William Stewart, a smith who has lived with me at Monticello some years … is one of the first workmen in America, but within these 6. months has taken to drink … abandoned his family … he writes me word he will return, & desires me to send him 20. D. to bear his expences back … [this] would only enable him to continue his dissipations. I … [enclose] that sum to you … [as] charity for his family of asking the favor of you to encourage him to return to them, to pay his passage … & give him in money his reasonable expences on the road … if he has more it will only enable him to drink & stop by the way. when he arrives here I shall take other measures to forward him. he is become so unfit for any purposes of mine, that my only anxiety now is on account of his family …
To Jones & Howell, November 22, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Humane leaders demonstrate concern for employees’ families.
Stewart, a gifted craftsman in Jefferson’s long-term employ, began drinking, abandoned his family and vowed never to return. He had a change of heart and wrote his patron from Philadelphia, asking for $20 to get back to Monticello.
Cash-in-hand would only enable Stewart to drink. Instead, and only out of concern for Stewart’s family, he sent the amount requested to trusted businessmen in Philadelphia, asking them to encourage Stewart’s return. They were to purchase his passage home and give him only what he’d need for food and lodging on the three day journey, no “more than 2. or 3. dollars a day.”
Jefferson had no use for the Stewart upon his return but was greatly concerned for his family, “consisting of a very excellent wife & several children.”