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Wilson Cary Nicholas to Thomas Jefferson, 30 September 1816

From Wilson Cary Nicholas

Richmond Sept. 30. 1816

my Dear Sir

I feel great reluctance at asking of you what from its nature I fear cannot be very agreeable. I am confident I ought not to impoze so much trouble upon you. I trust however you will pardon me if it shou’d not be agreeable to you to interest yourself for a family, with which I am nearly connected. my Eldest sister you know married Mr Norton & had the fairest prospects in point of fortune. The revolutionary war swept off the whole of her husbands great fortune, so that his children have not received one cent from his estate. His second daughter a beautiful delicate & amiable woman married a Mr Armistead, who was bred a merchant, but was unfortunate and obliged to retire into the Country, where he has supported his family for several years by his labour. The issue of a law suit about the land on which he lived being unfavorable, has thrown him & his helpless family upon the world without a home. Mr A— I am informed is well qualified to discharge the duties of a clerk in any of the departments1 at Washington. His connexions are highly respectable. He is the brother of Col Armistead who defended the fort at Baltimore, and of one or two other officers of great merit who were lost in the service. If you cou’d procure such2 employment for him you wou’d add greatly to the obligations I am under to you & wou’d save an amiable woman & children and I believe a worthy man from distress. In any event I trust my Dear Sir, you will forgive the liberty I have taken in making this application. a letter addressed to Mr A at Hay market prince William County will get to hand. I hope the next time I go to Albemarle to have it in my power to pay my respects to you at monticello. I have only a moment to assure you of the very great respect & regard of

Dear Sir

Your hum. Servant

W. C. Nicholas

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 7 Oct. 1816 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Alexander J. Dallas, 20 Oct. 1816, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqrmonticellomilton va.”; stamp canceled; franked; postmarked Richmond, 3 Oct.

William Armistead (ca. 1773–1840) was married to Ann (Anne) Cary Norton, a daughter of Nicholas’s eldest sister, Sarah Nicholas Norton. The owner of a dozen slaves in 1810, in the same year he patented a method of “destroying the Hessian fly and Weavel, or preventing it from injuring wheat or grain.” His brother, United States Army major George Armistead, commanded Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the British bombardment of 13–14 Sept. 1814, and two other siblings, Addison Bowles Armistead and Lewis G. A. Armistead, lost their lives during the War of 1812. William Armistead, who had been ejected from the farm on which he lived in Prince William County in March 1815, was hired as a clerk in the office of the War Department’s accountant on 4 Dec. 1816. He transferred to a similar position in the Treasury Department’s third auditor’s office early the following March. Having labored there until at least the end of 1818, Armistead served as post sutler at Fort Monroe, Virginia, 1820–40 (Louise Pecquet du Bellet, Some Prominent Virginia Families [1907; repr. 1976], 2:317, 664; William S. Appleton, The Family of Armistead of Virginia [1899], 13; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, 1872 description ends , 87; Wilmington American Watchman and Delaware Republican, 25 Sept. 1811; DNA: RG 29, CS, Prince William Co., 1810; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:169; Chapman v. Armistead [1815], Va. Reports description begins Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1798–  (title varies; originally issued in distinct editions of separately numbered volumes with Va. Reports volume numbers retroactively assigned; original volume numbers here given parenthetically) description ends , 18 [4 Munford]: 382–98; Letter from the Acting Secretary of War transmitting Statements of the clerks employed in the Departments of War [Washington, 1817], 8; Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, transmitting a Statement of the names of the clerks in the Treasury Department [Washington, 1818], 10; Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, transmitting a List of the Clerks employed in the Treasury Department [Washington, 1819], 12; Robert L. Meriwether and others, eds., The Papers of John C. Calhoun [1959–2003], 5:212–3, 286, 9:545; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 6 Apr. 1840; Washington Army and Navy Chronicle, 9 Apr. 1840).

On this date Nicholas also asked President James Madison to find a position for Armistead (DLC: Madison Papers).

1Manuscript: “departmentments.”

2Nicholas here canceled “appoint.”

Index Entries

  • Armistead, Ann (Anne) Cary Norton (wife of William Armistead [ca.1773–1840]) search
  • Armistead, George; War of1812service of search
  • Armistead, William (ca.1773–1840); family of search
  • Armistead, William (ca.1773–1840); identified search
  • Armistead, William (ca.1773–1840); seeks federal appointment search
  • Baltimore, Md.; defense of search
  • Fort McHenry (Md.); War of1812defense of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and appointments search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); and appointment for W. Armistead search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); letters from search
  • Norton, John Haley; family of search
  • Norton, Sarah Nicholas; family of search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • War of1812; defense of Baltimore search