Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Barret to Thomas Jefferson, 6 February 1821

From William Barret

Richmond 6th February 1821


The agent of Mr B. Miller in Lynchburg, Mr S. Garland, has forwarded to me your bond, granted to A. Robertson & Co for $42568100, on which there is a credit endorsed of $600—

Mr Millers situation is such at this moment, as to render it necessary that all the balances due him should be collected, as soon as possible—Mr Miller will therefore be under great obligations to you by the payment of the balances due on your bond to A R & Co—If it shd not be convenient, at this moment, to discharge it, will you be so obliging as to name the period when it may be calculated on?   I should not be thus urgent but that Mr Miller is pressed by the Executor of his late partner for payment of the balance due by him—I am Sir

With great respect Your Obt Hble Servt

William Barret

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 11 Feb. 1821 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Joseph C. Cabell, 22 Feb. 1821, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello”; franked; postmarked Richmond, 7 Feb.

William Barret (1786–1871), merchant and tobacco manufacturer, was a lifelong resident of Richmond. He joined the Richmond Light Infantry Blues and served with that unit during the War of 1812. In 1816 Barret partnered with David Higginbotham and Boyd Miller in the firm of Higginbotham, Barret & Company, and later he became a successful tobacco manufacturer in his own right. In the 1820s he was active in the American Colonization Society and its local subsidiaries. Barret had a workforce of about one hundred slaves in 1850, roughly half of whom he owned. His slaves included Henry Box Brown, who worked in his tobacco factory but famously escaped to freedom in 1849 by having himself shipped in a box to Philadelphia. Having become one of the wealthiest men in Richmond, Barret retired just as the Civil War began and preserved much of his wealth through foreign investments. He died when his pipe ignited his dressing gown. At his death Barret’s estate was estimated to be worth half a million dollars (DVB description begins John T. Kneebone, Sara B. Bearss, and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, 1998– , 3 vols. description ends ; Fillmore Norfleet, Saint-Mémin in Virginia: Portraits and Biographies [1942], 69, 141; John A. Cutchins, A Famous Command: The Richmond Light Infantry Blues [1934], 296, 298, 322; Richmond Enquirer, 1 May 1816; DNA: RG 29, CS, Richmond, Industrial Schedules, 1850 and 1860; Brown, Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown [1851], esp. 15–8; Jeffrey Ruggles, The Unboxing of Henry Brown [2003]; Richmond Daily Dispatch, 21, 25 Jan. 1871; gravestone inscription in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond).

Index Entries

  • A. Robertson & Company (firm); TJ’s debt to search
  • Barret, William; and TJ’s debt to A. Robertson & Company search
  • Barret, William; identified search
  • Barret, William; letters from search
  • Garland, Samuel; and TJ’s debt to A. Robertson & Company search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; debt to A. Robertson & Company search
  • Miller, Boyd; and TJ’s debt to A. Robertson & Company search