… have nothing to do with Catlett. his character is in three words, a sharper [cheat], bankrupt & besotted. … every person in that neighborhood would in confidence tell you the same. I think you had better put every thing respecting your land into the hands of Price. he is illiterate, & slow, but very steady, honest & punctual. he would be equal to the two objects of seeing that the tenants observed the rules of culture, & of remitting your rents to Richmond
To William Short, November 6, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Friends warn friends away from cheaters.
Short (1750-1849) was Jefferson’s protege, personal secretary in France and lifelong friend. He spent many years abroad in the diplomatic service. He owned land in Virginia, bought a decade earlier at Jefferson’s urging, and now sought his recommendation for a manager.
The President warned his friend about Catlett, a potential candidate, and said every neighbor would confirm his assessement. Far better to deal with Price, although slow and uneducated was honest and reliable. That man would do the two things any land-owner needed, enforce his rules and collect his rents.