June 10, 1811

Thomas Jefferson Doesn’t Want it Known He’s Buying British-Made Blankets for “Those Poor Creatures”, His Slaves

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Here the author of the Declaration of Independence, living as a Virginia planter upon the involuntary servitude of some 100 slaves, takes care that “those poor creatures” should have British-made “striped blankets…for which no substitute can be had.” Because the Non-Importation Act of 1806 banned the entry of woolen cloth over 5 shillings per square yard, however, Jefferson directs that he not be named as the purchaser, “being desirous that [his] name may not be connected with any object which may be distorted into a political aspect.”
 
In the progress of the non-importation law, there is a single article of British manufacture, for the want of which we may suffer piercing distress. That is, the striped blankets for the negroes, for which no substitute can be had. I think it is a duty to those poor creatures to look to this in time. Could you procure me 50. in Richmond or elsewhere? Perhaps they may as yet be had and without an extravagant advance, altho some advance must even now be expected. You will remove a load of painful apprehension from my mind if you can secure me on this awhile. I wish not to be named as the purchaser, being desirous that my name may not be connected with any object which may be distorted into a political aspect..,”
 
Jefferson adds a postscript, that he makes “some small draughts” on his kinsman and agent, his own “writing & signature being to well known.”
 
The rest of his letter is concerned with the price of flour.

Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page, quarto, Monticello, [Virginia], June 10, 1811. To George Jefferson.

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Transcript

Monticello June 10.11
 
Dear Sir
 
I recieved [sic] yesterday yours of the 6th informing me of the sale of part of my flour at my lowest limit of 9. D.  You must be so good as to consider that limit as removed. it was originally proposed at a season when I was satisfied the market must come to that notwithstanding momentary depressions. but the season is now arrives when the approach of harvest must necessarily lower the demand & price. we must therefore take what we can get for any still in hand, as no rise can be expected for this season, & the commodity will not keep till another. in the progress of the non-importation law, there is a single article of British manufacture, for the want of which we may suffer piercing distress. that is, the striped blankets for the negroes, for which no substitute can be had. I think it a duty to those poor creatures to look to this in time. could you procure me 50. in Richmond or elsewhere? perhaps they may as yet be had and without an extravagant advance, altho some advance must even now be expected. you will remove a load of painful apprehension from my mind if you can secure me on this article. I wish not to be named as the purchaser, being desirous that my name may not be connected with any subject which may be distorted into a political aspect. I shall set out for Bedford this day overnight and return to our harvest. ever affectionately yours

TH. JEFFERSON

Mr. Jefferson


 P.S. I make some small draughts on you, too inconsiderable to merit letters of advice, my writing & signature being so well known
 
 
[verso]

Jefferson George June 10.11