Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Francis Eppes, 28 August 1794

To Francis Eppes

Monticello Aug. 28. 1794.

Dear Sir

I received yesterday your favor of Aug. 17. as I had before done that of July 15. This would have been sooner answered, but that Mr. Jones was expected here, to whom the custody of Monroe’s papers had been confided. He has been here, and I got him to make a rigorous search for those we had delivered Monroe relative to R. Randolph’s representatives; but they are not to be found. This however is of no other importance to us, than the expence of new copies; for the state of the two deeds to R. and D. Randolph was not exactly as you seem to think. R. Randolph’s deed was on good consideration (viz. marriage) but not recorded in time. D. Randolph’s deed was recorded in time, but not on good consideration, for it was for natural love. Of this I am certain, and I think it probable you have some memorandum or letter of mine, written at the time, which will shew it. The second post after my return [here I?] wrote to Wickam and inclosed him a paper of which I now send you a copy. This went from here July 17. and should have been received by him on the 20th. I answered the postage, that no obstacle might arise from that. In this paper you will perceive that I had stated to Wickam the defect of D. R’s deed to be a want of good consideration, not a failure in it’s being recorded. For fear he [should?] from any accident not have received my letter, it [might not be?] amiss for you to send him this paper, which suffices f[or b]ringing the suit. I had taken for granted the process had been taken out so as to be returneable to the next term. Nothing more was necessary from me to Wickam.—I have received from Marshall an answer to my letter inclosing my notes on the Guineaman. He expresses good confidence in the issue of that suit.

As to my attendance at the trial, I mentioned to Marshall and Innes that I would attend. My view was to add a motive the more for their attention to our cause. But my actual attendance is entirely unimportant: and I shall be obliged about that time to take a journey to Bedford to which place I have not had it in my power to go for fourteen years past. If therefore it were possible that I could know the precise day of the Federal court on which this case would come on, it would scarcely be probable that I could attend. My occupations at home and my aversion to leaving them have some influence also on the chance of my attendance.—You have not informed me to whom I must send the original receipt of which I sent you a copy in John Randolph’s case.—I am sorry to hear of Mrs. Eppes’s indisposition. But it appears of too transient a character to influence her movements thro’ the year. We learnt through Co[l. C]ary’s family that, at any rate, Jack and Betsy would visit us, [and?] that as soon as Jack’s indisposition would permit. We hope that is over, and that we shall not be baulked in this part of our expectation. Mr. Randolph is returned, and is on the recovery. Our greatest alarm as to the nature of his complaint has [subsid]ed. Patsy is well as yet; but probably will be otherwise [. …] Every body else in good health and concurring in wishes [for the ha]ppiness of your family. My love to Mrs. Eppes and our young friends. I have no other channel to send the same to Mr. and Mrs. Skipwith and theirs, when you see them. Adieu. Yours affectionately

Th: Jefferson

RC (Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, on deposit ViU); torn at folds; addressed: “Francis Eppes esquire at Eppington in Chesterfeild. to the care of mr Mc.Callum Ozborne’s”; stamped.

Eppes’s favor of Aug. 17. and that of July 15., recorded in SJL as received from Eppington on 26 and 5 Aug. 1794 respectively, have not been found. SJL also records missing letters from Eppes to TJ of 20 May and 11 June 1794, respectively received from Richmond on 3 and 11 June 1794, and from TJ to Eppes of 27 July 1794.

Litigation by TJ and Eppes against R. Randolph’s representatives on the basis of two deeds formed a sequel to the Bivins case; see Bill in Chancery of Wayles’s Executors against the Heirs of Richard Randolph, [on or before 2 Mch. 1795]. The letter that TJ wrote to John Wickham the second post after my return from a June 1794 trip to Richmond is recorded in SJL under 18 June 1794, but neither that nor the paper of which I now send you a copy has been found. SJL records no other correspondence between TJ and Wickham in 1794.

Both TJ’s letter to John Marshall of 16 July 1794 and Marshall’s ANSWER of 2 Aug. 1794, received from Richmond on 15 Aug. 1794, are recorded in SJL but have not been found. TJ’s missing notes on the Guineaman related to litigation concerning the slave ship Prince of Wales (see Vol. 15: 643–8).

