Thomas Jefferson Papers

William J. Matchet to Thomas Jefferson, 26 June 1820

From William J. Matchet

Near Shelbyville, Shelby County, Ky: June 26th 1820

Worthy Sir,

Although I have not the honour of being personally acquainted with you; yet from the knowledge I have of your character, & the high opinion I have of you, I have bien induced to trouble you on this occasion with the hope that you will not pass this by unnotised—I wish you to express your opinion on the constutionallity or unconstutionallity of such laws as privilege the debtor to replevy the debt for years at the option of the state legislature; Or compel the creditor to take property at a certain proportion of its value—I wish to know particularly whether it is your opinion that the state legislatures are by the United States constitution vested with the power to privilege the debtor to delay the payment of acknowledged, just, & honourable debts for the term of one, two, ten, one hundred, or one thousand years—This is contended for by some of our leading characters—I enclose you an act of our legislature at their last session—A great many look forward to the next session of the legislature for an extention of the replevin law, & the passage of what is called a property law; which they argue can be effected without empairing the obligation of contracts—I wish to know what you think the true construction of the first paragraph in the tenth section of the first article of the United States constitution—

Hoping that you will not fail to give me a satisfactory answer, I shall conclude by assuring you that there is no person whose opinion would weigh more with me than yours—Your publick services command the respect, & deserve the thanks of your1 fellow citizen

Wm J. Matchet—

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 27 July 1820 from William J. “Hatchet” and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Archibald Thweatt, 24 Dec. 1821, on recto and verso; addressed: “Hon. Thomas Jefferson Esq. Montocello, Near Charlottesville, Albamarle County, Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Shelbyville, 28 June.

The enclosure was a copy, not found, of an 11 Feb. 1820 act “to regulate the sales of Property under Execution,” which allowed defendants to replevy property taken in execution of their debts for one year. The replevin could be extended to a second year if the creditor refused to accept payment in notes on the Bank of Kentucky (Acts passed at the First Session of the Twenty-Eighth General Assembly for the Commonwealth of Kentucky [Frankfort, 1820], 917–21).

The first paragraph of article 1, section 10, of the United States Constitution reads “No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.”

1Manuscript: “you.”

Index Entries

  • An Act to regulate the sales of Property under Execution (1820) search
  • Bank of Kentucky search
  • banks; currency issued by search
  • Constitution, U.S.; and contractual obligations search
  • Constitution, U.S.; and debt repayment search
  • currency; paper search
  • debt, private; laws regarding search
  • Kentucky; and contractual obligations search
  • Kentucky; and repayment of debts search
  • Kentucky; legislature of search
  • Matchet, William J.; and contractual obligations search
  • Matchet, William J.; and repayment of debts search
  • Matchet, William J.; letter from search