Mutual confidence in the honor & friendship of each other has made us too inattentive to the settlement of the question respecting the lands claimed by us both adjoining our possessions here. it had better be settled while in our hands, for no others will be disposed to do it in a more friendly or just way … I believe we both agreed to arbitrate it. let us then proceed to name Arbitrators, and be done with it.
Thomas Jefferson to John Harvie, August 15, 1805
In March, 2020, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, I interrupted my review of Jefferson’s presidential correspondence, to focus on his writings about the yellow fever from 1793 on. That project is now complete, and I return to 1805.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Busy leaders don’t fight with friends.
This John Harvie (1742-1807) was a lifelong neighbor and friend. His father, also named John, was young Thomas Jefferson’s guardian upon the death of his father. There was a third John Harvie, son of the man receiving this letter.
Because they were friends, both Jefferson and Harvie had neglected to settle the contested ownership of land they both claimed. He wanted the two of them to conclude the matter, as none of their heirs would “do it in a more friendly or just way.” Jefferson’s presidential duties left him little time for personal affairs. They had agreed to arbitration. It was time to do that, and get it over with.
This arbitration was not successful. Two years later, this Harvie would die in an accident. Jefferson did settle the matter with the third Harvie, in this manner.