Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Tarlton Saunders, 3 January 1821

To Tarlton Saunders

Monticello Jan. 3. 21.


As soon after my return home as other business would permit, I took up the papers which you put into my hands with a view to compare them with those I possessed here. I found that they were in a different form, and not being myself familiar with accounts1 I could not2 readily accomodate them to my comprehension, altho’ undoubtedly quite regular in their form. they appeared to me to re-open the old accounts, & go far beyond the date of the settlement between mr Lyle and myself. this was on the 4th of Mar. 1790. when we settled the balance due from me to Kippen & co. and Henderson & co. at 1402 £–11 s–2 d sterling, for which I gave 6. bonds payable successively with English interest, from Apr. 19. 1783. besides these there was a bond of mine to R. Harvie and co. assigned to Kippen or Henderson & co. (partners of Harvie) on which, after proper credits 132 £–12 s sterl. was agreed to be due.

about 2. years after, to wit, in 1792. mr Lyle sent me an account of my mother’s amounting to £94–17–1½ which I agreed to take on myself, and gave a bond for it accordingly July 30. 1792. payable after the others, with interest from Sep. 1. 1771. (deducting the 8. years war[)]

I proceeded on the discharge of these bonds, and in May. 1808 I recieved from mr Lyle a statement of the application of the payments down to that of 1000.D. July 1. 1806. which overpaid the 5th bond by £ 217–7–8. which balance he carried to the credit of the 6th bond, leaving due on that

£   s   d
Principal 402 –11 –2
Interest 248 –18 –3
do from July. 1. 1806. until paid

With respect to the bond to Harvie & co. mr Lyle in 1811. became very anxious to have it paid in preference to the others; because he observed that some other accounts could not be closed until that payment was made. subsequent to his statement of July 1. 1806. to wit 1808. Nov. 23. I had made a payment of 500.D without saying on account of which bond, and July 6. 1811. I paid 1000.D. particularly on account of this bond. applying both of these payments to Harvie’s bond, the last overpaid it 18 £–6 s–6 d which sum may be carried to the interest of the 6th bond.

My mother’s debt being the last to be paid, the payments have not reached it as yet.

It appears then that my bonds No 1. to 5. inclusive, and the one to Harvie are discharged, and should be returned to me; and that on the two others, to wit, No 6. and mrs Jefferson’s debt I shall still owe as follows.

No 6. Principal £402– 11– 2
Interest due and unpaid to July 1. 06. £248– 18– 3
1811. July 6.  overpaid on Harvie’s bond 18– 6– 6 230– 11– 9
Interest on £402–11–2 from July 1. 06 until paid

Returning me therefore the six other bonds, and retaining these two, the state of the debt stands as clear as any thing can make it.

It remains therefore to speak of payment. I am sure you are sensible that during the present convulsionary crisis (wheat @ 2/6 here) no farmer can make his plantation expences, nor consequently have a dollar of disposable surplus. how long this state of things may continue we cannot foresee; and therefore a promise now to make payment at a fixed epoch could convey no certainty, and might only produce on both sides the pain of disappointment. in the mean time I hold property in readiness for sale. but until produce rises there can be no purchasers. I think you mentioned to me in conversation that the youngest of mr Lyle’s legatees or distributees, would not be of age until 7. years hence: and it occurred to me at the time that possibly a full payment within that term might answer for the youngest legatee or distributee. not that I would ask that term absolutely; but only to give time for the restoration of prices to their future level, whatever that is to be. when that shall take place, I shall not delay one moment making a sale and payment of this debt: whereas to sell now would certainly double the debt. in the mean time I speak from a consciousness that the money would not be at interest in safer hands than mine, or bottomed on a clearer or more abundant mass of property. on this subject I shall be happy to hear from you, to relieve me from inquietude.

John Bolling’s bond for 52 £–19 s–8 d with interest from 1793. Dec. 1 was assigned to mr Lyle I think about3 1792, to whom his estate owed a considerable debt of his own. by a letter of Mar. 23. 1811. mr Lyle informed me he should be obliged to bring suit; and my memory decieves me exceedingly if he did not get a judgment and if there was not a sale of negroes under execution, to satisfy it. in which belief I am strengthened by mr Lyle’s silence from that time, and his never having returned the bond to me that I might take measures myself for it’s recovery. the estate I know was solvent. but as that subject is under your investigation, the application of this credit will await it’s result. in the mean time I tender you the assurance of esteem and respect.

Th: Jeff[erson]

£  s  d
1783. Apr. 19. Harvie’s bond Principal 132– 12– 0
1808. Nov. 23. Int. to this date   25 Y–7 M–4 D 169– 3– 6
301– 15– 6
By order on Gibson at this date 112– 10– 0
189– 5– 6
1811. July 6. Int. on £132–12 to this date 2 Y–7 M–13 D 17– 8–
206– 13– 6
By order on Gibson 1000.D. 225– 0– 0
overpaid of this bond & to be credited to No 6. 18– 6– 6

PoC (MHi); edge trimmed; signature faint; at foot of first page: “Mr T. Saunders”; endorsed by TJ, in part (brackets in original): “Saunders Tarleton. [for Jas Lyle].” Recorded in SJL as a letter to “Saunders Thos” for Lyle. Enclosed in TJ to Bernard Peyton, [ca. 3 Jan. 1821], not found (see note to Peyton to TJ, 8 Jan. 1821).

Tarlton Saunders (d. 1831), agent, dissolved his Richmond commission-business partnership with C. H. Saunders in 1806. The following year he married Sally Bland Goode Lyle, the widow of James Lyle (d. 1806). Saunders served in Chesterfield County companies of the Virginia militia during the War of 1812, and he bought flour from TJ through Patrick Gibson in 1815. He owned ten slaves when he appeared in the 1810 census as a resident of Manchester, Chesterfield County, but had none the following decade when he was listed as a resident of Richmond, where he died (Nathaniel Claiborne Hale, Roots in Virginia: An Account of Captain Thomas Hale, Virginia Frontiersman, His Descendants and Related Families [1948], 75, 78; Richmond Enquirer, 28 Nov. 1806, 29 Aug. 1809; Virginia Militia in the War of 1812: From Rolls in the Auditor’s Office at Richmond [2001], 2:224, 824; Gibson to TJ, 10 May 1815; DNA: RG 29, CS, Chesterfield Co., 1810, Richmond, 1820; The Richmond Directory, Register and Almanac, for the Year 1819 [Richmond, 1819], 67; Daily Richmond Whig, 9 June 1831).

For john bolling’s bond, see note to Saunders to TJ, 15 Sept. 1821.

1Manuscript: “acounts.”

2Word interlined.

3Reworked from “in.”

Index Entries

  • Bolling, John (1737–1800) (TJ’s brother-in-law); and TJ’s debt to Henderson, McCaul & Company search
  • Gibson & Jefferson (Richmond firm); and payments made for TJ search
  • Harvie, Richard; and TJ’s debt to J. Lyle search
  • Henderson, McCaul & Company (Scottish firm); TJ’s debt to search
  • Jefferson, Jane Randolph (TJ’s mother); debt of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; debt to Henderson, McCaul & Company search
  • Kippen & Company (Glasgow firm) search
  • Lyle, James (1726–1812); agent for Henderson, McCaul & Company search
  • Lyle, James (1798–1850); as administrator of estate of J. Lyle (1726–1812) search
  • Saunders, Tarlton; and TJ’s debt to Henderson, McCaul & Company search
  • Saunders, Tarlton; identified search
  • Saunders, Tarlton; letters to search
  • slaves; sale of search
  • wheat; price of search