weather on search
  • corn; for slaves search
  • corn; price of search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; TJ on search
  • education; TJ on search
  • flour; sale of search
  • Higginbotham, David; and W. Short’s land search
  • Highland (J. Monroe’s Albemarle Co. estate); boundary dispute search
  • Horace; TJ quotes search
  • Indian Camp (W. Short’s Albemarle Co. estate); boundary dispute search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; and Highland–Indian Camp boundary dispute search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Literary Quotes; Horace search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; College of William and Mary search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; education search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • Kentucky; weather in search
  • Monroe, James; and Highland–Indian Camp boundary dispute search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); corn crop at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); wheat crop at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ plans visit to search
  • Short, William; and Indian Camp search
  • Short, William; and J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • Short, William; letters from accounted for search
  • Short, William; letters to search
  • slaves; corn for search
  • Virginia; and education search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • weather; drought search
  • weather; effect on crops search
  • weather; rain search
  • wheat; at Monticello search
  • wheat; effect of weather on search
  • William and Mary, College of; president of search
  • William and Mary, College of; TJ on search