Thomas Jefferson Papers

William H. Fitzhugh to Thomas Jefferson, 18 May 1818

From William H. Fitzhugh

Ravensworth (near Alexandria)1 May 18th 1818


At the request of some of my neighbors, I have undertaken to ask your opinion and such information, as your own experience will enable you to give, as to the most direct line of communication between the City of Washington, and that section of the country in which you reside. From the former place a turnpike road, designed to intersect the Little River turnpike between the six & seven milestones, has already been commenced, and will be completed (most probably) in the course of the ensuing summer. We now have it in contemplation, to continue the same road across to Yates’ ford on Bull Run, & thence to Norman’s ford on the Rappahannoc, unless some more eligible points can be discovered—Should we succeed in getting it so far, we think it fair to calculate on seeing it extended, in the course of a few years, to our brethern beyond the mountain—Indeed unless we are very much mistaken in our estimate of the importance of such a road, it must be embraced in any general plan of internal improvement, that may be adopted either by the State or the national government—

We have been induced to apply to you, Sir, for information on this subject, from knowing that, at one time, you frequently travelled the route over which we propose to pass; & from having understo[od] that you had formerly suggested a similar undertaking to the one, in which we are now about to engage—

Hoping, Sir, that you will pardon the liberty, a stranger has taken with you,

I have the honor to subscribe myself very respectfuly Yrs &—&c—

W. H. Fitzhugh

RC (MHi); edge trimmed; endorsed by TJ as received 29 May 1818 and so recorded in SJL; with TJ’s Notes on Itch Lotion, [ca. 29 May 1818], subjoined. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Mathew Carey, 6 Oct. 1818, on verso; addressed: “The Honbl Thomas Jefferson Monticello Albemarle County Virginia”; franked; postmarked.

William Henry Fitzhugh (1792–1830), public official, was the son of TJ’s friend William Fitzhugh, proprietor of Ravensworth in Fairfax County. In 1808 he graduated first in his class from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), and he inherited Ravensworth on his father’s death the following year. Fitzhugh also owned property in Stafford and represented that county in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1811–16. From 1819–23 he was a state senator for a district that included Fairfax County, and in the 1828–29 session he was again in the House of Delegates representing Fairfax. Fitzhugh was one of the Fairfax County delegates to the state constitutional convention of 1829–30. As a vocal supporter of democratic reforms, he voted against the final document. An early member of the American Colonization Society, by 1820 Fitzhugh was one its vice presidents, a position he held until his death. Writing as “Opimius,” he engaged in a newspaper debate with colonization critic John W. Nash. At the time of his death near Cambridge, Maryland, Fitzhugh owned at least two hundred slaves. He included a provision in his will freeing his slaves after 1850 and offering to pay their expenses and a fifty-dollar bounty to any of them willing to immigrate to Africa (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 , 2:1071; Trenton Federalist, 10 Oct. 1808; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends ; Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention, of 1829–30 [1830], esp. 882; American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States [later the American Colonization Society], Annual Report 2 [1819]; 13 [1830]; Controversy between Caius Gracchus and Opimius in Reference to the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States. First Published in the Richmond Enquirer [1827]; Fairfax Co. Will Book, Q:57–9, 68–75; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 24 May 1830; Washington Daily National Journal, 26 May 1830; gravestone inscription in Pohick Episcopal Church Cemetery, Lorton).

1Parenthetical phrase interlined.

Index Entries

  • Fitzhugh, William Henry; and road planning search
  • Fitzhugh, William Henry; identified search
  • Fitzhugh, William Henry; letter from search
  • Rappahannock River search
  • roads; in Va. search
  • roads; in Washington, D.C. search
  • Virginia; roads in search
  • Virginia; roads proposed in search
  • Washington, D.C.; roads in search