Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to William Gray, 13 August 1820

To William Gray

Monticello Aug. 13. 20.

Dear Sir

Altho’ fortune has never so far befriended me as to procure me the advantage of a personal acquaintance with you, yet a harmony in political pursuits has not left us altogether strangers. on this unassuming ground I take the liberty of presenting to you a friend. Capt Bernard Peyton, a commission merchant of Richmond proposing a tour to the North, wishes particularly to have the benefit of being made known to you. he has been engaged in his present line five or six years, has acted in it with an integrity and punctuality which has procured him the unlimited confidence of all who have employed him, and their wishes for his success; of which indeed we cannot doubt if punctuality, prudence and faithful attention to business can ensure it. the unshaken solidity with which he past the late mercantile ordeal is of itself a title of credence to him; and to enlarge the field of his commission business is, I believe the object of his present journey.

any portion of civilities and attentions which you may be so kind as to shew him will be considered as a favor to myself; and begging here to place myself under the friendly recollection of mr Francis Grey I salute you with assurances of my high respect and esteem.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of John G. Robert (for Patrick Gibson) to TJ, 13 Apr. 1820; at foot of text: “Wm Gray esq.”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosed in TJ to Henry A. S. Dearborn and TJ to Bernard Peyton, both 14 Aug. 1820.

William Gray (1750–1825), merchant and public official, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. With his family he moved as a child to nearby Salem, where he trained as an apprentice and then entered the countinghouse of one of the town’s most prominent merchants. Having gone into business for himself late in the 1770s, Gray owned several American privateers during the Revolutionary War. His fortunes continued to rise after hostilities ceased. With his vessels trading as far afield as China, India, and Russia, Gray employed hundreds of seamen and amassed an estate worth approximately $3 million by the first decade of the nineteenth century. He held local office in Salem during the mid-1780s and voted in favor of the new federal constitution at the Massachusetts ratification convention in 1788. Gray’s support for the Embargo while a Federalist state senator, 1807–09, made him unpopular in Salem and led him to relocate permanently to Boston in the latter year. Switching his allegiance to the Republican party, he was the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, 1810–12, and a staunch supporter of President James Madison’s administration during the War of 1812. Gray later served as a delegate to the state’s 1820 constitutional convention and as president of the Boston branch of the Second Bank of the United States, 1816–23. At his death he held assets valued in excess of $1 million. His son Francis C. Gray corresponded with TJ and visited him at Monticello in 1815, and another son, Horace Gray, saw TJ there five years later (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 ; Doc. Hist. Ratification description begins Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, 1976– , 29 vols. description ends , 6:1464, 1479; Newburyport Herald, 10 Apr. 1807; Salem Gazette, 12 Aug. 1808, 24 Feb. 1809; Greenfield [Mass.] Gazette, 5 June 1810; The Boston Directory [Boston, 1810], 89; Salem Essex Register, 26 Feb. 1812, 7 Nov. 1825; Boston Gazette, 16 Dec. 1816; Pittsfield [Mass.] Sun, 20 Nov. 1823; Boston Columbian Centinel, 27 Apr. 1808, 18 Oct. 1820, 5 Nov. 1825).

Index Entries

  • Gray, Francis Calley; TJ sends greetings to search
  • Gray, William; identified search
  • Gray, William; letter to search
  • Gray, William; TJ introduces B. Peyton to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction from search
  • Peyton, Bernard; introduced by TJ search
  • Peyton, Bernard; travels of search
  • United States; Panic of1819 search