Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 31 March 1820

From James Madison

Mar. 31. 18201

Dear Sir

Judge Todd accompanied by one of his sons being on his return thro’ your neighbourhood will call to pay his respects to you. His great worth justly entitles him to this introduction to your recollections.

I propose to be with you tomorrow evening. Mrs M. will not lose the opportunity of making a visit to the ladies of Monticello.

Yours allways & affecly.

James Madison

RC (NjP: Andre deCoppet Collection); dateline at foot of text; addressed: “Mr Jefferson.”

Thomas Todd (1765–1826), United States Supreme Court justice, was a native of King and Queen County. He served briefly in the Continental army in 1779 and 1781, then studied at Liberty Hall Academy (later Washington and Lee University). In exchange for legal education, in 1782 Todd became a tutor in the Bedford County household of his mother’s cousin Harry Innes. Todd moved with that family to Kentucky in 1783 and served as clerk to several conventions that led up to Kentucky joining the Union. He was admitted to the bar in 1788, served as clerk of the federal district court prior to statehood, acted as secretary to the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1792 to 1801, and in 1799 became clerk of the state’s Court of Appeals. Todd was a justice of this tribunal beginning in 1801 and rose to chief justice in 1806. The following year TJ appointed him to fill a newly created seat on the United States Supreme Court that covered a circuit encompassing Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Riding this extensive circuit strained Todd’s health. During service on the Supreme Court that lasted until his death, he generally adhered to Chief Justice John Marshall’s positions on constitutional matters. Todd wrote few opinions but earned respect for his understanding of property law. His second wife, whom he married in 1812, was Lucy Payne Washington, a sister of Dolley Madison. Todd owned twenty-six slaves in 1820. He died in Frankfort (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Washington and Lee University Catalogue description begins Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, 1749–1888, 1888 description ends , 52; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:53–4 [28 Feb., 2 Mar. 1807]; Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., 5:258–9, 8:375–6, and Retirement Ser., 1:96–8, 99–100, 2:88–9, 250–1; DNA: RG 29, CS, Ky., Frankfort, 1820; Lexington Kentucky Reporter, 13 Feb. 1826; U.S. Reports description begins Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the United States, 1790–  (title varies; originally issued in distinct editions of separately numbered volumes with U.S. Reports volume numbers retroactively assigned; original volume numbers here given parenthetically) description ends , 38 [13 Peters]: iii–viii; gravestone inscription in Frankfort Cemetery, Frankfort).

1Third digit reworked from “1.”

Index Entries

  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction to search
  • Madison, Dolley Payne Todd (James Madison’s wife); visits Monticello search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); introduces T. Todd search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); letters from search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); visits Monticello search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Madison, Dolley and James search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Todd, Thomas search
  • Todd, Thomas; identified search
  • Todd, Thomas; introduced to TJ search