Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin H. Latrobe, 18 October 1798

To Benjamin H. Latrobe

Monticello Oct. 18. 98.

Dear Sir

I have to acknolege the reciept of your favor of Sep. 22. the canal which is the subject of it is a very small affair, the whole fall about 30. feet, of which two thirds are past by my mill canal 1200 yds long, and one third by Henderson’s canal 200 yds long. all between us is dead water. doubling the breadth of our canals would make them wide enough for batteaux, and this we know from the actual work in making our canals would not cost £1000. then is to be added the expence of locks in a country where building stone (rough) is every where at hand, and lime within 3. or 4. miles. as the whole of this work would pass through my lands, except a few hundred yards, it connects itself in different ways with some petty interests of mine, not enough to be felt by myself, yet quite enough to enable those, so disposed, to ascribe any thing I should do to interested views, and perhaps to injure the undertaking were I to meddle. I sincerely wish it done on the broad principle of general good, which must also effect particular good. but I have avoided taking any active part in it, wishing that others should do it whose situations clear them of particular imputations. I have made your letter the occasion of spurring them up, but I am very doubtful whether it will be with effect. if any thing should be done, as I know the benefit they would derive from your aid, I shall not fail to acquaint them with [your] kind offers. I am glad the works at Norfolk were put into so good hands for projection. that the execution should have been given to others may be consistent with the new code of morality the principles of which are daily developed to us in the practices of the exclusive friends of order & religion. mr Taleyrand seems determined to disappoint their wishes.—success to all yours, health and friendly salutations.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); faint; at foot of text: “Mr. La Trobe”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

Not until 1806 would the Rivanna Navigation Company be incorporated to make the river suitable for boats between Milton and Charlottesville, a project that required construction of locks in TJ’s mill canal to allow passage around his milldam (Latrobe, Virginia Journals description begins Edward C. Carter II and others, eds., The Virginia Journals of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1795–1798, New Haven, 1977, 2 vols. description ends , 2:431n; Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, Princeton, 1953 description ends , 343–4).

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