Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William DuVal, 20 April 1813

To William DuVal

Monticello Apr. 20. 13.

Dear Sir

I have occasion for the agency of a friend in the neighborhood of Shelbyville1 Kentucky, in a case which gives me considerable trouble and inquietude; and I do not know that I have either a friend or acquaintance in that neighborhood. I have learnt however that you have a son there, a practitioner of law, and I have believed that from our acquaintance and friendship, of now half a century, I might claim some consideration with any one so nearly connected with you. but I have supposed it might be more readily engaged by a line of recommendation from you to your son. and this I have felt no hesitation in asking, confident that your goodness would ensure this act of kindness. the case which calls on me to trouble your son is that of a purchase of lands adjoining me from a family of Hendersons, who removed to the neighborhood of Shelbyville in Kentucky, the children being then mostly under age. they have honorably confirmed as they came of age, what their mother & guardians did for their best advantage, till now that a case occurs of refusing confirmation. it is to obtain this on principles either of justice or compromise that I ask the interposition of your son.

I write this letter at home: but proposing to set out within a few days for Poplar Forest, I shall leave it myself at Majr Flood’s, to which place I shall return within about 10. days from the time of my leaving it. if, within that interval, you could forward the letter requested, addressed to me ‘at Poplar Forest near Lynchburg.’ I can save time by putting it directly on the road from thence to Kentucky. otherwise be so good as to lodge it at Majr Flood’s to await my return to that place. I am obliged to ask from you the address of your son, his Christian name not being known to me, nor exactly his residence or nearest post office. Accept the assurance of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); at foot of text: “Majr William Duval”; endorsed by TJ.

William DuVal (1748–1842), attorney and landowner, served as a militia captain in the Revolutionary War. He represented Louisa County and the city of Richmond in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782 and 1804–05, respectively. DuVal was a Richmond magistrate and served as mayor, 1805–06. In the latter year he was a witness at the trials of George Wythe Swinney for the murder of his great-uncle George Wythe, TJ’s mentor and DuVal’s neighbor. He later wrote TJ a number of letters describing the events. Early in 1807 DuVal moved to a plantation he owned in Buckingham County and spent the rest of his life there (DNA: RG 15, RWP; Bessie Berry Grabowskii, The DuVal Family of Virginia, 1701: Descendants of Daniel DuVal, Huguenot and Allied Families [1931], 176, 187–93; 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 , 146, 237; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , 2:45, 23:404–5; Richmond Enquirer, 15 Aug. 1804; DuVal to TJ, 4, 8 June 1806 [DLC]; W. Edwin Hemphill, “Examinations of George Wythe Swinney for Forgery and Murder: A Documentary Essay,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892–  description ends , 3d ser., 12 [1955]: 543–74; Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser, 11 Jan., 22 Apr. 1842).

1Manuscript: “Shelbyvielle.”

Index Entries

  • Buckingham County, Va.; Flood’s ordinary search
  • DuVal, William; and Henderson case search
  • DuVal, William; identified search
  • DuVal, William; letters to search
  • DuVal, William Pope; and Henderson case search
  • Flood’s ordinary (Buckingham Co.; proprietor Henry Flood) search
  • Henderson, Elizabeth Lewis (Bennett Henderson’s wife) search
  • Henderson case; claims by minor heirs search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ plans visit to search