Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to David Higginbotham, [24 May 1812]

To David Higginbotham

[24 May 1812]

[. . . .] you have recieved that [bank?] note & title to the lot I sold [. . .] Richmond from Byrd’s trustees is totally without foundation. you will see by looking into the papers I gave you. you [. . .] a copy of the deed from Charles Carter the then only surviv[ing trustee] of Byrd to me. the original is recorded either in Henrico court or the old General court, I do not recollect which but in the one or the other it will be found. I hold that lot by the same title by which the one half of the lots in Richmond are held, and am in no more danger of losing it, and I have held it under that title now 40. years which bars every action by every person, except a writ of right, & that not in the possession of the person suing but only a possession by his ancestor, and in 10. years more that last spark of a right of action will be barred. I before explained to you the reason of my declining a general warranty, to wit, that a lot in a city being liable to be covered every foot of it by the most expensive buildings, it would be very unwise in me, for such a sum as £130. even were it a premium instead of a mere equivalent for the ground, to make an ensurance of title which might by something unforeseen swallow up my whole property. yet every lot in Richmond held under Byrd’s trustees is liable in the same degree of possibility, and to the same doubts, if they deserve that name. I am sure you would be as safe in building a lumber house on that lot, as in building it on any lot in Richmond held under Byrd’s trustees. and that the records of Henrico or of the Genl court will prove it to you. accept the assurance of my esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViU: TJP); torn and faint; addressed: “Mr David Higginbotham Milton”; endorsement by Higginbotham reads, in part: “May 24th 1812 … on the Subject of a lot.” Recorded in SJL as a letter of 24 May 1812.

A missing letter from Higginbotham to TJ, inconsistently recorded in SJL as a letter of 24 May 1812 received 23 May 1812, may have expressed concern over the title to the lot in Richmond that he was acquiring from TJ. On 9 Nov. 1777 TJ noted that charles carter had “executed deed to me for part of a lot in Richmond, for which I am to pay Mr. Wayles’s estate £25. as of this day & endorse it on the protested bill due from Byrd to the estate” (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 1:453–4). On 1 June 1812 TJ attended the Albemarle County Court with a deed conveying property from himself to Higginbotham, probably the conveyance for that lot (printed above at the end of November 1811), at which point the indenture was “produced into Court and acknowledged by Thomas Jefferson party thereto and ordered to be Certified to Richmond for Record” (Albemarle Co. Order Book [1811–13], 194).

Index Entries

  • Byrd, William (1728–77); TJ purchases lot from search
  • Carter, Charles search
  • Higginbotham, David; letters from accounted for search
  • Higginbotham, David; letters to search
  • Higginbotham, David; purchases Richmond lot from TJ search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; sells Richmond lot search
  • Richmond, Va.; TJ’s lot in search