Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to William Fitzhugh, 21 July 1790

To William Fitzhugh

New York July 21. 1790.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 11th. came to hand three or four days ago. As my servant Bob went from here to place himself at Fredericksburgh, I took for granted he would fall in your way, and give you an account of Tarquin. Some time after his arrival here he was taken with a lameness which continued perhaps three or four weeks, not severe, but so as to render him unfit to be used. By leaving him at rest, it went off; and I have since avoided using him but merely for little rides about town. As this is my principal use for him, I hope he will answer my purpose. I am much attached to him for his size, form and properties, so that I beg you to consider yourself as under no responsibility for him, in which light I have ever considered you. The remittance of his price has been delayed longer than I expected. On my arrival here I proposed to draw a bill of exchange, for a considerable sum, on the bankers of the U.S. at Amsterdam, but exchange was then far below par, and I found an idea that the loss would be mine, which I did not think right. As exchange was rising fast, I was advised to wait and thus avoid dispute. It was expected that at the sailing of the last packet it would be at par; but it was not. I am assured it will be so at the sailing of the next, which will be about the 8th. of August. Whether it is or not, I shall draw, and then remit you the £75. say 250 dollars in any way I can devise or you advise. Or if you please to draw on me for that sum, payable1 the [7]th. of Aug. your draught shall be honored, and this would be the most agreeable to me, as the channel of remittance might, in my unskilful hands, occasion a delay, useless to me, and inconvenient to you.

The question of war and peace between Spain and England is still unsettled as far as we know. Congress will adjourn early next month, and the President go to Mount Vernon soon after. I hope to visit Virginia about the beginning of September. In that month and October I presume the removal of the offices to Philadelphia will take place. With my best respects to Mrs. Fitzhugh I am Dr. Sir Your most obedt. & most humble servt,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (ViU); containing first page only, the second page being in DLC: TJ Papers, 57:9765 (see note 1).

TJ had received Tarquin, a large, elegant roan of distinguished blood lines, at Alexandria on 11 Mch. 1790. Upon such an animal he would have made an impressive entrance at the seat of government, but the heavy snow forced him to take the regular stagecoach (TJ to Fitzhugh, 11 Mch. 1790). Isaac, a Monticello slave whose reminiscences are remarkably revealing though sometimes inaccurate, said that “Mr. Jefferson never had nothing to do with horse-racing or cock-fighting: bought two race-horses once, but not in their racing day: bought em arter done runnin. One was Brimmer, a pretty horse with two white feet‥‥ Tother was Tarkill: in his race-day they called him the Roane colt: only race-horse of a roane Isaac ever see: old master used him for a ridin-horse” (Rayford W. Logan, ed., Memoirs of a Monticello slave, Charlottesville, 1951, p. 33). TJ identified Tarquin’s sire as Eclipse and his dam as a roan mare “of the blood of Monkey, Othello, and Dabster” (Account Book, 11 Mch. 1790). Monkey was one of the first English-bred horses to be established in America and was distinguished for two things: his is the only known portrait of a horse imported into America before the Revolution and, as a pioneer who found few blooded mares in Virginia, he bred up the native stock, “imparting something magical to his filly foals which made of them the foundation stock for successful quarter racers which it was the privilege of Janus ultimately to galvanize” ([Fairfax Harrison], The Roanoke Stud 1795–1833, privately printed, Richmond, 1930, p. 113–7). Monkey, if not imported by Nathaniel Harrison of Brandon, certainly stood in the Brandon stud, as did Othello, who was described by Harrison himself as being “as high bred a horse as ever came to America” (Virginia Gazette, 11 Apr. 1777). Dabster, another import from the English turf, was in the Carter and Byrd studs from 1743 to 1761. Tarquin’s dam was a roan mare owned by Peyton Randolph (Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, Princeton, 1953 description ends , p. 96). On the side of his sire, his lines may have been even more distinguished. TJ’s description in the Account Book states that the gelding was 9 or 10 years old and that he excelled “in 2. mile heats 140. ℔.” Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, Princeton, 1953 description ends , p. 95–6, points out that he could not have been quite so old if his sire was the Eclipse owned by R. B. Hall, for that courser had been on the English turf in 1781–1783 and had been imported into Maryland in 1784. But there were two stallions of this name in Virginia, either of which could have sired Tarquin. One was Harris’ Eclipse, foaled in 1771, “a beautiful bay 15 hands 3 inches high,” owned by John Harris (1749–1800) of Powhatan. The other was Burwell’s Eclipse, foaled 1774, bred by Lewis Burwell (1738–1779) of Gloucester, and exported to Georgia at an indeterminate date; he was also a bay fifteen hands high. Both horses were the get of Old Fearnought, who was “entitled to the palm in preference to any stallion that had preceded him in giving the Virginia turf stock a standing equal to that of any running stock in the world” ([Fairfax Harrison], “The Equine F. F. Vs,” VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893- description ends , xxxv [1927]. 359–60, quoting “An Advocate for the Turf [George W. Jeffreys],” whose Annals of the Turf, originally published in the Petersburg Intelligencer in 1826, was the first systematic study of the bred horse in colonial Virginia). Fearnought was also called “the Godolphin Arabian of America,” the summit of praise, and his get were noted for size, stamina, and distance running. It seems very probable that Tarquin’s sire was Harris’ Eclipse, for in Oct. 1790 TJ bought Brimmer from Carter Braxton and that horse was a grandson of Harris’ Eclipse.

William Fitzhugh of Chatham, a noted horseman (and not to be confused with William Fitzhugh of Marmion who was a neighbor and kinsman of Nathaniel Harrison of Brandon), had written TJ on 11 July 1790 that he was very anxious to know the fate of Tarquin, having “never heard a Tittle respecting him” since TJ’s letter acknowledging delivery, and added: “I must beg leave to request of you, when disengaged from more weighty Concerns, to inform me whether he has answer’d your Purpose. It is possible his lameness may have returned, and that he has not been equal to the Business, for which you intended him. If it shou’d be so, I am still willing that you shou’d dispose of him, on my Account, for any thing you may think him worth; but if on the contrary he has proved a good Horse, and you can, with the most perfect Conveniency to yourself, contrive me the seventy five Pounds, by some safe Conveyance, you will do me a singular Favour.—The Loss of my Tobacco and Corn last year, has thrown me so much in Arrears, that even a tolerable Crop of Wheat will not relieve me” (RC in MHi; endorsed as received 17 July 1790 and so recorded in SJL). On 7 Aug. 1790 Fitzhugh replied to the above letter, saying that he had that day drawn for $250 in favor of John Proudfit of Fredericksburg, adding: “I am much pleased to hear you are satisfy’d with the Horse. His figure is elegant, and I am in Hopes with gentle usage, he will recover his Lameness, and be equal to what you require of him. When you return to Virginia, if you can make it convenient, I shall be happy in seeing you at Chatham” (RC in MHi; endorsed as received 15 Aug. 1790 and so recorded in SJL). TJ thought that Tarquin had only one fault: he stumbled in going down hill. In the Albemarle region, this was enough to cause him to dispose of the animal, and in 1793 he gave him to Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. It is worth noting that, in 1784 when TJ went northward to depart for France, he rode another grandson of Old Fearnought, Assaragoa, and sold the animal in Boston (Betts, Farm Book, p. 94–5).

1Text of PrC (ViU) ends at this point.

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