By referring to his original receipt relating to John Randolph’s case, TJ very likely meant the State of Farell & Jones’s Judgment against John Randolph, Document xxiii of a group of documents on the debt to Farell & Jones, printed above in this series at Vol. 15: 672. The case, one of several in which TJ was involved as an executor of the estate of John Wayles, concerned a bond of John Randolph, the former king’s attorney for Virginia who from loyalist sympathies had emigrated to England in 1775 and died there in 1784 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ). Little is known about the bond itself except that Jerman Baker, the original holder, turned it over to Wayles, who acted as an attorney for Farell & Jones, in partial fulfillment of a debt to the Bristol firm. In 1768 the firm won a judgment against Randolph for £241.14.5 (Virginia) plus interest until paid, but was unable to collect. In December 1778, by which time interest had run the total to £364.12.2, TJ accepted £291.12 that had been recovered from Randolph. He immediately deposited the money in the state treasury to the credit of Farell & Jones under the 1777 Virginia sequestration law, which sanctioned such deposits as payment toward debts. However, after the war British creditors maintained that they were entitled, under the Treaty of Paris, to full payment of debts in sterling money rather than the deposits of Virginia currency allowed by the sequestration act (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 19 Dec. 1778, and note; undated account of Baker’s debt to Farell & Jones, in Vi: USCC; TJ to Eppes, 10 July 1788; Hobson, “British Debts,” description begins Charles F. Hobson, “The Recovery of British Debts in the Federal Circuit Court of Virginia, 1790–1797,” VMHB, XCII (1984) description ends 176–8). Although Farell & Jones came to argue that before his death Wayles had assumed responsibility for payment of the bond, and that TJ’s acceptance and deposit of the money in 1778 incurred an obligation on the part of Wayles’s estate, in 1790 Richard Hanson, the agent of Farell & Jones in Virginia, wrote to the firm that “I observe you cannot find why you charged J. Randolph’s Bond to J.W. The list of Securities you sent me is of no Use if I bring a Suit for it. Jerman Baker must clear it up.” TJ and his fellow executors rejected the firm’s claim and excluded Randolph’s bond from the plan they negotiated with Hanson for the settlement of Wayles’s debt to Farell & Jones (Hanson to Farell & Jones, 17 Nov. 1790, extract in PRO: T 79/30, claim of John Tyndale Warre; Memorandum of Agreement between Richard Hanson and Executors of John Wayles, [7 Feb. 1790], printed at Vol. 15: 674–6).

In 1792 the firm’s surviving partner, William Jones, acting through Baker as his attorney, filed suit against Wayles’s executors in the United States Circuit Court at Richmond (Rule Book No. 1, p. 68–9, in Vi: USCC). The complaint against TJ, Eppes, Henry Skipwith, and Anne Skipwith claimed that on 23 July 1771 Wayles was indebted to the firm for the sum of £241.14.3 sterling (see below) “for so much money, before that time, had and received,” and that Wayles’s and subsequently his executors’ refusal to pay had resulted in damage to the plaintiff of £800 (MS in Vi: USCC; undated, but endorsed as filed July 1792 and so recorded in Rule Book No. 1, p. 68–9, in same; in Baker’s hand, leaving multiple blanks). The defendants’ arguments against that declaration have not survived. By the November 1793 term of the Circuit Court Jones was dead, and the firm’s executor, John Tyndale Warre, whose name is often spelled “Ware” in the records of American courts, subsequently became the suit’s plaintiff (Order Book No. 1, p. 241, in same; scire facias writ in same, 10 July 1794, consisting of a printed form signed and with blanks filled by William Marshall, clerk of the court, endorsed by Marshall directing service on Eppes only, and endorsed by Eppes on 1 Sep. 1794 and by Deputy Marshal Samuel G. Adams to record service of the writ). After a series of continuations the case finally went to a jury in December 1797, and Hanson, smarting from defeat in the Prince of Wales case against Wayles’s executors, reported to Warre that the jury had been unable to reach a verdict concerning the Randolph bond and that “in short it is idle to expect a Virginia Jury to find a Verdict against Mr. Jefferson” (Hanson to [Warre], 15 Dec. 1797, extract in PRO: T 79/30, Warre claim; clerks’ endorsements, Jones v. Jefferson and others, in Vi: USCC). A second attempt in November 1798 again resulted in a hung jury, but that panel was discharged and a new one during the same term of court decided in the defendants’ favor, declaring that John Wayles had not taken upon himself any debt originating with the old Randolph bond (Order Book No. 3, p. 116, 125, in same).

Several factors conspire to make the documentary record of the lawsuit confusing. The 1768 court judgment on the bond was for £241.14.5 in Virginia money, whereas the value cited in the Circuit Court filing was £241.14.3 sterling, a deceptively similar figure that actually included accrual of interest to July 1771 and accounted for conversion from Virginia currency to British sterling (undated Baker account in Vi: USCC). In the surviving papers and books of the Circuit Court it can be difficult to distinguish the Randolph bond case from the Prince of Wales suit, both being identified as actions by Jones against Wayles’s executors. Moreover, early in the nineteenth century when Warre sought redress from British commissioners ruling on pre-Revolutionary American debts, he unwittingly or otherwise muddled the John Randolph bond with obligations incurred by a different John Randolph of Virginia, who died in 1775 with his own array of debts to British merchants (Warre claim in PRO: T 79/30; Jonathan Daniels, The Randolphs of Virginia [Garden City, New York, 1972], 71, 88, 119). Compounding the confusion about the suit, in the editorial note concerning the debt to Farell & Jones at Vol. 15: 648, the Editors mistakenly associated John Randolph’s bond with a reference to “a loose and equivocal expression” by John Wayles, when in fact the “expression” was a key point only in the unrelated Prince of Wales case involving Wayles and Richard Randolph (see TJ to James Lyle, 12 May 1796). In addition, the Editors inferred that an oblique reference in a later letter (TJ to John Harvie, Jr., 22 Feb. 1796) meant the Randolph bond suit, when in fact it must have referred to the conclusion of the Bivins case—an error that led to an incorrect explanation at Vol. 15: 648 of the outcome of the litigation over John Randolph’s bond.

Index Entries