Washington DC: The United States Telegraph and Commercial Herald, 1826. Item #900142
1826 Washington DC newspaper with a front page AD - A LOTTERY for THE SALE of Thomas Jefferson's estate of MONTICELLO.
COMPLETE, ORIGINAL NEWSPAPER, the United States Telegraph (Washington, DC) dated in 1826. This newspaper contains a 5" x 3" front page ad headlined: "JEFFERSON LOTTERY". This lottery included several Thomas Jefferson properties, including his estate of MONTICELLO, as well as the place of his birth - Shadwell.
"Just months before Thomas Jefferson's death, his family attempted to alleviate the crushing burden of his personal debt by arranging a public lottery.
Thomas Jefferson Randolph, to whom Jefferson had entrusted his business affairs in 1817, was forced to admit that, after eight years, he was unable to stabilize them. The old patriarch's financial burdens, brought on chiefly by the failure of his estate to handle his large obligations, were staggering. This, coupled with the bankruptcy of Wilson Cary Nicholas, whose note Jefferson had endorsed in 1817, gave him the coup de grâce. The spring of 1826 was a gloomy one for Jefferson and the household. The portents for Monticello and its occupants were ominous.
The aged patriot and his grandson cast about for possible means of relief. From the recesses of a still active mind, Jefferson drew out the age old expedient of disposing of a part of his holdings by lottery. This solution had frequently been used in Virginia under similar circumstances. Lotteries were prohibited by law, making it necessary for Jefferson to obtain permission from the Virginia Legislature. He petitioned that body and accompanied his petition with a dissertation on lotteries in which he attempted to anticipate any possible objections.
Jefferson referred to his straitened circumstances and his plans to alleviate them in a letter of January 1826, to his friend Joseph C. Cabell, a collaborator on the University of Virginia and a member of the Virginia General Assembly:
[M]y application to the legislature is for permission to dispose of property ... in a way, which, bringing a fair price for it, may pay my debts and leave a living for myself in my old age and leave something for my family. their [the legislature's] consent is necessary, it will injure no man, and few sessions pass without similar exercises of the same power, in their discretion. ... I think it just myself .... to me it is almost a question of life and death.
As soon as the public learned of Jefferson's plight, the "liveliest sympathy heightened by surprise" was manifested in many areas of the country. Plans for his relief were advanced in the newspapers, and meetings were held for the purpose of raising funds by voluntary contributions. Even so, the favored scheme at this time continued to be the lottery.
Thomas Jefferson Randolph arrived in Richmond in January to promote a bill, soon to come before the Legislature, that would allow his grandfather to pursue the lottery plan. Randolph's initial report to Monticello was optimistic. He noted that "the leading men have taken up the affair with zeal, and are making their impressions upon others. ... your friends are confident of success. Despite these early impressions, the bill was not to have smooth sailing; in fact, there were strong swells of opposition, even in Albemarle County. At home some demurred on religious and moral grounds while others thought it would hurt Jefferson's good name. Legislative opposition came from friend and foe: many were in no mood to assist the arch democrat even in an almost dying gesture, while the rest were honestly concerned with the effect on his reputation.
The petition was first introduced on the floor of the House of Delegates on February 8, 1826. The vote without debate on reading the bill was against passage, 95 to 94. "[I]ts enemies," Randolph wrote, "had been active against it" and shunned debate.5 This was, however, only a temporary setback, for its proponents won permission, but by only four votes, to place it before the House a second time. Cabell was sanguine about eventual passage, but not without the stigma of an uncomfortably large minority opposing it.
The bill was presented again after an impassioned plea by Delegate Loyall of Norfolk. Delegate Blackburn then moved to lay the bill on the table for several days so that the delegates might have more time to consider the subject. After a discussion, Blackburn called for a vote on his tabling motion but it was defeated by 140 to 43. The vote on the bill was taken on February 20 and it passed the House by 125 to 62 and the Senate by 13 yeas to 4 nays.
The bill authorized Jefferson "to dispose of any part of his real estate by lottery, for the payment of his debts." A proviso that affected earlier plans allowed no more money to be raised by the sale of tickets than the amount of a fair evaluation. Randolph and Jefferson had hoped that the value of the tickets might be worth not more than $60,000 and this for one prize only, the Shadwell Mills and accompanying land. This hope proved to be very unrealistic because the depressed value of Albemarle County land would necessitate the inclusion of nearly all Jefferson's Albemarle and possibly some of the Bedford lands if the prize were to be attractive. When Randolph suggested Monticello might be included, his grandfather was reported to have "turned white," but he realized the hopelessness of the situation and "after a while came into it."
When the law authorizing the lottery was passed, Randolph thought of turning to lottery brokers in one of the large northern metropolitan centers. He decided in the early spring that Yates and McIntyre of New York City might handle the scheme. They agreed, and added their agents' services without compensation. Their prospectus advertised that the winning combination would be drawn from 11,477 tickets at $10 each, a rather high figure for that day. The following prizes were listed:
1 prize, the Monticello estate valued at per subjoined certificate under oath at $71,000
1 do. the Shadwell Mills at $30,000
1/3 do. the Albemarle Estate at $11,500
For a total of 11,477 blanks, $112,500"
This is an original 1826 newspaper, in Very Good condition, complete in four pages.