Sale 22SC02 | Lot 67

JEFFERSON, THOMAS Letter signed ("Th: Jefferson"), to the Bristol (England) mercantile house of Farell and Jones, regarding the settlement of the estate of John Wayles, his father-in-law.

Catalogue: Selections from the Private Collection of Barbara and Ira Lipman
JEFFERSON, THOMAS  Letter signed ("Th: Jefferson"), to the Bristol (England) mercantile house of Farell and Jones, regarding the settlement of the estate of John Wayles, his father-in-law.

Lot Details

Lot 67
JEFFERSON, THOMAS Letter signed ("Th: Jefferson"), to the Bristol (England) mercantile house of Farell and Jones, regarding the settlement of the estate of John Wayles, his father-in-law.
9 1/2 x 7 3/8 inches (24 x 18.75 cm); 4 pp., about 1800 words on a bifolium (now separated into two leaves) the text written in a neat and formal clerical hand, Charles City, Virginia, 9 July 1773, integral address at foot of last page in Jefferson's hand; accompanied by a document signed ("Th: Jefferson"). 8 1/2 x 7 1/4 inches (21.5 x 18.5 cm); 1 p., this headed in Jefferson's hand "Invoice of goods to be sent to the Executor of John Wayles." The three leaves above are housed with collateral materials (a transcription etc.) in a half blue morocco folding-case, red morocco spine labels. Usual folds, the bifolium now separated into two leaves at central fold, with expert repairs to the horizontal fold separations. Some fading to spine of case.

Jefferson outlines to creditors his plans for settling his father-in-law's estate. Jefferson was demonstrably no friend to the English traders and merchants, to whom the Virginia planters were, as a class, hugely indebted. He felt, not without justification, that they entrapped planters by manipulating tobacco crop prices to ensure that debts persisted, sometimes for generations. However, in the case of his father-in-law's estate, a large portion of the debts came from costs associated with the importation of 150 slaves, the cargo of the slave ship The Prince of Wales, a transaction from which Farell and Jones appear to have in fact made no profit, a point which Jefferson underlines in these pages.
The unfortunates on that vessel had been sold by Wayles's partner Richard Randolph to planters and slave merchants, from whom the collection of payments became extremely difficult during the American Revolution. In this extraordinarily detailed and lawyerly letter, possibly dictated to one of the clerks at his law practice (which in 1773 was still very much extant), Jefferson composes an extensive exposition of the circumstances surrounding the estate, and his proposals for settling it.
"Your favors of April 23 1773 came to hand a few days after the death of Mr. Wayles an event of which I doubt not Mr. Evans had before advised you. We are assured that you sympathize on this occasion with his family and friends here, as a correspondence kept up, and we hope approved thro' a long course of years must have produced on your part some degree of that friendship which we know him to have expressed and felt for you the favors received at your hands he spoke of with particular warmth to the hour of his death, a very few days before which he added a codicil to his will almost solely to secure to you a proper return. the words of it, relating to yourselves, are as follows. 'Messieurs Farrell and Jones have on every occasion acted in a most generous manner to me. I shall therefore make them every grateful return in my power. I therefore direct that my estate be kept together and that the whole tobacco made therein be shipped unto the said Farrell and Jones of Bristol until his debt and interest shall be fully and compleatly paid and satisfied unless my children find it to their interest to pay and satisfy the same in a manner that may be agreeable to the said Farrell and Jones.'"
This matter of settling the estate fell on Jefferson and his two brothers-in-law, Francis Eppes and Henry Shipwith, both of whom are named in the letter. Wayles had died on 28 May 1773, with extensive landholdings but equally extensive debts.
Jefferson goes on to write that "some part of Mr. Wayles's lands were so poor and unprofitable that, had there been no debt, we should have thought them not worth keeping. These herefore we have determined to sell and apply the produce of the sale towards lessening your debt, and we think ourselves within bounds when we expect that produce will (on giving a credit suited to the present situation of our country) be at least 4000£ sterl. to this are to be added the tobaccos shipped, and to be shipped the last and the present year. The remainder alone then will fall on the future crops of the estate, a fund which we shall inviolably apply to that purpose, and on which we shall take care there shall be no other draw back than a small invoice for such British goods as will be necessary for the use of the plantations."
The portion of the letter dealing with the slaves has been underscored, quite possibly by Jefferson: "The Guinea consignment you were so kind as to engage the last year for Messieurs Wayles and Randolph becomes a matter of serious attention. Two courts have now passed at which considerable sums should have been paid out, yet little is done, and at so low an ebb is the circulating money of this Colony at present that the business of a collector is of all others the most subject to disappointments. That you should suffer the inconvenience in a matter which in no way could have brought you advantage we should think peculiarly hard and therefore shall do everything to guard against it. For this purpose the activity of Mr. Skipwith will be called to our assistance who is in that season and situation of life best equal to the task. He will act in this matter in concert with Colo.[nel] Richard Randolph and we think we may expect from his efforts what ever the times will admit. In his department also is the receiving and paying all money matters of Mr. Wayles's estate for which purpose he will also attend the mercantile meeting in Williamsburgh and as it is impossible to foreknow what deficiencies in his collection may arise, we shall entrust to his discretion a few blank draughts to be filled up where the necessities of the estate shall absolutely require it."
He notes further along: "You will receive by Capt. Emmes all the tobaccos of the estate except 20 hogsheads which Mr. Wayles had directed to be shipped this year to Cary and Co. of London. Emmes has at the time of writing this letter about 50 hogsheads on board under our order, and will within a few days take in the residue, which we expect will be about 20 more."
The companion "Invoice of Goods" is an inventory Jefferson sent to Farell and Jones listing "such goods as will be necessary for the plantations the succeeding year, which we hope to receive from you as usual." These goods, presumably intended to clothe and feed the slaves, comprise chiefly various stuffs used to make men's shirts and hunting frocks and women's shifts, gowns, and petticoats, thread, shoe thread, Monmouth caps [a form of warm woolen hat], hose, yarn, salt, and pots and pans.
The settlement of his father-in law's estate was a protracted affair, ultimately taking Jefferson decades, so the present letter dates from the very beginning of the process. In due course, he and Martha inherited the Willis Creek and Elk Hill plantations, to a total of some 17,000 acres, along with roughly a third of his slaves, some 135 individuals including the members of the Hemings family. "The Hemings family occupied a special role at Monticello, with many of the descendants of Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings serving in important positions within the household and mountaintop. They were cooks, butlers, seamstresses, weavers, carpenters, blacksmiths, gardeners, and musicians. Jefferson freed, or allowed to go free, three of her sons and six of her grandchildren in his lifetime or in his will-the only slaves to whom he granted freedom" (monticello.org/slavery/). For an overall discussion of the settlement of the estate and the lawsuits it engendered, see:
https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-15-02-0620-0001

Provenance: The James S. Copley Library

Reference: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Boyd, 15:657-661 (original not located, text taken from a transcript in the collection of the Daughters of the American Revolution, with many variations in incidentals); c.f. "Editorial Note: The Debt to Farell & Jones and the Slave Ship The Prince of Wales," in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Boyd, 15:642-649.


C Private Collection of Barbara and Ira Lipman

Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
Sold for $11,340 (includes buyer's premium)

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Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
Sold for $11,340 (includes buyer's premium)

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Selections from the Private Collection of Barbara and Ira Lipman

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