Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from David Fergusson, 10 August 1801

From David Fergusson

Baltimore Monday 10th. August 1801.

With regard to the tittle of addressing you, I am from the wood of diffidence at a loss—but I hope the plain apology—will plead & operate as an excuse, unto a Mind impress’d with just sentiments of Honour, and susceptible of the tender feelings of humanity—.

Fraught with an ardency, unto a Country, from which I have participated, it’s friendship & favor, I shou’d be wanting in my small scale of ability & penetration—not to aid it’s movement—from the most hospitable breath of a Heart, bent fully upon the agrandizement—of it’s Strengths, it’s Morality, it’s happiness—, it’s quite, it’s tranquility—from that spring, my intention springs—and as far as the mind can suggest—or the liabillity of the Heart to bestow—I shall endeavour to express a few words—which appears to my mind & feeling—(& which I’ve seen wh. disgust).

Upon the last session of Congress, I wrote about 3 Years ago, about Taxes & a general list I sent—to J. Adams then Predt. under the tittle of 7. Friends—Mr. Wolcott, I wrote at the same time under my real name—not wishing to be Known as a publick writter—I write this, to take the liberty, to ask you the favour of Your Time—in reading a paquett of Taxes for the approaching Assembly of Congress—which appear to be salutary & in their operation, will be light—& can’t admit of any wry thought, or useless grumbling, (common1 phrase).

A list of the Taxes, which I shall send on—with my remarks—about the offspring of their utillity—I shall direct to you at the City of Washington—& I expect to be their in a few days—where, perhaps I may have the Honour to see thee—my name I subscribe to this & unto the Inclosure—with the papers thus Seven Friends.—

I have been troubled with the Rheumatism & just from the south—in Carolina—I live at the Eastern Shore of Virginia—& have been in the Country 31 Years—(Scotch). Annexed I quote a list of The Taxes & wherever this finds thee—I wish you every happiness—which your goodness of Heart is able to afford—& alongst with the aid of the Supreme Being, the Heart of the Land & the Bosom of the Sea, is able to bestow. And under the hope—that what I have aimed at to express, may meet the approbation—of a Mind which I have before expressed is the wish of one, who is with a high Esteem, not to be refused, & not less with High Regard

David Fergusson

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 20 Aug. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: List of nine taxes, ranging from a post office tax to taxes on public stages, receipts, bills of lading, and vessels in quarantine, dated 10 Aug. 1801 (MS in same; in Fergusson’s hand, signed “Seven Friends”).

In 1787, David Fergusson, a merchant from Great Britain, opened a store with John Tennent, in Blandford, near Petersburg, Virginia. Tennent, a naturalized citizen, obtained the license for the establishment and paid the £5 tax required of citizens, instead of the £20 tax required of aliens. Because the store was called “David Fergusson’s,” although the license was not in his name, the court fined him £40. In 1789, Fergusson petitioned Virginia state authorities for a remission of the fine (CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , 4:626; Fergusson to Washington, 25 Apr. 1783, RC in DLC: Washington Papers).

Between 30 Apr. and 4 May 1783, Fergusson, writing from London, composed a general list of 15 taxes “for raising a Revenue, for the Support of the Government; of the thirteen United Provinces of North America,” signed it “Thirteen Friends,” and sent it to George Washington (MS in DLC: Washington Papers). Fergusson explained to Washington, in a letter of 6 May 1783, that he would probably come to America and reside in some part of Virginia or Maryland. In that case, he noted, the recommended taxes “would be chearfully paid on my part; from the sense of that utility to which they are pointed” (RC in same).

Paquett of taxes: see Fergusson to TJ, 22 Sep. 1801.

Troubled with the rheumatism: on 18 Aug., Fergusson wrote Gallatin from Georgetown, noting his health problem and requesting some “eligible employ, where Ability, Integrity & Secrecy are required” (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 5:598–9).

1Fergusson placed check marks above the preceding three words.

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