Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Newton, Jr., 19 June 1803

From Thomas Newton, Jr.

Norfolk June 19th. 1803


I now take the liberty of informing you that we have in this place but one Commissioner for Bankrupts Mr. Richd E. Lee having been elected to represent the Borough of Norfolk in the legislature is under the necessity of given up his commission or vacating his seat the former of which he prefers, and also of recommending for Commissioners Messrs Richard Henry Lee and John E Holt—Mr. Lee is a young man who has just commenced the practice of Law, he possesses talents and is very deserving1—Mr. Holt has been a Merchant but has for some time giving up Commerce—he is an intelligent man and a worthy Character—both the gentlemen are republicans and will accept of the appointments if you should think proper to confer Commissions. Mr. Nimmo who was some time ago appointed Commissioner has requested me to transmit his commission to the Secretary of State with his acknowledgements to you for the honor done him by the appointment. He has soliceted me to inform you that the reason which compelled him not to accept it was his holding a State office which he preferred Our Laws on that subject you are fully acquainted with. they do not permit an union of Federal & State offices in the same person.—

Accept Sir my best wishes for yr. health

Tho. Newton Jr

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at head of text: “Thos: Jefferson esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 June and so recorded in SJL with notation “Commrs. bkrptcy”; also endorsed by TJ: “Lee Richd. H. Holt John E. } to be Commrs. bkrptcy Norfolk.”

but one commissioner for bankrupts: TJ’s list of bankruptcy commissioners indicates that of the original July 1802 appointees at Norfolk, only Thomas Blanchard remained (Vol. 37:710; Vol. 38:27). Richard e. lee, however, did not return his bankruptcy commission to Madison until 28 Oct. 1803. He then noted that he found it “inconvenient” to continue in the office any longer and gave several reasons for his decision, including “the extensive latitude for fraud, which the Bankrupt Law” afforded and “the obstacles,” which were constantly thrown in the way, impeding “a complete discovery of the Bankrupts effects” (RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR, endorsed by TJ: “Lee Richd. E. to mr Madison. returns Commn of bkrptcy”; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , 5:587–8).

On 24 June, the State Department issued commissions for richard henry lee and john e holt. On his ongoing list of bankruptcy commissioners, TJ noted that Lee was appointed in place of James nimmo and Holt in place of Richard Evers Lee (list of commissions in Lb in DNA: RG 59, MPTPC; Vol. 37:710). For Nimmo’s appointment in November 1802, see Vol. 38:632–3, 634n, 677–8; Vol. 39: Appendix I.

1MS: “derserving.”

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