Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Maury to Thomas Jefferson, 7 November 1816

From James Maury

Liverpool 7th Novr 1816

Dear Sir,

My last letter was of the 9th Sepr 15. A State of war, for about twenty five years, appears to have so disqualified us for the sober habits of peace as to have occasioned great reverses in the affairs of many classes of persons in this country:—much so, even with the owners of the Soil; but, particularly, with merchants & Bankers, the failures of which last, I consider almost unprecedented,1 as well for number of houses as for the magnitude of the sums they have been deficient: probably you may have heard that your correspondent Mr Roscoe is among the bankers: he was my banker: his overthrow appears to me owing much2 to a certain benevolence of disposition; which, however amiable, too frequently mislead those who trade.

Nevertheless his house has made a compromise with their creditors for paying all by installments, with interest too; & I hope, nay rather expect, they will pay all. Mr R’s conduct on the afflicting occasion has been exemplary: his Library Pictures &C have been sold at auction; &, as I supposed, you might like to see a catalogue of his books, I send you one. They produced £5,100.

The late summer has been the coldest I ever have experienced—has been most unfavorable for Grain & the prices have been rising for some time past. at this place wheat now sells for a Guinea bushel of 70 ℔ equal to 4 dollars Winchester of 60 ℔: however, as the ports must open on the 15th instant: there will, in all probability, soon follow considerable importations from foreign countries; &, no doubt the farmers of Virginia will be benefited by this disaster.

The cidevant Staple of our State has, by no means, decreased as much in value as I expected—the best Crops of James river Inspections3 being still worth 10d a 12d ℔, & stemed about the same.

My Son informed us of your hospitable attentions to him, for which accept my acknowlegements.

I expect I am soon to be deprived of the society of a most valued friend, who has resided in this place about six years: ’Tis a Mr Gwathmey, originally of King William County; but, for some years previous to his coming here, of Richmond: he is a very intelligent merchant & judicious in his observations. I think you would like to see him; &, when he returns, I shall give him a line of introduction, desiring him to give you a call at Monticello as he goes up the country.

I wish to know if you still continue in the good health you have so long been remarkable for. I think I have heard it said that, after we have reached half a century or thereabouts, every seventh year is frequently a critical one, and I well remember that the two last seventh years have proved so with respect to myself: last winter I was three score & ten: and it indeed was a trying one: but I have of late regained my Statu quo & my health unusually good for which I thank God. I have resumed my cold bath, & while it agrees with me, I intend to continue it.

As For political information you have such stores of it from various, & other much better, sources that I will not enter on the subject.

Accept, I pray you, the sincere good wishes of your old & obliged friend

James Maury

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 5 Jan. 1817 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to John H. Peyton, 8 Feb. 1817, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson &c &c Monticello”; stamped “SHIP”; franked; postmarked New York, 29 Dec. Enclosure: Catalogue of the very select and valuable Library of William Roscoe, Esq. which will be sold by auction ([Liverpool], 1816).

The failure of roscoe’s Liverpool bank earlier in 1816 forced him to auction off his large personal collection of books, manuscripts, and artworks, the sale of which ultimately netted more than £11,000 (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ). The standards of winchester measure were originally deposited in the English city of that name (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). Virginia’s cidevant staple was tobacco.

1Manuscript: “uprecedented.”

2Word interlined.

3Manuscript: “Inspetions.”

Index Entries

  • banks; distressed situation of search
  • books; auctions of search
  • Catalogue of the very select and valuable Library of William Roscoe search
  • Great Britain; banks in search
  • Great Britain; economic distress in search
  • Great Britain; prices in search
  • Gwathmey, Robert; friendship with J. Maury search
  • health; and bathing search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; good health of search
  • Liverpool; banks in search
  • Maury, James; and W. Roscoe’s financial difficulties search
  • Maury, James; family of search
  • Maury, James; friendship with R. Gwathmey search
  • Maury, James; health of search
  • Maury, James; letters from search
  • Maury, James; on British economy search
  • Maury, James Sifrein; visits Monticello search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Maury, James S. search
  • paintings; sale of search
  • Roscoe, William; Catalogue of the very select and valuable Library of William Roscoe search
  • Roscoe, William; financial difficulties of search
  • Roscoe, William; sells books and artworks search
  • tobacco; price of in Great Britain search
  • weather; cold search
  • weather; effect on crops search
  • wheat; price of in Great Britain search