Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Chapman Johnson and John H. Peyton, 28 June 1819

To Chapman Johnson and John H. Peyton

Monticello June 28. 19.

Dear Sirs

I now inclose you mr Cole’s deposition taken this morning at Milton, and closing, as I suppose, all further examination on either side. you will find that it solidly supports the statement in the bill as to the interpolated clause in the inquest of 1805. his answer to the question whether he did not think the dam an obstruction to the navigation? is perplexed, but meant to convey this idea, to wit, there are 3. ways of rendering the river navigable in that place 1. by sluicing in which case the dam would be an obstruction. 2. by a lock. 3ly by the canal. in these two last methods the dam is absolutely necessary to the navigation.

My letter of Saturday informed you of an examination on that day by the defs.1 it was merely to prove a fact stated in my bill that the whole of the inquest was in my handwriting except the clause stating my having agreed to give the use of the canal. and I stated that this clause was not in my hand for the inference resulting from it. the rest being in my hand writing, if I had really & formally made such an agreement, they would naturally wish that I should have added this clause also in my own hand because that would have been evidence of my knolege of it & consent. but, conscious that nothing had been meant but informal conversation they interlined it themselves, delivered it to the sheriff & he to the clerk of the court without any notice of such an insertion to me or any suspicion of it: and it was not till 8. or 9. years after that I learnt the fact. in a dispute with Capt Meriwether at a meeting at the Shadwell mills he mentioned my having so agreed. I denied it, & on his referring me to the record, I went to the clerk’s office & saw the interpolation.2 they had inserted it by stealth to twist a conversation into the guise3 of a contract.   I salute you both with friendship & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of Frederick A. Mayo to TJ, 30 Mar. 1819; at foot of text: “Messrs Johnson & Peyton”; endorsed by TJ.

The enclosed deposition has not been found, although some notes by TJ survive, reading “June 28. 19. John Coles. was a member of the jury of 1805. the jury discussed some opposed it they thought they had nothing to do with a bargain with the pl. himself & others thought so. possibly a majority for it” (MS in MHi; in TJ’s hand and canceled, presumably by him; with PoC of TJ to David Higginbotham, 29 June 1819, oriented upside down on same page).

1Preceding three words interlined.

2Manuscript: “interpoliation,” reworked from an illegible word.

3Manuscript: “guies.”

Index Entries

  • canals; on Rivanna River search
  • Coles, John (1774–1848); andJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • dams; on Rivanna River search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Bill of Complaint inJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • Jefferson v. Rivanna Company; depositions for search
  • Jefferson v. Rivanna Company; TJ’s bill of complaint in search
  • Jefferson v. Rivanna Company; TJ’s counsel in search
  • Johnson, Chapman; andJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • Johnson, Chapman; letters to search
  • locks (canal) search
  • Meriwether, William Douglas; and Rivanna Company search
  • Peyton, John Howe; andJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • Peyton, John Howe; letters to search
  • Rivanna Company; TJ’s meetings with search
  • Rivanna River; canals on search
  • Rivanna River; dams on search
  • Rivanna River; inquest on TJ’s mill (1805) search
  • Rivanna River; locks on search
  • Rivanna River; navigation of search
  • Shadwell mills; and Rivanna Company search
  • Shadwell mills; canal at search