Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Ritchie, 28 February 1826

Monticello Feb. 28. 26

Dear Sir

I have duly recieved your favor covering one from a Lottery office offering it’s services for the management of that lately permitted to me. I have for some years been obliged by age and ill health to resign the care of all my affairs to my grandson Th: J. R. who accdly acts for me with full powers in all cases. that of the lottery particularly has been entirely left to him so that I know nothing of it’s plan or management. I therefore sent immediately to him your letter and that which it covered. I think however that I heard him say he had engaged a particular company before he left Richmd. if he has not I am sure your recommdn will be recieved with respect.—I have had too many proofs dear Sir of your kind disposns to need any assurance that in all cases respecting my self whatever you do is done from the most frdly motives . that the opinions of my best friends were divided on my late proposition appeared in every quarter. and in none stronger than on the 1st question in the H. of R. my own alarm at that vote was great & painful. but I found, with all, that the more steadily they viewed the object, the more they rallied to the alternative which finally prevailed. I knew that my property if a fair market could be obtained was far beyond the amt of my debts. and sfft after paying them to leave me at ease I knew at the same time that in the present abject prostration of agricultural industry in this country no market exists; for that form of property a long succession of unfruitful years, long continued low prices, oppressive tariffs levied on other branches to maintain that of manufactures for the most flourishing of all, calamitous fluctuans in the value of our circulating medium, and, in my case a want of skill, in the managemt of our land & labor, these circumstances had been long undermining the state of agriculture, had been breaking up the land holders and, glutting the land market here, while drawing off it’s bidders to people the Western country. under such circumstances agricultural property had become no resource for the payment of debts, to obtain a fair market was all I wanted, and this the only means of obtaining it. the idea was perhaps more familiar to me than to younger people because so commonly practiced before the revoln it had no connection with morality, altho’ it had with expediency. instead of being suppressed therefore with mere games of chance lotteries had been placed under the discretion of the legislre as a means of sometimes effecting purposes desirable while left voluntary. whether my case was within the range of that discretion, they were to judge, and in the integrity of that jdmt I have the most perfect confidce. and I hope I am not decieved in thinking that I discover after the 1st impression is rectified, some revulsion in the general opinion. you say you had made up from the public papers a little packet of expressions containing proofs of this. such proofs would be acceptable and the more so after the rap of the knuckles recieved from the 1st vote. I pray you to be assured of my great frdshp & respect.

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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