Thomas Jefferson Papers

Elijah Rosson to Thomas Jefferson, 14 October 1816

From Elijah Rosson

Richmond Penitentiary Oct: 14th 1816.

honr Sir,

Having had the great Pleasure of being acquainted with Your Excellency, and although brought to this place of Misery, I hope you will grant me the favour of trubling your honr with a few lines.

It is true, and I shall confess my faults to your honr I possesed a great Love for that fair Sex the Women, and what young man would not, should I therefore be deprived of Liberty?

had it not been for prejudice, I would now be at home, and I have no doubt, Your honr has been by this time informed of all the circumstance of my trial. I assure your Excellency that my two apprentices was bribed, which I was told by Mr Harris, one of my Venir and I can now prove it by Mr Jasper Anderson, to whom they confest all, and had there been sufficient proof of harbouring that Girl, was there Law to send me here?

Convincet of your tender feelings for the distressed, and particular towards me, give me hopes, as I expect there will be a Petition drawn for me, for your honr to sign it; and should not, do pray and send on here a Letter, to my present Keeper Mr Saml P. Parsons, and let him Know the circumstance as far as your Consience will permit, and also my Character, Your honr having Knowing me long enough and satisfyd never to heard any thing that would stain my Character, as dishonesty or to defraud any person.

Not acquainted wether the jury was prejudice, or not, I only objected one Gentlemen, which I since belive would have been in my favour.

Now inclined of life, I wont to be relieft of this place, so that I may comulate some Property agin for my old age if it should please you therefore, to do the above request for me, I have no doubt as I have the favour of my Keepers; to git my Liberty, and by your honr so doing, I shall always be with gratitude your honr unfort. Servt

in haste

Elijah Rosson

RC (MHi); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Mounticello near Charlottville Albermarle County Va”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 23 Oct.; endorsed by TJ as received 7 Nov. 1816 and so recorded in SJL.

Elijah Rosson (b. ca. 1792), carriage maker, had worked in Charlottesville since at least 1812. He was convicted in 1813, but not imprisoned, for allowing an unlawful “faro bank to be exhibited in his house,” and in the spring of 1814 he did the finishing work on TJ’s landau. Having been found guilty two years later of an undetermined felony, Rosson authorized James Rosson and John M. Perry to manage his affairs in Albemarle County during his incarceration. Following his release from the Richmond penitentiary in 1817 under a gubernatorial pardon, he settled for a time in nearby Henrico County. By mid-century he resided in Buckingham County, still working as a coach-maker (Rosson to Philip P. Barbour, 18 Nov. 1812 [ViU: Ambler Family Papers]; Albemarle Co. Law Order Book [1809–21], 182; 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 , 2:1298n, 1300; List of Prisoners, 1 July 1816 [Vi: RG 42, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, 1796–1991]; Albemarle Co. Deed Book, 20:26, 21:414–5; Report of the Joint Committee appointed to examine into the state of the Penitentiary Institution [1827], 22; DNA: RG 29, CS, Henrico Co., 1820, Buckingham Co., 1850).

Index Entries

  • Anderson, Jasper; and E. Rosson case search
  • Harris, Mr. (of Virginia); and E. Rosson case search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Parsons, Samuel Pleasants; as prison superintendent search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Richmond, Va.; penitentiary in search
  • Rosson, Elijah; identified search
  • Rosson, Elijah; letter from search
  • Rosson, Elijah; trial and imprisonment of search
  • Virginia; State Penitentiary search
  • women; crimes against search