Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Philip Mazzei, 5 April 1790

To Philip Mazzei

New York April 5. 1790.

Dear Sir

On my arrival in Virginia after a short and pleasant passage I found my name announced in the newspapers as Secretary of state. I was surprised because I had answered negatively to the question whether I would accept any post in the domestic administration. I did not yet know that that answer had been so long on it’s way that the nomination had taken place. Still I thought I should easily decline it. But in the correspondence which took place between the President and myself, I found that while he left me constantly at perfect liberty to return to France, he wished me to undertake the new office, and indeed that the public, or so many of them as think of these things, wished I should do it. So I agreed after 3. months suspence to take the place which had been assigned me, and am now here in it’s exercise. The short stay I made at home has doubled my propensity to return.

The diary I inclose of your affairs will let you see as much as I have been able to learn of them. On my arrival here I was at once immersed in such a mass of accumulated business, that I have not been able to enquire after Dohrman. The answer as to his matter shall come with those of Blair and Randolph whenever I can get them.

I see no prospect of your possessions in Virginia rising in value; on the contrary, they will continue to lose in value as they go more to ruin. I would advise you therefore to sell them immediately, for whatever they will bring. Were you to come to Colle yourself, all your arrangements would be to begin anew, and the money that will sell for will buy a smaller peice of better land. Be so good as to do something definitive as to Anthony’s claim for his passage.—I was presented on the part of Mr. Bowdoin with a note of mine given for a debt of my brother’s, which when settled by the table of depreciation came I think to about £18. I do not find this entered in your account and mine, tho’ that account comprehends the period of it’s date. I thought it possible therefore that it might have been settled in some other way. What increased my suspicion was that you have not assigned the bond to Bowdoin. I therefore refused to account to him for it, saying I would write to you, and consider myself accountable to you alone. The shortness of time allowed me to write my letters and the multiplicity of them, public and private, prevents my entering into the subject of news. I must therefore only add assurances of the sincere esteem of Dear Sir Your friend & servt,

Th: Jefferson

Apr. 6. P.S. I sent your letter to Dohrman last night with information that if he chose to send an answer it must be here by noon to-day. It is now 9. oclock P.M. and no answer.

RC (NhD). PrC (MHi). Recorded in SJL under date of the postscript.

The answer that TJ gave negatively was in his letter to Madison, 28 Aug. 1789. The letter that TJ wrote to Dohrman has not been found and is not recorded in SJL. The enclosed diary of Mazzei’s affairs is another evidence of TJ’s assiduity as a man of business: in addition to looking after his own neglected estate and bringing to a settlement the Farell & Jones and other debts, he took upon himself as obligations of friendship the difficult affairs of Mazzei and the Paradises. Perhaps the most agreeable of the commissions that he undertook was that of procuring American plants for Madame de Tessé and others, and to this as to all others he gave a direct, personal attention. His short stay in Virginia was one of crowded accomplishment.

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