Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, 28 March 1802

To Thomas Mann Randolph

Washington Mar. 28. 1802.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 20th. has been duly recieved. my former letters will have informed you that the lands offered by Sibbald are real pine barrens & will not bring corn at all; but that the pine lands mixed with oak and a clay foundation bring good crops1 of corn & wheat. in a conversation which Capt Lewis had with mr Milledge the latter observed that after getting to the hilly country, some distance below Augusta, and thence Westward the Cotton soil is to be had every where, but that tho’ he deemed it healthy as soon as you reach the hills, yet the farther up the country the healthier. I inclose you a note of Capt Lewis’s as to a tract of land of Blackburn’s for sale, in the neighborhood of the Harvies & Meriwethers. it is about 20. miles above Petersburg, which is 50. miles above Augusta. Petersburg is at the confluence of Savanna & Broad rivers, with good navigation to it at present, a very considerable and most thriving town, likely to be the principal commercial town in the state, after Savannah. we propose to open a road from Kentucky & East Tennissee to the head waters of the Savanna, which will give to those states their shortest outlet to the Atlantic, and it is thought will turn all that portion of their commerce, which will bear the land portages, to Savanna instead of New Orleans; and be the route of return for all our boatmen who go to New Orleans, as being quicker than the return up the Missisipi. this channel of communication the Western country calls for as of immense importance to them. just above Petersburg the navigation of Broad river has obstructions easy to be removed & then is navigable a good way up. the lands on that river very fine. perhaps you could get Stewart or Coulter to procure from Blackburn his terms, with a right in you to accept or refuse after seeing the lands. there is a good carriage road the whole way. you had better go in my chair which will be idle at Monticello. Congress expects to rise the 2d Monday (12th.) of April; and I have no doubt will rise within a week after that, when you may expect to see mr Milledge. I shall be immediately after him. there will be no occasion for your adding so much to your journey as by coming here. Martha & the family can either come on with me, or if more convenient, I can come on after a very short stay at Monticello, and send back a coachee to meet them at mr Strode’s, Capt. Lewis going in it to take care of them. but all this may be settled2 when we meet. to make you perfectly secure in all accidents as to money, perhaps mr Milledge can indicate merchants who will give money there for draughts on me payable either at the treasury here or in Philadelphia. the H. of R. has passed the bill repealing the internal taxes. they must pass a supplementary judiciary law, and some other laws which, tho’ of minor consequence, are indispensable. my tenderest love to my ever dear Martha, and the children, & affectionate attachment to yourself.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. I have omitted to mention that letters are recieved from Governor Claiborne shewing great uneasiness at the situation of that territory, and requesting a block house to be built and 800. stand of arms to be deposited in the center of it’s population, which we have ordered. their H. of R. passed a bill prohibiting male slaves from being carried into the territory, which was rejected by the council. a circumstance of further consideration stated to me by some of the Western members, is that a traveller passing through the 600. miles of uninhabited country if he is taken sick, dies almost infallibly; for the want of provisions prevents his lying by in the woods, and travelling is almost always fatal to a sick person. this was one of the reasons which made us urge the Indians to let us establish houses on the road. but their jealousy denied it.

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Mann Randolph Edgehill near Milton”; franked; postmarked 27 Mch.; endorsed by Randolph as received 1 Apr. PrC (MHi); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso. Enclosure not found.

FORMER LETTERS: see TJ to Thomas Mann Randolph of 12 and 20 Mch.

Meriwether LEWIS spent time in Georgia after his mother, Lucy Meriwether Lewis, married John Marks and moved from Virginia to the Broad River valley in 1784 or 1785 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Vol. 33:51–2n). LAND OF BLACKBURN’S FOR SALE: probably Samuel Blackburn, who moved from Staunton, Virginia, to Georgia after he married Ann Mathews, the daughter of George Mathews, in 1785. Mathews served as governor of Georgia from 1787 to 1788 and 1793 to 1796. Blackburn served in the Georgia state senate from 1791 to 1795 and supported passage of the infamous Yazoo land bill. Blackburn returned to Virginia in 1796 and became a successful attorney, practicing law in Bath and Augusta counties. A Federalist, he intermittently represented Bath County in the House of Delegates between 1799 and 1826. Blackburn owned land in Wilkes County, Georgia, where Albemarle County members of the Harvie and Meriwether families had moved in the mid-1780s. In 1790, Wilkes was subdivided into four counties, one being Elbert County, extending from the mouth of the Broad River, and including PETERSBURG, which experienced a period of prosperity and growth in the 1790s and during the first decade of the nineteenth century. In 1804, Jedidiah Morse described it as a “very flourishing post town” being “in a pleasant and healthful situation, on the point of land formed by the confluence of Broad with Savannah River” (DVB description begins John T. Kneebone and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Richmond, 1998–, 3 vols. description ends , 1:518–19; Ellis Merton Coulter, Old Petersburg and the Broad River Valley of Georgia: Their Rise and Decline [Athens, Ga., 1965], 8–10, 13–16; Jedidiah Morse, The American Gazetteer, 2d ed. [Boston, 1804]; Woods, Albemarle description begins Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia, Charlottesville, 1901 description ends , 386–7).

COULTER: that is, John Coalter, attorney at Staunton (Vol. 31:192n).

On 20 Dec., Governor William C. C. CLAIBORNE informed the secretary of state that citizens of Mississippi Territory were not armed and could not obtain suitable arms. The governor noted that it would greatly add to the security of the “exposed Frontier” if the president would send to Natchez about 400 muskets, as many rifles, and directions to sell them at a price that would reimburse the United States the original cost. When General James Wilkinson visited Natchez in late January, Claiborne solicited him “to erect a small Block-House, central to the population of the District as a place of deposit, for such spare Arms as may now be lodged at Fort Adams.” On 29 Jan., the same day the governor presented his request, Wilkinson agreed to “the Establishment of a small party” that would be central to the population, and to the deposit of 250 to 300 arms, subject to the order of the governor. Claiborne forwarded his correspondence with Wilkinson to Madison on 5 Feb., requesting the executive to endorse the arrangement. Claiborne noted that while peace prevailed at the present time, “surrounded as it is, by numerous Indian Tribes, and with a population of Negroes, nearly equal to the number of Whites, the continuance of that Peace is certainly precarious.” Claiborne advised that the spare arms at Fort Adams be located so that the militia could defend itself in time of danger. On 10 Mch., Dearborn informed Claiborne that the president had directed 500 rifles to be forwarded from Philadelphia to the territory and “three Hundred Muskets to be delivered at Fort Adams, on your receipting for them.” The rifles and muskets were to be sold, under Claiborne’s direction, to the militia on reasonable terms but for a price high enough to prevent purchase for speculation. On 8 Apr., Dearborn informed Claiborne that the president had approved reasonable expenditures and the use of troops from Fort Adams to build a block house for the arms. This led to the establishment of Fort Dearborn, six miles east of Natchez (Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816, 6 vols. [Jackson, Miss., 1917], 1:27–31, 40–4, 104, 110–12).

On 23 Jan., Claiborne informed Madison that a law “to prohibit the importation into the Territory, of Male Slaves, above the age of Sixteen,” passed the House of Representatives, but was REJECTED BY THE COUNCIL. “This kind of population,” Claiborne continued, “is becoming alarming, and will in all probability, (sooner or later) prove a source of much distress” (same, 1:38–9).

1Remainder of sentence interlined.

2Remainder of sentence interlined in place of “at our convenience.”

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