Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on George Divers’s Answer to Interrogatories in Jefferson v. Rivanna Company, [after 23 July 1817]

Notes on George Divers’s Answer to Interrogatories in Jefferson v. Rivanna Company

[after 23 July 1817]

Mr Divers’s answer. Notes on it.

These answers of mr Divers are to be considered as if given under oath in the usual tenor,1 that is to say that whatever facts are stated as of his own knolege, are true; he is incapable of affirming on his own knolege, any fact which is not true: but his hear-says and opinions are open to observation2 here, as they wd be in a regular answer

Answ. 10. ‘he was informed by their agent that the hands in the employment of the directors assisted in widening the canal, which was originally too narrow to admit the passage of a boat.’ This can refer to nothing except the passing place. otherwise it3 was either a misunderstanding of mr D. or gross misinformn from the agent. the directors had a recess dug in the bank in the upper part of the canal, of the length & breadth of a batteau, for one to retire into while another should pass by, and they dug the enlargement of the canal at the lower end4 of 2. or 3. batteau lengths for the bason of supply to this the informn of the manager must have referred, & he was misunderstood by mr Divers, or he grossly misrepresented the fact to mr D. for towards the5 widening of the canal any where else they never struck a stroke. the canal & pierhead both were originally too narrow for a boat; & when the company concluded to use the canal, I chose6 to widen it myself, to wit from 5 f. to 7.f. and to let them do nothing which should give them any permanent claim on the canal. I accdly took down the pierhead & built it anew & wider, and widened the canal thro’ the whole7 myself, as is stated in the bill. the passing place, the bason & the locks are all they ever did; these were solely for their own purposes & not of the smallest advantage to the mills.

Answ. to qu. 11. & 12. ‘it was agreed on the part of the directors that they should make a bason of such capacity as to keep the mills going during the passage of boats.’ this is the strict truth; but there is error in adding ‘that it was understood and agreed that doubling the width would be sufficient.’ unless he means only that it was agreed among the directors, and8 as a matter of opinion; but the only joint9 agreement was ‘that it should be sufficient.’

And again ‘that he is informed, but of this he has no personal knolege that the directors’ hands widened & deepened the canal (for the bason) to the surface of the water then in the canal, & that the occupant (then a mr Shoemaker) refused to stop his work, & suffer the water to be drawn off. Etc.’ this work was agreed to be done in the idle interval of June & July, & the very days were fixed within which it should be done; it would have been their fault therefore if they delayed the work until the season for grinding had recommenced. but his informn was too loose10 and the ground itself will now shew that the widening even to11 the surface of the water was of a very trifling extent.12

Qu. 18. it is his opinion that I had an ample equivalent for the use of my canal. 1. ‘he is informed it brings a considble accession of grain to the mill.’ but the truth is that the grain now brought by water to my mill, would have been brought in waggons to it, while it continued13 the highest point of navigation; but that much the greatest part of what might have come for that reason is now ground at the upper mills, and water-borne from them as being now the higher points of navign. 2. ‘the locks are a convenience to me for the transportation of timber and produce to & from my farms above & below them.’ as to the produce of my farms, to wit, wheat, it goes to my mill direct, & from it without passing the locks. and as to timber, on one single occasion of a fence on the river below carried away by a flood, I carried rails from above but not chusing to accept of any thing from them which could give them a claim as a consideration or compensation, I had them tumbled over the bank at the mill and reladen there again & carried to the place wanting. an empty boat or canoe has on a few occns passed, but an empty vessel is not tollable, and if it were this would be but a small item of credit even14 against the timber given them of which the locks were built.15   3. ‘the produce of my mill is exempted from toll.’16 and would they in conscience, if the law had permitted it, have taken toll for produce which, like that of my mills, passed by their locks, along my own canal but never thro’ them? this observation shews how seriously it was intended, as it is further proved by the fact, that having applied to the legislature for an amendatory act respecting their toll, one of the Directors being then a representative of the county, got the bill thro’ the lower house without any correction of this glaring17 injustice, & when returned by the senate with an amendment restraining them from taking toll for what had not passed thro’ their locks, he chose to let the bill drop rather than give up the claim. and it was not till the next year that the directors consented to take the bill with this correction. and the refraining from taking toll for my passing along my own canal, is now cited as a boon of theirs; as the wolf in the fable deemed it boon enough for the simple Crane, that in extracting the bone from his throat, he had got his own neck out in safety.

A closely related text, TJ’s Observations on Divers’s Answer to Interrogatories in Jefferson v. Rivanna Company, is printed below at 9 June 1819.

The agent of the Rivanna Company was Immanuel Poor. Rivanna Company director Nimrod Bramham was the legislative representative of the county of Albemarle, 1811–13, who sought to obtain passage of the first version of a bill that was eventually enacted as “An Act to amend the Act, entitled ‘an Act incorporating a Company to open and improve the navigation of the Rivanna River from Milton to Moore’s Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Letterpress Edition, 1892–99, 10 vols. description ends opposite the town of Charlottesville, in the county of Albemarle, and for other purposes.’” The amendment successfully introduced in the Senate of Virginia became the third section of the 31 Jan. 1814 act, cited above by Divers in his Answer to Interrogatories (Petition of Rivanna Company to Virginia General Assembly, [ca. 5 Oct. 1812]; TJ to Joseph C. Cabell, 7 Nov. 1813, and enclosure). The fable of the wolf and the crane is attributed to Aesop.

1Reworked from “of the usual form.”

2Reworked from “require some observations.”

3Preceding ten words interlined.

4Preceding four words interlined.

5Text from “to this the informn” to this point interlined in place of “but towards the.”

6Word interlined in place of “determined.”

7Preceding three words interlined in place of “entirely.”

8Preceding twelve words interlined in place of “this may have been mentioned.”

9Word interlined.

10Preceding six words interlined in place of “but the whole is a fable.”

11Reworked from “that there <was no> never was any widening commenced and stopp[ed] at” (torn).

12TJ here canceled a line reading “Additional observations by mr Divers.”

13Preceding three words interlined in place of “because it was then.”

14Text from “but not chusing” to this point interlined in place of “thro’ the locks to replace it. <if it has> the toll of these boat loads of rails might have amounted to some cents or even dollars, and would be but a small item of credit.”

15Preceding two words mistakenly canceled by TJ.

16Omitted closing single quotation mark editorially supplied.

17Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Aesop; referenced by TJ search
  • An Act to amend the Act, entitled, “an Act incorporating a Company to open and improve the navigation of the Rivanna River from Milton to Moore’s Ford, opposite the town of Charlottesville, in the county of Albemarle, and for other purposes” (1814) search
  • Bramham, Nimrod; and Rivanna Company search
  • Divers, George; testimony inJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Bill of Complaint inJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on George Divers’s Answer to Interrogatories inJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • Jefferson v. Rivanna Company; TJ’s bill of complaint in search
  • Poor, Immanuel; as agent of the Rivanna Company search
  • Rivanna Company; directors of search
  • Rivanna River; navigation of search
  • Shadwell mills; and Rivanna Company search
  • Shoemaker, Jonathan; as Shadwell mill tenant search