Thomas Jefferson Papers

Bernard Peyton to Thomas Jefferson, 2 July 1821

From Bernard Peyton

Richd 2d July 1821

Dear sir,

Agreeable to your request hand herewith your current to date, which I hope will be found correct.   Another your notes falls due this week, & I am still without a blank or a note of yours at=all, I hope by Wednesday’s mail to receive a supply, which will be one day too late, but I hope to arrange1 it either by putting in my own note as heretofore, or in some other way.

You have no doubt observed by the Enquirer that the Court of Appeals have reversed the opinion of the Genl Court favorable to the securities of Preston; this is universally considered here the most, illegal, unjust & arbitrary decision that was ever made, insomuch, that the whole town cry out shame, the case is palpable to every mind but one predetermined to decide it in favor the Commonwealth, & that you may see the facts, I take the liberty to enclose the record, in the hope you will find time to read it, & also the opinion of the Court, which you will find in the Enquirer, & if you have leisure, & deem it not improper, I should be gratified to have your opinion confidentially, for I assure you it shall not be used, & is for my own individual satisfaction—Judges, Lawyers & Citizens of all ranks here publicly pronounce the decision crying oppression & injustice on the sureties.   I do not know yet what effect it will have on me, I hope tho’ my business will be unimpaired, as in the worst event possible, the property, funds &c: of my friends, in my hands, would be held sacred, which is entirely in my power by well [settld?] principles of law,2 & surely I have every inducement to preserve it, & equally strong ones to pay as little into the Treasy as possible.—on my own , am perfectly free from all embarressment, indebted to no person, Bank, or in any other way, & have not a note out in the world, consequently there can be no3 danger in entrusting business to me as heretofore, & should hope my friends would, in misfortune, (not my own) adhere to me more ardently than heretofore, as upon them I rely for a subsistence for my family hereafter if a judgt should go against me next fall.

If it falls in the way, I would thank you to mention this to Jefferson, & such others as you may please, & if any would wish security, that their effects would not be misapplied in my hands, I can readily give $100,000, or even more if necessary. I find my friends here more firm [&] decided than before, and prepared to go any length for me, which is very gratifying indeed

I beg you will destroy this letter after it is read, as I have spoken perhaps too freely of the highest Court in our Land, & hoping to hear from you on this subject in the same confidence, remain,

With great respect Dr sir Yours very Truely

B. Peyton

RC (MHi); damaged at seal; endorsed by TJ as received 6 July 1821 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Peyton’s account with TJ, not found.

After taking office early in 1820 as state treasurer, Jerman Baker brought suit in the Virginia General Court against his predecessor, John Preston, alleging that he had embezzled public funds. In the trial that resulted, a jury found Preston liable for only one cent of damages and excluded altogether his sureties, William Ross, William P. Smith, Robert Gamble, James P. Preston, William G. Pendleton, Francis Preston, Francis B. Powell, and Peyton. In June 1821, however, Baker appealed the case to a “Special Court” (court of appeals) led by Spencer Roane, a judge of the Court of Appeals, Virginia’s highest tribunal, and also including Robert White, Hugh Holmes, Peter Johnson, William Daniel, and George Parker, all members of the General Court but new to this case. A Special Court was needed because “there were not a sufficient number of the Judges of the Court of Appeals, who thought themselves qualified to sit in the case.” These judges concluded that the earlier ruling had erroneously excluded from consideration a deed made by Preston to his sureties. They reversed the previous judgment and remanded the case to the General Court. The enclosed record has not been identified, but Va. Reports description begins Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1798–  (title varies; originally issued in distinct editions of separately numbered volumes with Va. Reports volume numbers retroactively assigned; original volume numbers here given parenthetically) description ends , 21 (1 Gilmer), 235–305, gives the appeals case report. The Richmond Enquirer announced the new decision on 29 June and printed Roane’s opinion of the court on 3 July 1821.

jefferson: Thomas Jefferson Randolph.

1Manuscript: “araange.”

2Preceding six words interlined, with one illegible.

3Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Baker, Jerman (1776–1828); andBaker v. Preston search
  • Baker, Jerman (1776–1828); as treasurer of Va. search
  • Baker v. Preston search
  • Daniel, William; as judge search
  • Gamble, Robert; as surety for J. Preston search
  • Holmes, Hugh; as judge search
  • Johnson, Peter; as judge search
  • Parker, George; as judge search
  • Pendleton, William Garland; as surety for J. Preston search
  • Peyton, Bernard; account with TJ search
  • Peyton, Bernard; and TJ’s bank notes search
  • Peyton, Bernard; as surety for J. Preston search
  • Peyton, Bernard; letters from search
  • Powell, Francis B.; as surety for J. Preston search
  • Preston, Francis; as surety for J. Preston search
  • Preston, James Patton; as surety for J. Preston search
  • Preston, John (d.1827); andBaker v. Preston search
  • Preston, John (d.1827); as treasurer of Va. search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); and B. Peyton search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); prints court rulings search
  • Roane, Spencer; as judge search
  • Ross, William; as surety for J. Preston search
  • Smith, William P.; as surety for J. Preston search
  • Virginia; Court of Appeals search
  • Virginia; General Court search
  • Virginia; treasurer of search
  • Virginia; treasury of search
  • White, Robert; as judge search