Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to William Fitzhugh, 24 August 1790

To William Fitzhugh

New York Aug. 24. 1790.

Dear Sir

Your bill for 250 dollars for the horse was yesterday presented by Messrs Ludlow & Gould and paid on sight.

The President leaves this the 30th. I shall set out within a day or two after him, but am incertain whether I shall strike off from Alexandria by Newgate, or go by the way of Fredericksburgh. If the latter, I shall surely have the pleasure to call and ask you how you do. Mr. Madison and I travel together.

Not knowing whether my servant Bob is in your neighborhood, I must ask the favor of you, if he be there, to direct him to be at Monticello by the 10th. or 12th. of September.

I believe I shall have occasion while in Virginia for a carriage horse, blood bay, of 4f. 10 or 4f. 11 I. high, finely formed, young, broke to the carriage, and of good dispositions. Should you know of such an one, I will thank you to drop me a line to remain at the post office of Alexandria, till called for. I gave £30. for the horse to which I want a better match, the one I mean to dismiss as being vicious. I would not chuse any engagement to be made till I am further decided in my mind. Pardon me, my dear Sir, for asking information of you in a line wherein you can have it and I cannot; & believe me to be with sincere esteem Your friend & servant,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (MHi).

See note to TJ to Fitzhugh, 21 July 1790, and to TJ to Martha Jefferson Randolph, 22 Aug. 1790. Fitzhugh replied to the present letter on 5 Sep. 1790, saying that Bob had been with George Carter of Williamsburg for some time and that he had written to Charles Carter of Albemarle, asking him to pass on TJ’s request; he added that he would continue to look for a horse for TJ but feared it would be a difficult matter to find such a one as described, though he was on the point of going “in a few Days to the County of Culpepper, where … there are some likely geldings” (RC in MHi; recorded in SJL as received 14 Sep. 1790). TJ returned by way of fredericksburgh, stopping at Mt. Vernon en route; later in the autumn he returned northward the same way, but probably missed Fitzhugh both times. On 10 Oct. 1790 Fitzhugh wrote again from Chatham: “Soon after I received your Tickett, I waited on Mr. Vernon to know the Price of his Horse, and found it to be two hundred Pounds, which is more I presume, than you would wish to give, even for a Stud: of this I should have inform’d you long since if an Opportunity had offer’d. I have not yet met with a gelding that I think woud suit you. Whenever I do, you shall hear from me” (RC in MHi; recorded in SJL as received 25 Oct. 1790, at Monticello; TJ’s “Tickett” has not been found and is not recorded in SJL). TJ acknowledged this four days later: “Mr. Vernon’s horse is beyond my price four or five times over. I purchased one on my arrival at home which died within three days. I have since that purchased another, so that I am no longer in pressing want. Still if you were to see a horse of capital figure and of the other descriptions I have troubled you with of from 30£ to 50£ I would thank you to write me. I set out for Philadelphia the 8th of next month. Should I take the route of Fredericksburg I will endeavor to have the pleasure of seeing you” (PrC in MHi). TJ arrived at Monticello from New York on 19 Sep. 1790; there is no record of the purchase of a horse that died three days afterward, but on 4 Oct. 1790 he recorded in his Account Book the purchase at Richmond of a “horse of Carter Braxton 5. years old last spring got by Brimmer, who was got by Eclipse.” According to the slave Isaac, this horse (also named Brimmer) was a racer: it is thus interesting that the two horses of the turf that TJ is said to have owned were both acquired in 1790 and both were in the blood lines of the noted Eclipse. TJ paid for him by note “for 116⅔ Doll. paiable at Phila. Dec. 31. or at Richmd. Jan. 15.” He sold the animal early in 1793 (see TJ to Samuel Clarkson, 2 Feb. 1793). On 16 Nov. 1790 Fitzhugh acknowledged TJ’s letter of 29 Oct., promised to continue the search for a horse, and then offered another opportunity: “It is possible that you may be in want on a young Gentleman of Character and Abilities in your Office. If you shou’d be, I take the Liberty of recommending to you, the Gentleman who will deliver you this Letter, Mr. Mortimer. He is a young Man of a most amiable Character, has been genteelly educated, and will I am persuaded, acquit himself with Honour in any Department that may be assign’d him. He received the latter part of his Education in the House of an eminent Merchant in Philadelphia, by whom he is warmly recommended. He writes a pretty Hand, is Master of Figures, and I am inform’d has some Knowledge of the French Language” (RC in MHi; recorded in SJL as received 14 December 1790).

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