Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Jarvis, 10 August 1802

From William Jarvis

Lisbon 10th Aug: 1802


Ever attentive to your commands I have been enquireing for the Oeiras Wine, but cannot find any here to be depended on as genuine, there being several times more sold under that name than is made on the Estate. Presumeing Sir that none but the first quality would suit you, I supposd it would be more agreeable to wait a few weeks longer untill I could get the best from the Country, than to have such sent as I could obtain in this place.

With the most profound Veneration & Respect I am Sir Your Most Hble Servant

William Jarvis

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Oct. and so recorded in SJL.

William Jarvis (1770–1859) was born into a prominent Boston family and educated at schools in Bordentown, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. Embarking on a mercantile career, he apprenticed in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia, before establishing his own firm in Boston. Despite an early business failure, he managed to conduct several successful transatlantic trading ventures, gaining particular expertise in Portugal. Personally known to Henry Dearborn, Jarvis applied to the Secretary of War in August and October 1801, as well as to James Madison, to become the American consul in Lisbon and was confirmed in the position in February 1802. He remained consul until 1811, also operating a commission house there. After Bonaparte’s armies invaded the Iberian peninsula, Jarvis took advantage of the disordered situation and acquired about 3,500 merino sheep, a breed that the Spanish government had previously guarded against export. In addition to distributing small numbers of sheep throughout the United States, including a handful that he gave to TJ, Jarvis established a substantial sheep-raising operation on a farm he purchased in Weathersfield, Vermont. He remained there for the rest of his life, pioneering the American cultivation of merino wool, which soon emerged as the dominant agricultural activity in Vermont, and becoming a staunch advocate of protective tariffs and of the National Republican and Whig Parties that championed them (Jarvis to Henry Dearborn, 22 Aug. and 1 Oct. 1801, RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR, endorsed by TJ: “to be Consul at Lisbon”; Jarvis to James Madison, 22 Aug. 1801, RC in same; 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 , 1:406–7; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Randolph A. Roth, The Democratic Dilemma: Religion, Reform, and the Social Order in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, 1791–1850 [Cambridge, 1987], 165, 173–4, 177, 248; John J. Duffy, Samuel B. Hand, and Ralph H. Orth, eds., The Vermont Encyclopedia [Hanover, N.H., 2003], 170; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004–, 7 vols. description ends , 2:166).

OEIRAS WINE was a dry variety named after the ESTATE near Lisbon on which it was produced (John Hailman, Thomas Jefferson on Wine [Jackson, Miss., 2006], 276; 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 , 2:1097).

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