Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Wythe, 31 July 1801

From George Wythe

31 of July, 1801.

G’ Wythe to Th’ Jefferson.

Peter Tinsley, the brother of the officer, concerning a demand against whom i took the liberty to write a letter to thee not long since, apprehends, that the letter may make some impression thy mind unfavourable to the officer, and may produce a suspicion in others of some unjustifiable conduct in captain Tinsley. this i write for the purpose of declaring that i know of no such conduct; and that i could not learn, after inquirie, where he was, and knew not to whom, beside thyself, i could applie for information in what manner i might hope to obtain paiment of a demand on behalf of an old servant. farewell.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 13 Aug. and so recorded in SJL.

Peter Tinsley, chief clerk of Wythe’s High Court of Chancery, was the brother of the officer, Samuel Tinsley, against whom Wythe had previously made a demand. In a letter of 19 June, Wythe said that he had earlier asked TJ “to put me in the way of getting from an officer, at a distant post, some money which he owed to a freed woman living with me. his brother hath this day agreed to discharge the debt. i hope you had no trouble about it” (RC in DLC; endorsed by TJ as received 23 June and so recorded in SJL). From Hanover County, Samuel Tinsley, a former captain of a Virginia state regiment and a Revolutionary War veteran, was stationed on the Georgia frontier, distinguished himself in Indian battles, and under TJ’s reduction of the army, received an honorable discharge in 1802, at which time he was the oldest captain in the United States Army (Heitman, Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1793, new ed., Washington, D.C., 1914 description ends , 544; VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893– description ends , 36 [1928], 268; WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892– description ends , 3d Ser., 12 [1955], 552).

While the nature of Tinsley’s obligation is unclear, the freed woman he was indebted to was Lydia Broadnax, a slave Wythe manumitted after the death of his second wife in 1787. She continued to serve as his cook and housekeeper when Wythe moved from Williamsburg to Richmond (Andrew Nunn McKnight, “Lydia Broadnax, Slave, and Free Woman of Color,” Southern Studies, New Ser., 5 [1994], 18, 19; Imogene E. Brown, American Aristides: A Biography of George Wythe [Rutherford, N.J., 1981], 298–305).

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