Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Bushrod Washington, 23 September 1795

To Bushrod Washington

Monticello Sep. 23. 1795.

Dear Sir

I presume I am not mistaken in supposing that an injunction is the proper and most effectual mode of preventing a person from drowning a millseat of mine by raising his dam below it. With this view I have prepared the inclosed bill and documents, and trouble you with them to procure and send me an injunction. The defendant being very actively employed at present in raising his dam, the case was too urging for me to wait till our next court (Monday sennight) to compleat my order, on which there will be no dispute. Besides asking you to obtain the writ, there are two difficulties to be foreseen. The one that it will be disobeyed, and he will go on raising his dam. What is to be done most speedy and effectual in that case? 2. The family being absolutely pennyless, tho’ they can get work done to raise their mill by hypothecating it’s profits, cannot raise a shilling to pull down what they build up. What is to be done here again? That it may not be supposed I take advantage of their poverty to suppress any right they may have, I give them notice that I will advance money for them to any counsel they may think proper to employ to defend it. But if I am to furnish the expence of pulling down what they have built up and are building, it will be considerable. I pray you to send me the writ with your instructions without a moment’s delay which may be avoided. I write by the post of the 25th. to Mr. Pollard to pay your fee and tax. I do not know whether this letter will go by post or by a private hand. If the latter he who delivers it will call for the answer. If by post, be pleased to send the answer by post, which leaves Richmond for Charlottesville on Monday mornings. I am with esteem Dr. Sir Your most obedt. Servt

Th: Jefferson

PrC (MHi); at foot of text: “Bushrod Washington esq.” Enclosure: Bill in Chancery on the Henderson Milldam, [24 Sep. 1795]. Other enclosures not identified, but see note below.

Bushrod Washington (1762–1829), a nephew of George Washington, was a graduate of the College of William and Mary and had studied law with James Wilson in Philadelphia. He practiced in Westmoreland County, Virginia, won election to the House of Delegates in 1787, and the next year sat in the convention that ratified the federal Constitution. He moved his legal practice to Alexandria in 1788 and to Richmond two years later. In 1798, John Adams appointed him an associate justice of the Supreme Court, where he served until his death (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; DHSC description begins Maeva Marcus and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States 1789–1800, New York, 1985–2007, 8 vols. description ends , i, pt. 1, p. 124–6).

For the injunction obtained by Washington, see note to the following document. The other documents sent to Washington were likely the enclosures listed at John Carr to TJ, 22 Sep. 1795. To compleat my order for the steps taken by TJ to obtain the permission of the Albemarle County Court, see note to Inquest on Shadwell Mill, 18 Sep. 1795.

TJ’s missing letter to Robert Pollard was probably that recorded in SJL under the date of 23 Sep. 1795 with reference to TJ’s order on John Barnes for $96 “for Mulfd. & Washingt,” from which Pollard was to pay £5 to Washington for his legal fee and £23.3.9. to one Mulford in payment of a debt of J. P. P. Derieux for which TJ was security (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 , 23 Sep. 1795; note to TJ to John Barnes, 14 Sep. 1795).

According to a law passed in 1786, an attorney representing a client in a Virginia court had to pay a tax equal to a tenth of his fee (Hening, description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, Richmond, 1809–23, 13 vols. description ends xii, 285).

SJL records letters from TJ to Washington of 25 Feb., 11 Mch., 7 May, and 9 July 1795, and letters from Washington to TJ of 5 Apr. and 20 July 1795, received respectively on 14 Apr. and 28 July 1795, none of which has been found.

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