Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Waller Holladay, 1 June 1800

From Waller Holladay

Louisa June 1st. 1800—

Dear Sir

When Lewis Littlepage left America, he mentioned in the Presence of some of his friends, that he intended to hold a Correspondence with you, during his residence in Europe. He has now been absent nearly fifteen Years, in which time his relations have scarcely ever heard of him, but by doubtfull and unsatisfactory reports. He is my half-brother, and for the Communication of any Accounts you may have received of him, either by his Letters, or otherwise, you will have my own and the gratefull acknowledgments of his affectionate mother. From casual information I have reason to believe, he either now is, or has been at the Court of Russia, but where to address a Letter with any probability of it’s reaching him, I know not. He requested his friends to write to him under cover to the Marquis de la Fayette, but the unhappy Situation of that unfortunate Nobleman, and their ignorance of his present place of residence,1 have hitherto prevented them from pursueing that method. If there is an American Consul at Petersburg, it will be esteemed as a particular obligation, if you will inform me who he is—I am with the greatest respect

Your most obdt. Servant

Waller Holladay

Dft (ViHi: Holladay Family Papers); addressed: “The Honble Thomas Jefferson Vice President of the United States Albemarle,” with “Mr. Bullock” in lower left corner. Probably the retained copy of the letter recorded in SJL from Waller Holladay of 18 June and received on the 26th.

Waller Holladay (1776–1860) was the son of Elizabeth Lewis Littlepage, widow of James Littlepage, and Lewis Holladay, whom she married in 1774. Following six years of study with the rector of Berkeley Parish in Spotsylvania County, Holladay worked for a firm of Scottish import merchants in Fredericksburg, while studying law. He was admitted to legal practice in 1801 but, following the death of Lewis Littlepage in 1802, he abandoned the profession to administer his sizeable inheritance from his half-brother. He purchased land in western Spotsylvania County and built the estate, Prospect Hill, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1819 he represented the county in the Virginia House of Delegates. He was also a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1829–30 (Horace E. Hayden, Virginia Genealogies [Washington, 1931], 361, 364–7; Leonard, General Assembly, description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, Richmond, 1978 description ends 300, 353).

Correspondence with you: the last letter TJ received from Lewis Littlepage was that of 26 Dec. 1791. At that time he was a diplomatic agent in the service of Stanislas II, king of Poland. According to SJL, TJ’s last letter to Littlepage, a letter of introduction for Henry Middleton, was of 10 Sep. 1792 (TJ to Middleton, 11 Sep. 1792).

In November 1794 President Washington appointed John Miller Russell, a Boston merchant, to serve as American consul at Petersburg but the Russian government refused to recognize him when he arrived in 1795 (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:164; Nina N. Bashkina and others, eds., The United States and Russia: The Beginning of Relations, 1765–1815 [Washington, D.C., 1980], 289–92, 357).

1Holladay first wrote “unhappy fate of that [fantastic] Nobleman, and their ignorance of his present Situation” before altering the passage to read as above.

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