Thomas Jefferson Papers

Hugh Nelson to Thomas Jefferson, 29 February 1820

From Hugh Nelson

Washington Feby 29th 1820.


I must ask your pardon for this day in a debate taking the liberty of reading an Extract from your letter in an address which I delivered to the House—It was only that extract which related to the missouri question—I cou’d not forego the temptation of availing myself of the Influence of your name, to attempt to check the mad career of the majority on this most interesting question—I trust I shall receive your forgiveness for this liberty—at present we are debating a Bill for admitting Missouri into the Union—To this the Northern Men are endeavouring to attach the restriction—The immediate question before us is shall this clause be imperative on Missouri—or shall it be discretionary—I fear much they will triumph in their absolute Injunction

Another Bill is pending between the two houses—A conference is ordered by both Houses and committees are appointed—This was the Bill which originated in the H.R. for admitting Maine into the Union—The Senate attached to it the Bill for admitting Missouri—They also attached the Provision for admitting slavery into the Missouri and the country lying along the Mississippi, but excluding it from territories north of 36.° 30—and admitting the same into the Country South of this line of1 latitude—The House struck out this amendment—The Senate insisted2—The House also insisted—The Senate asked the conference—the House agreed to it—It now stands on this question of compromise proposed—what will be the Issue I can not say—Great efforts are making on both Sides—With Sentiments of respect

I tender my salutations—

Hugh Nelson

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 4 Mar. 1820 and so recorded in SJL; redundant endorsement begun and erased on recto.

In the United States House of Representatives on this date, Nelson read an extract from TJ’s letter of 7 Feb. 1820 conveying his apprehensions about the Missouri question. At the mention of TJ’s name, Nelson’s audience reportedly “rivetted all eyes on him—all was hushed, all anxious to hear” (New-York Evening Post, 6 Mar. 1820). On 1 Mar. 1820 the House of Representatives passed its version of a bill for admitting missouri to statehood as amended on 29 Feb. to prohibit slavery there (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 13:260, 262, 263, 269). While the House debated that bill, on 28 Feb. 1820 the Senate asked for a joint conference on its own version of a combined Maine and Missouri statehood bill as described in this letter. The House agreed to this the following day (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 13:257–9).

1Preceding two words interlined.

2Manuscript: “inisted.”

Index Entries

  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and Missouri question search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; read in Congress search
  • Maine; and Missouri question search
  • Missouri question; congressional consideration of search
  • Missouri question; TJ’s correspondence on circulated search
  • Nelson, Hugh; and Missouri question search
  • Nelson, Hugh; as U.S. representative from Va. search
  • Nelson, Hugh; letters from search
  • Senate, U.S.; and Missouri question search