Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson and Eli Alexander to William D. Meriwether and Martin Dawson, 7 March 1810

Thomas Jefferson and Eli Alexander to William D. Meriwether and Martin Dawson

Monticello Mar. 7. 10.


A difference of opinion having arisen between the subscribers as to the construction of the words of a lease we wish to settle it amicably by a reference to persons in whose judgment & impartiality we have unqualified confidence. it is of yourselves we ask the favor to become our arbitrators, and to your award we agree mutually to submit. we are sorry to add that the question cannot be understood or decided but on a view of the ground. can you then make it convenient to meet us at Shadwell at 10. aclock tomorrow morning? it may take perhaps two hours to ride over the ground, after which you can take the papers and decide at your convenience. the advance of the season, & the grounds being to be put into culture by the one or the other party has obliged us to propose so short a day. your favor herein will greatly oblige Gentlemen

Your most obedient servants
Th: Jefferson
Eli Alexander

P.S. mr Alexander being called away before this letter could be written authorised the subscriber to put his name to this letter.

PoC (MHi); entirely in TJ’s hand; postscript adjacent to signatures; at foot of text: “Capt William D. Meriwether and mr Martin Dawson”; endorsed by TJ.

Martin Dawson (ca. 1772–1835) was a prosperous merchant in Milton who succeeded David Higginbotham as factor for Brown, Rives & Company in 1802. He dealt extensively with TJ during the last two decades of the ex-president’s life. Dawson was appointed a county magistrate in 1806, and in July 1817 he bought 256 acres near Milton from TJ for $2,300. Having served as one of the three appraisers of TJ’s estate in October 1826, he purchased a further 579 acres near Milton from the estate for $2,992.25 early in 1829. In his will Dawson left a sizable but complicated bequest to promote public education in Albemarle and Nelson counties, donated land to the University of Virginia, and ordered that his slaves be freed and sent to Liberia (Bruce, University description begins Philip Alexander Bruce, History of the University of Virginia 1819–1919: The Lengthened Shadow of One Man, 1920–22, 5 vols. description ends , 2:389–95; Woods, Albemarle description begins Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia, 1901 description ends , 177–8; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , esp. 2:1081, 1336; Appraisal and Inventory of TJ’s Albemarle County Estate, 4 Oct. 1826 [ViU: TJP]; Conveyance of Land near Milton from TJ’s Estate to Dawson, 1 Jan. 1829, Albemarle Co. Deed Book, 28:118–9).

Index Entries

  • Alexander, Eli; TJ’s dispute with search
  • Dawson, Martin; and TJ’s dispute with E. Alexander search
  • Dawson, Martin; identified search
  • Dawson, Martin; letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; dispute with E. Alexander search
  • Meriwether, William Douglas; and TJ’s dispute with E. Alexander search
  • Meriwether, William Douglas; letters to search
  • Shadwell (TJ’s estate); dispute over lease of search
  • Virginia, University of (Charlottesville); land for search