Thomas Jefferson Papers

Mary Blair Andrews to Thomas Jefferson, 16 October 1815

From Mary Blair Andrews

Wilton Octr 16th 1815

Your Favor Sir of the 15th Ult has follow’d me to this place—most gratefully do I feel my Obligation to you, for the Trouble you have taken on my Behalf My Father’s Estate in Albemarle was the only part of his property that he attempted to gaurd for the use of his own offspring, of which I am unhappily sole Survivor—the possibility of my being so, never occur’d to him, for he left two infant Grandsons by my Sister; one of them lived only a few months after his Grandfather & Mother’s Death; the other just compleated his 16th year, & in the time twined round my Heart; for I beheld in him every Quality to form him a virtuous Representative of his Grandfather. This fair Hope was1 suddenly cut down & withered: sharer in woe with his Father I determined he should share with me in this Estate (for himself had suggested what had never before enterd my Head) that it would be mine did I survive my Nephew; I soon however found he had got other Ideas of the Succession; yet, I wishing to slip from Life as I had lived, without Contention, I satisfied myself with bequeathing this property to a near Relation of my Father’s, but from this peacefull System I was drawn by Mr Henderson’s declaring himself Heir to th[e] whole at my Death:—I then consulted Mr Wickham, he, I found, had previously been consulted by Mr Henderson but he sent me the Opinion he had given him, “that Mr Henderson was entitled to one half, of the Estate now, as Heir to his Son, & at my Death to half of the Negros, & a fourth of the Land of the part I posses”2[a]nother Gentleman eminent in Law was of Opinion that Mr H: was Heir to one half of the Estate on ye Death of his Son, & on mine, to a third of the property I posses & several other Opinions given on the Case, by Gentlemen of the Law, were more various; but it was lately suggested to me by a Freind of my Father’s, who look’d at his will, that as his Grandchildren by either Daughter, were to be equal Sharers in the Estate, he thought till my Death no determined proportion cd belong in Fee to my Sister’s Children—This induced the Application to you, on whose Opinion I could rely; but I Trespass again on your time, by thus accounting for the Trouble I have already ventured to give you—tho’ I must see those posses the Inheritance of my Father, who have not a drop of his Blood in their Veins, & who are already enrich’d by his Bounty, far beyond what his Daughter posseses, the Sentiments of your Esteem & Affection to his memory, & the Kindness you have shewn me Sir on his Account is highly gratifying to me

Your obliged Serv & Friend

Mary Blair Andrews

RC (MHi); edge chipped and trimmed; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Oct. 1815 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to James Madison, 22 Dec. 1815, on verso; addressed: “Thos Jefferson Esqr Monticello near Charlottesville”; stamp canceled; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 22 Oct.

Jane Blair Henderson’s two infant sons were Blair Munro Henderson (1800–01) and Thomas Hamilton Henderson (1798–1814) (gravestones in Bruton Parish Cemetery, Williamsburg). Their father, James Henderson, who had declared himself heir to a portion of John Blair’s estate, died in 1818. In his will he left his interest in the Blair estate to his three children by his second wife. The dispute remained unsettled at Andrews’s death in 1820. In her will she disposed of the estate according to her understanding of her father’s will, stating that “Mr Henderson kept possession of half the estate after the death of his son, and has left the whole to his son James by another wife on my death, as I am so advanced in life, I have forborne to contest his asumed rights, but I leave all my right in that estate either as heir to my Father, or by his will to said John Blair Peachy and his heirs.” Andrews further stipulated that if it be found “that I had a right to the whole during my life from the death of Thomas, Mr Henderson’s heirs will have to refund to my estate the proffits of half the estate during that time which if recovered I leave to Doctor Thomas Griffin Peachy” (will in Vi: RG 12, Wills from the Treasurer’s Office). A chancery court eventually found that John Blair Peachy was “entitled to one moiety of the real estate in question, and to one fourth part of the slaves and other personal estate.” It called for “accounts of the slaves and their increase, and of the profits of the whole subject accrued since Mrs. Andrews’s death.” The chancery decision was upheld in 1831 on appeal by James Henderson’s executors (Va. Reports description begins Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1798–  (title varies; originally issued in distinct editions of separately numbered volumes with Va. Reports volume numbers retroactively assigned; original volume numbers here given parenthetically) description ends , 74 [33 Grattan]: 557–62).

1Reworked from “These Hopes were.”

2Editorially corrected from closing single quotation mark.

Index Entries

  • Andrews, Mary Blair; and J. Blair’s will search
  • Andrews, Mary Blair; letter from search
  • Andrews, Mary Blair; seeks TJ’s legal advice search
  • Blair, John; will of contested search
  • Henderson, Blair Munro; and J. Blair’s will search
  • Henderson, James (1764–1818); and J. Blair’s will search
  • Henderson, James (son of James Henderson [d.1818]); and M. B. Andrews’s will search
  • Henderson, Jane Blair (James Henderson’s [d.1818] wife); and J. Blair’s will search
  • Henderson, Thomas Hamilton; and J. Blair’s will search
  • law; TJ provides legal advice search
  • Peachy, John Blair; and M. B. Andrews’s will search
  • Peachy, Thomas Griffin; and M. B. Andrews’s will search
  • Wickham, Mr.; provides legal counsel search
  • women; letters from; M. B. Andrews search