Thomas Jefferson Papers

John H. Peyton to Thomas Jefferson, 17 July 1819

From John H. Peyton

Staunton July 17h 1819

Dear Sir

I have the pleasure of informing you that we commenced the argument of your cause on Thursday & concluded it on yesterday evening—This cause involves so many novel & interesting questions that I am fearful the chancellor will hardly be able to pronounce an opinion during the present term which is now drawing to a close tho’ we have urged & shall continue to urge it—

Tho’ the Rivanna company set the cause for hearing themselves yet they were unwilling to try it—they submitted a motion to the court bottomed upon the affidavit of Meriwether who stated that they could not go safely to trial without the evidence of Emanuel Poor & Col Nicholas—In order to obtain a trial we consented that Meriwether should have the priviledge of making a special affidavit stating what he expected to prove by those witnesses & if the chancellor thot that the facts proposed to be proved were material that then the company should still have the benefit of that testimony—This special affidavit has not yet been furnished.—This circumstance may tend to delay the decision of the cause.—From the best consideration that I could give the subject the cause is decidedly with you—with regard to the common Law rights accruing to you in consequence of the grant from the crown of the bed of the river we found from a close investigation of the authorities that the positions assumed by you in your letter to the company were in all respects correct indeed there was only one point upon which we were in the Slightest degree pressed—& that arose from the words attached to the last inquest—

Those words are however too vague & indefinite to be carried into effect whether they are veiwed as a contract or as a condition imposed by the court—I think the court will say that you1 are not bound either to erect the lock at the dam or to permit them to use your canal unless it be upon terms which you have always been willing [to]2 accord to the company—

I am Dr Sir with great respect Yr obt Sert

John H. Peyton

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 27 July 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to James Monroe, 17 Aug. 1819, on recto and verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire Monticello Albemarle”; franked; postmarked Staunton, 21 July.

The chancellor was John Brown (1762–1826).

1Peyton here canceled “have no right.”

2Omitted word editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Brown, John (1762–1826); Va. superior court judge search
  • canals; at Shadwell mills search
  • common law; and TJ’s mill search
  • dams; on Rivanna River search
  • Jefferson v. Rivanna Company; depositions for search
  • Jefferson v. Rivanna Company; TJ’s counsel in search
  • locks (canal) search
  • Meriwether, William Douglas; and Rivanna Company search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); andJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • Peyton, John Howe; andJefferson v. Rivanna Company search
  • Peyton, John Howe; letters from search
  • Poor, Immanuel; as agent of Rivanna Company search
  • Rivanna Company; directors of search
  • Rivanna River; dams on search
  • Rivanna River; inquest on TJ’s mill (1805) search
  • Rivanna River; locks on search
  • Shadwell mills; and Rivanna Company search
  • Shadwell mills; canal at search
  • Shadwell mills; dam at search
  • Superior Court of Chancery for the Staunton District search