Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to David Ross, 1 August 1813

To David Ross

Monticello Aug. 1. 13.

Dear Sir

In February last I had some castings from your Oxford-works amounting to 64. D 55 C for which mr Richardson desired me to make paiment to you. this I promised to do as soon as my flour could be got to market & sold; but before that took place, the blockade shut us up, and my flour is still unsold. in the mean time another resource occurs which enables me to inclose you an order on Gibson and Jefferson, which I now do for 66. D 50 C interest included. mr Richardson, by a letter of the present month, and by your instruction as he informed me, had desired me to make the paiment at my own convenience only, for which indulgence be pleased to accept my thanks. I learn with pleasure that you continue in good health, which at your age and mine is a peculiar favor of heaven. Accept my prayers for it’s long continuance to you with the tender of my great respect & esteem.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); at foot of text: “David Ross esq.”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosure not found.

David Ross (ca. 1737–1817), merchant and agent, land investor, and ironworks proprietor, emigrated from Scotland in the 1750s. By the beginning of the American Revolution he had established himself as a tobacco merchant and shipowner on a plantation at Point of Fork in Fluvanna County. In 1780 TJ appointed Ross a commercial agent responsible for procuring military supplies for the state. During his tenure in this position he countered criticism and accusations of Loyalism by drawing on his own financial resources to fulfill demands for goods. Ross resigned as commercial agent in 1782 so that he could represent Fluvanna County in two successive sessions of the House of Delegates. After the Revolutionary War ended he concerned himself primarily with the operation of the Oxford Iron Works, located on the James River near Lynchburg. TJ reported in his Notes on the State of Virginia that this facility produced about 150 tons of bar iron per year. By the end of the 1780s his widely distributed accumulation of land and slaves made Ross one of the wealthiest men in Virginia. However, he was often overextended and beset by foreign and domestic creditors. For a decade beginning in 1793, a consortium of his creditors controlled much of his property, including the ironworks and many of his slaves. Ross eventually took charge of his own affairs again, but ill health, increasing competition in the iron market, and other factors thwarted his hopes of further expansion. While he was governor, TJ communicated frequently with Ross, and he conducted personal business with him sporadically thereafter. Although their relationship was generally congenial, in 1802 a dispute over the sum that TJ owed on his account to Ross had to be settled by arbitrators (Charles B. Dew, “David Ross and the Oxford Iron Works: A Study of Industrial Slavery in the Early Nineteenth-Century South,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892–  description ends , 3d ser., 31 [1974]: 189–224; ViHi: David Ross Letterbook; 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 , 4:226–8, 8:358; 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 , 145, 149; Henry R. McIlwaine and others, eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia [1931–82], 3:537; Notes, ed. Peden description begins Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden, 1955 description ends , 27, 28, 29; 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 ; Henrico Co. Will Book, 5:185–6; Richmond Enquirer, 6 May 1817).

Index Entries

  • Chesapeake Bay; British blockade of search
  • flour; at Richmond search
  • Gibson & Jefferson (Richmond firm); payments made for TJ search
  • Oxford Iron Works (Campbell Co. firm) search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); chimney backs for search
  • Richardson, Robert; and Oxford Iron Works search
  • Ross, David; health of search
  • Ross, David; identified search
  • Ross, David; letters to search
  • Ross, David; payments to search