Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Anderson Bryan, 6 January 1790

To Anderson Bryan

Monticello Jan. 6. 1790.


Since my return home I learn that the survey under my order of council adjoining Edgehill has been curtailed by a younger entry and survey of Mr. James Marks now assigned to Colo. Harvie. You remember my notifying my order of council to you on your first coming into office, my pressing you perpetually to survey it, our frequent searches for the old lines by which it was to be bounded, and particularly the loss we were at to find Colo. Randolph’s back line, for which alone I believe the completion of my survey waited. You assured me repeatedly that you would finish it the first moment possible, and it was among the last and most urging things I requested of you when I left home. Mr. Marks asked me to consent to his taking a part of this order of council by an entry, but I peremptorily refused. I suppose it possible he may have induced you to enter and survey it on a presumption I should consent. I have so much confidence in the justice of Mr. Harvie as to believe that he will cede this matter as soon as he shall know the truth of it. I therefore send the bearer to you express to beg of you to state the whole of this matter as circumstantially as possible, certify it as surveyor, and send it to me by the bearer, that I may have time to communicate it to Mr. Harvié and get his answer before I leave the state again. I will also thank you for a copy of his and my survey to see how they lie, and to be informed if you know whether he has obtained a patent or not. I shall hope to see you before I leave the state which will be in February. I am Sir your very humble servt,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (MHi).

TJ’s order in council of 11 Mch. 1773 is quoted in TJ to Harvie, 11 Jan. 1790. See also Bryan to TJ, 10 Jan. 1790, and Blair to TJ, 2 Mch. 1774. The bearer was one of TJ’s slaves, Jupiter, who returned with Bryan’s response. This letter marks the beginning of the dispute with John Harvie over lands in which Bryan’s negligence was a key factor. Bryan had been a clerk of TJ’s father-in-law, John Wayles. On the death of the latter in 1773, as TJ later described his relations with Bryan: “I taught him to survey, procured the surveyorship of Albemarle for him, became his security, took him into my family, and gave him his board for some years. In return he now and then aided me in writing, but was particularly to do my surveying without fees” (TJ’s state of the case between himself and Harvie, ca. July 1795). The sort of work that Bryan did for TJ as amanuensis is exemplified in the MS of A Summary View of the Rights of British America of 1774 (see Vol. 1: 135 n., where the MS is said to be “in an unidentified hand,” but it is definitely in Bryan’s hand).

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