Thomas Jefferson Papers

Alexander McRae to Thomas Jefferson, 22 July 1809

From Alexander McRae

Richmond 22nd July 1809.

Dear Sir,

Mr Wirt was so obliging before his departure from the City, as to leave with me the letter I have now the honor of forwarding to you, by which you will perceive, that my friend & I intended to have commenced our voyage about this period; but the previous arrangements necessary to the success of our plan, required more time than we had anticipated: It is now probable, that we shall not be detained here beyond the 3rd of August.

I am aware that the plan may be difficult of execution, and that it is liable to some degree of hazard, which can only be obviated by great caution; our hopes however of success, embolden us to risque the consequences of engaging in such an enterprize.

Satisfied that you would regard our project as unexceptionable, because the successful result of it, while it can injure no one, will combine public with private advantage; I had intended so far to have intruded, as to ask for our guidance, the benefit of such advice as it might have been agreeable to you to afford; but my engagements have been such, as to deny me the pleasure of waiting on you for that purpose.

If it shall suit your convenience to honor us with letters to Europe, I must beg that they may be enclosed to one of us, as Mr Wirt will not return to Richmond for many days, and in his absence, letters addressed to him will be opened by his friend here, to whom, (tho a gentleman of honor) we would not willingly at this time disclose our views.

It is probable that during our absence, we may be not only in England and in France, but also in Ireland, Germany, Portugal, Spain,1 and Holland, and permit me to assure you, that wherever we may be, it will give me great pleasure to render you any service in my power.

Sincerely wishing you health & happiness I am with the highest respect

Dear Sir, Yr. mo. ob. Servt

Al: McRae.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson esq.”; endorsed by TJ as received 31 July 1809 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: William Wirt to TJ, 10 July 1809.

Alexander McRae (ca. 1765–ca. 1840) was an attorney in Richmond who represented Dinwiddie County in the House of Delegates, 1794–96, during an earlier residence in Petersburg. He sat on the Virginia Council of State from 1796 to 1809, ending as its senior member. McRae was one of the lawyers for the prosecution in Aaron Burr’s 1807 treason trial. Late in 1809 he traveled to England and France to promote a private and ultimately unsuccessful silk-manufacturing venture. McRae served as acting American consul at Paris, 1810–11, returned to Richmond in 1812, and sat in the state senate, 1814–15. After suffering financial reverses, he served as consul at Amsterdam, 1818–20, and lived thereafter in Paris and London, dying in the latter city (Valentine Museum, Richmond Portraits … 1737–1860 [1949], 113–5; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends , 195, 199, 203, 278; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:138, 140, 203 [18, 20 Apr. 1818, 21 Mar. 1820]; Gentlemen’s Magazine, new ser., 15 [1841]: 217; Richmond Compiler, 11 Feb. 1841).

On this date McRae wrote a similar letter to James Madison (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 6 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 1:296–7). my friend: John Clarke.

1Preceding two words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Burr, Aaron (1756–1836); treason trial of search
  • Clarke, John (1766–1844); and silk-manufacturing project search
  • Europe; and silk manufacturing search
  • McRae, Alexander; identified search
  • McRae, Alexander; letters from search
  • silk manufacturing; in Europe search
  • textiles; silk manufacturing search
  • Wirt, William; endorses silk-manufacturing project search