Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to William Short, 8 [i.e. 9] October 1802

To William Short

Washington Oct. 8. [i.e. 9] 1802.

Dear Sir

Your’s of the 5th. came to hand yesterday evening after the departure of the post. this can go only this afternoon, & tomorrow is Sunday.

I sincerely regret it is not in my power to furnish any thing in aid of your brother till the epoch I had mentioned to you. the close of the year calls for the paiment of all hired laborers, of my workmen, the year’s provision of corn & this during the expensive time of a session of Congress. it was on a view of this, that, seeing my resources till Feb. inclusive would be absorbed, I fixed on March as the beginning of a monthly or quarterly paiment of 500. or 1500 D perhaps 2000. and which shall not then cease till compleated. I think I know mr Ross too well to suspect even that he would think an action preferable to any reasonable instalments which you would undertake or guarantee. he and I have had a bloody contest which has separated us, so that we could not transact any thing together pleasantly. but any stipulations you shall find it convenient to enter into, or orders in favor of your brother, so far as built upon what I have here promised shall be religiously fulfilled. your application needs no apology. my wishes are to know yours & to fulfill them to the utmost of my power.

On the subject of E. Randolph’s proposition to give you personal security, altho’ I think he cannot do it, yet the chance should not be thrown away. but mr Gallatin must be seen, which shall be in the course of the day, and the result communicated herein, if obtained before the departure of the post. Tho’ messrs. Pickering & Wolcott actually purchased but 2000. D. for you, they acknoleged the public liable to interest for the whole.

Your servt had better stay here. he adds nothing sensibly to our family, and will hardly object to the walk while you shall be at mr Barnes’s. indeed I think you will find it more agreeable yourself to take a hack & come here generally at the hour of dinner. Accept my affectionate salutations.

Th: Jefferson

Mr. Gallatin’s note is inclosed. the men you accept should be good.

RC (DLC: Short Papers); probably written on 9 Oct. (see below), although recorded in SJL under 8 Oct.; addressed: “William Short esquire Richmond” with notation “to the care of Messrs. Gibson & Jefferson”; franked; postmarked 9 Oct.; endorsed by Short as received at Richmond on 12 Oct. Enclosure: Gallatin to TJ, 9 Oct.

TJ’s references to YESTERDAY and TOMORROW, along with his enclosure of Gallatin’s letter of 9 Oct., suggest that he wrote the letter printed above on the 9th rather than on 8 Oct. According to SJL, he received Short’s letter of 5 Oct., which has not been found, from Richmond on the 8th. The 9th, moreover, was a Saturday, which fits TJ’s assertion that the day following the one on which he wrote would be SUNDAY.

BEGINNING OF A MONTHLY OR QUARTERLY PAIMENT: in the spring of 1800, after TJ found that he owed Short a significant sum, he informed Short of his intention to begin paying the money back in 1801 and to clear the debt in two or three years—“this is certain,” he declared. Short replied that he did not yet need the money, and he did not want TJ to have to sell property in order to begin paying the debt right away. After Short’s arrival in the United States, he and TJ agreed on terms of repayment, probably when Short visited Monticello in September 1802. TJ knew, when he first discovered the shortfall, that the amount he owed was $9,607.97 “exclusive of interest.” He did not immediately calculate the interest, which must be “computed from the date of every article”—that is, calculated for each appropriation he had made of Short’s funds. Short worked out the interest and found that as of 1 Jan. 1800, principal and interest together amounted to $11,771. According to notes that Short made for himself in the spring of 1803, TJ was to pay him the $11,771, plus six percent annual interest calculated from the beginning of 1800. TJ made his first payment of $500 in March 1803, and finished paying Short back in July 1807 (statement and list of property, 20 Apr. 1803, in DLC: Short Papers; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:908n, 1206; Vol. 31:503, 508, 510n; Vol. 32:87, 157; TJ to Madison, 13 Sep.; TJ to Short, 3 Mch. 1803).

The BLOODY CONTEST between David Ross and TJ involved disputed business transactions from the 1780s. A decision by arbitrators in January 1802 settled the matter. It was “owing to mr Ross,” TJ asserted, that the issue had not been resolved years earlier (Vol. 31:209–10; Vol. 35:375; Vol. 36:369–70).

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