Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to William Paxton, 1 January 1822

To William Paxton

Monticello Jan. 1. 22.

Dear Sir

I inclose to you a letter to mr1 Leyburn, because I wish you to be informed of it’s contents, and when read I will pray you to contrive it to him by any safe opportunity.

After parting with you at the Natural bridge a little reflection made me sensible that the sum of 5.D. which you named as your fee could not possibly be even the legal fee. I have here turnd to the fee-law and find it was by no means as much as the law allowed, and that even the legal allowance was not the half of what the labor of2 that particular survey over hollows and precipices was worth. permit me therefore to remit you the inclosed 10.D. bill as a supplement. I am thus late in correcting this error because I have been expecting your notes of the survey which you thought would be here by the time I returned myself. not having recieved them I fear they have miscarried, or perhaps as you thought you would some day survey the course of the creek through my lands, you may retain the survey to insert that.

I promised you also a note of my observations of the variation of the needle. you will percieve that from 78. to 96. it advanced Eastwardly, and has since been receding towards the true meridian, but with vibrations as unaccountable as the Polar attraction itself is. I salute you with great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

°    °
1778. Feb. 5. 3 –32 East 1811. July 31. 5 –25 E.
1790. Nov. 3. 6 –15 14. Dec. 17 1 –30
1791. Sep. 20. 6 –15 15. Oct. 9. 2 –10
94. Aug. 3. 7 –36 19. Dec. 7. 4
96. Dec. 4.  10 –20 20. July 2. 4 –45
97. Sep. 13. 8 – 0 21. May 19. 3
98. Nov. 11. 9 –15
99  Dec. 15 4 –30
1802. Sep. 13. 5
04. Sep. 16 4
5. Aug. 23. 5 –25
8. Sep. 11. 3
9  Dec. 27. 4

PoC (MHi); on verso of a reused address cover from Bernard Peyton to TJ; endorsed by TJ as a letter to “Paxton William.” Enclosure: TJ to John Leyburn, 1 Jan. 1822. Enclosed in TJ to Edward Graham, 1 Jan. 1822.

On 13 Nov. 1821 TJ recorded paying Paxton $5 for surveying his natural bridge property, in addition to $2 for “chain carriers” (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1380). A 1792 Virginia law named $5.25 as the legal allowance for a survey and plat not exceeding four hundred acres (Hening, description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, Richmond, 1809–23, 13 vols.; Sowerby, no. 1863; Poor, Jefferson’s Library, 10 (no. 573) description ends 13:382). TJ’s observed variation of the needle or magnetic declination, the difference between true north and magnetic north at a specific location, is so great as to suggest that either his compass or his observations were inaccurate.

1TJ here canceled “Ochiltree.”

2Preceding three words interlined.

Index Entries

  • compass (magnetic); and magnetic declination search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Travels; to Natural Bridge search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; survey of search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; TJ visits search
  • Paxton, William; and survey of Natural Bridge search
  • Paxton, William; letters to search
  • Paxton, William; TJ pays search
  • surveying; chain for search
  • surveying; compass for search
  • surveying; fees for search