Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Mann Randolph, 16 October 1802

From Thomas Mann Randolph

Edgehill October 16. 1802.

Dear Sir,

It has occurred to me that perhaps a special licence for me to pass with my Slaves through South Carolina might be obtained from the Executive of that State upon my giving security that not one of them should remain in it. I have not heard that such an application has been made but I do not see any solid reason why leave should not be granted as the end of the laws restraining the passage is to hinder importation only and that end cannot be at all defeated if a penalty larger than any profit which could be made by sale in the State be taken. What those laws are I have no means of knowing and therefore it may not be possible to obtain what I wish: should it not be I must resolve on the circuitous rout, though from a person just arrived in this neighbourhood from Georgia I learn that the difficulty and cost must be very much greater. That person if I could get permission could carry out my Slaves for me on terms more reasonable than I ever expected; by the ordinary rout: from his estimate they cannot cost me more than 5 or 6 Dollars each including waggon hire for their baggage: he returns next month. you will render me a service of importance by giving me some information early on the subject.—Martha has recovered completely: the children are all well. With true affection.

Th: M. Randolph

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 20 Oct. and so recorded in SJL.

Randolph feared that his plan, discussed in a letter to TJ of 20 Mch. 1802, to move some of his SLAVES to Georgia to start a cotton plantation was being stymied by a series of South Carolina LAWS banning the importation of slaves into that state. Most recently an 1801 act had imposed a $100 fine on every slave or free black imported from outside the state and empowered sheriffs to seize for sale any slaves found to be in the state illegally (Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina. Passed in December, 1801 [Columbia, S.C., 1802; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819, New York, 1958–63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 3100], 30–6). The bans, which were never well enforced, ended after 1804, but by then Randolph’s interest in Georgia had faded (Rachel N. Klein, Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class in the South Carolina Backcountry, 1760–1808 [Chapel Hill, 1990], 127–8, 234–5, 253–5; William H. Gaines, Jr., Thomas Mann Randolph, Jefferson’s Son-in-Law [Baton Rouge, 1966], 47).

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