Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William Wirt, 5 January 1818

To William Wirt

Monticello Jan. 5. 18.

I have first to thank you, Dear Sir, for the copy of your late work, which you have been so kind as to send me, and then to render you double congratulations 1st on the general applause it has so justly recieved, and next on the public testimony of esteem for it’s author, manifested by your late1 call to the Executive councils of the nation. all this I do heartily; and then proceed to a case of business, on which you will have to advise the government on the threshold of your office. you have seen the death of Genl. Kosciuzko announced in the papers in such a way as not to be doubted. he had in the funds of the US. a very considerable sum of money, on the interest of which he depended for subsistence. on his leaving the US. in 1798. he placed it under my direction by a power of attorney, which I executed entirely thro’ mr Barnes, who regularly remitted his interest. but he left also in my hands an Autograph will, disposing of his funds in a particular course of charity, and making me his executor. the question the government will ask of you, and which I therefore ask is, in what court must this will be proved and my qualification as executor be recieved to justify the US. in placing these funds under the trust? this is to be executed wholly in this state, and will occupy so long a course of time beyond what I can expect to live that I think to propose to place it under the court of Chancery. the place of probat generally follows the residence of the testator. that was in a foreign country in the present case. sometimes the bona notabilia. the evidences, or representatives of these (the certificates) are in my hands. the things represented (the money) in those of the US. but where are the US.? every where I suppose, where they have government or property liable to the demand or payment. that is to say in every state of the union; in this, for example, as well as any other, strengthened by the circumstances of the deposit of the Will, the residence of the executor, & the place where the trust is to be executed. in no instance, I believe, does the mere habitation of the debtor draw to it the place of probat; and if it did, the US. are omnipresent by their functionaries, as well as property in every state of the union. I am led by these considerations to suppose our district or Genl court competent to the object: but you know best, and by your advice, sanctioned by the Secy of the treasury I shall [act.] I write to the Secretary on this subject. if our district [court] will do, I can attend it personally; if the General court [only be] competent, I am in hopes it will find means of dispensing with my personal attendance. I salute you with affectionate esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on reused address cover to TJ; damaged at seal, with missing text supplied from Tr; at foot of first page: “Mr <Dall> Wirt”; endorsed by TJ. Tr (MdHi: Wirt Papers). Enclosed in TJ to John Barnes, 5 Jan. 1818.

The late work was Wirt’s Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia, 1817; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 4 [no. 131]; the title page and author’s inscription of TJ’s copy in Vi are reproduced elsewhere in this volume). bona notabilia: “Notable goods; property worth accounting for in a decedent’s estate” (Black’s Law Dictionary description begins Bryan A. Garner and others, eds., Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th ed., 1999 description ends ).

1TJ here canceled “appointment.”

Index Entries

  • Albemarle County Superior Court of Law, Va. search
  • Barnes, John; and T. Kosciuszko’s American investments search
  • books; biographical search
  • Crawford, William Harris; and T. Kosciuszko’s estate search
  • Henry, Patrick (1736–99); W. Wirt’s book on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books &amp; Library; receives works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business &amp; Financial Affairs; and T. Kosciuszko’s American investments search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business &amp; Financial Affairs; and T. Kosciuszko’s estate search
  • Kosciuszko, Tadeusz (Thaddeus) Andrzej Bonawentura; and J. Barnes search
  • Kosciuszko, Tadeusz (Thaddeus) Andrzej Bonawentura; death of search
  • Kosciuszko, Tadeusz (Thaddeus) Andrzej Bonawentura; power of attorney from search
  • Kosciuszko, Tadeusz (Thaddeus) Andrzej Bonawentura; wills of search
  • Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (W. Wirt); sent to TJ search
  • Virginia; General Court search
  • Virginia; Superior Courts of Chancery search
  • Wirt, William; and T. Kosciuszko’s estate search
  • Wirt, William; letters to search
  • Wirt, William; Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry search