Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William West, 14 May 1804

From William West



AGREEABLE to instructions received from the President and Directors of the Mutual Assurance Society against Fire on Buildings of the State of Virginia, I have to inform you that in consequence of recent and heavy losses, by Fire having taken place in the Borough of Norfolk and in several counties in this State, it becomes necessary to call upon the respective members of the Society for a repartition of payment—your quota from the statement made by the principal Agent examined and approved of by the Board amounts to Eighty nine Dollars and Eighty Cents, which you are required to pay me on or before the first day of August next, under the call of the President, as published in the various news-papers.

You will on reflection see the necessity of a punctual attention to this requisition, as in the event of failure, I shall under the instructions of the Board be obliged to direct motions to be made against all the delinquents. It is necessary however to add, that with all those who neglect to pay their quota’s punctually, under the act of incorporation, their Insurance ceases until they make such payment; and their property is nevertheless bound for the amount which may be recovered by motion, on ten days previous notice, under an act of the General Assembly.

Should you have sold the buildings which you have declared for, please to apprize the actual owner of the aforesaid quota that he may pay the same or else a motion will be made against you.

With due consideration, I am Sir, your Humble Servant,

W West

Cashier General of the M.A.S.

RC (MHi); printed broadside, with blanks filled by West rendered in italics; signed and addressed by West: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire Albemarle”; franked; endorsed by TJ as “Fire insurance” received 28 July and so recorded in SJL.

William West (d. 1816) was a Richmond-based apothecary who served as cashier for the Mutual Assurance Society from at least 1802 until his resignation in October 1804 (Richmond Virginia Argus, 21 July 1802, 3 Oct. 1804, 1 May 1816).

repartition of payment: on 11 Aug., TJ remitted $89.80 to the Mutual Assurance Society (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 , 2:1134).

On the broadside, below West’s letter, appeared a new opinion adopted at the meeting of the society’s board of directors on 8 May. Insurance declarations failing to reveal that the property in question was held for life or years, as opposed to in fee simple, were henceforth null and void. Tenants for life or years who had so declared when purchasing their policies could expect coverage only if “the remaindermen or reversioner in such interest or estate, shall also have joined with such tenant for life or years in such declaration.” Individuals with declarations ruled null under this opinion were, upon application, to be reimbursed for premiums or quotas previously paid to the society. William F. Ast, the principal agent, added that individuals “who do not own the buildings and land on which they stand in fee simple must make known to the office their titles, specifying in what manner they hold the buildings and land. All letters must be post paid.”

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