Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 30 September 1781

To James Madison

Monticello Sep. 30. 1781.

Dear Sir

I beg leave to introduce to your acquaintance the bearer Mr. Short who comes to Philadelphia in hopes of being able to prosecute in greater quiet there than he can here the studies in which he is engaged: and I chearfully add to what you may already have heard of him my testimony of his genius, learning and merit. I do this the rather as it gives me an opportunity of saving the right of correspondence with you which otherwise might be lost by desuetude, acknoledging not to have written to you these five months before and lamenting that the same space has occurred since I heard from you. Tho ours is at present the busy and interesting scene yet I have nothing to communicate to you of the military kind, as I am so far from the scene of action and so recluse that I am persuaded you know every event before I do and more especially as Mr. Short does not set out immediately. I pray you to consider me as being with very sincere respect & esteem Dr. Sir your friend & servt.,

Th: Jefferson

Intended as RC, but not sent (DLC); written on a sheet which TJ subsequently used for a summary of the case of Blair v. Blair; addressed: “The honourable James Madison Philadelphia. favoured by Mr. Short.”

The presence of this letter in TJ’s papers would ordinarily indicate that it was a draft. However the care with which this letter and the three following letters to McKean, Morris, and Peters were written—all being signed and addressed—indicates that they were intended as recipients’ copies of letters which were never sent. This supposition is strengthened by the fact that TJ used the paper on which all of the letters were written for notes or summaries of legal cases, writing across or over the letters, these summaries probably being written during his retirement in 1781 to 1783 while putting his private papers in order. Since Short did not propose to “set out immediately” and since Cornwallis surrendered a few days after this letter was written, perhaps the young lawyer decided that quiet for study, after all, could be had in Virginia. Short was certainly in Virginia early in 1782 (see Ambler to TJ, 16 Mch. 1782, and Monroe to TJ, 6 May 1782). TJ’s admission that he had not written these five months refers, inferentially, to a missing letter that Madison referred to in a letter of 1 May 1781 (Madison, Writings, ed. Hunt, i, 132).

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