Chief Justice John Marshall Sells Land He Used As His Hunting Lodge

Giving a glimpse of his priorities, he places the rights of his tenants working the land above his desire to sell

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In this previously unpublished letter, he makes arrangements to convey the deed

In 1790 John Marshall bought 352 acres of land in Buckingham County, Virginia, which was a rural area in the central portion of the state. He utilized the land for hunting, and the original log structure on the land as...

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Chief Justice John Marshall Sells Land He Used As His Hunting Lodge

Giving a glimpse of his priorities, he places the rights of his tenants working the land above his desire to sell

In this previously unpublished letter, he makes arrangements to convey the deed

In 1790 John Marshall bought 352 acres of land in Buckingham County, Virginia, which was a rural area in the central portion of the state. He utilized the land for hunting, and the original log structure on the land as his hunting lodge. Just before his elevation to the position of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court he determined to sell it. The Papers of John Marshall record that in 1803 there was litigation relating to the title to the land, which was resolved in Marshall’s favor. Marshall then received an offer to purchase the land from William Bernard, who had been serving as a justice of the peace for Buckingham since 1796. The proposition was for Bernard to pay Marshall £800 for the acreage, half paid down and the residue in two annual payments.

Marshall wrote Bernard in response to the offer: “I receiv’d through Colo. Carrington your propositions for purchasing my land lying south of Randolphs creek. You know that I have agreed to let those who at present occupy it sow wheat this fall on rent. This agreement I cannot break. If you can settle with the tenants considering yourself as bound by my agreement I shall have no objection to accepting your proposition.” In January 1804 there was a second letter from Marshall to Bernard, one that relates to Bernard receiving a deed for this land. Thus we see that in his personal life, Marshall insisted on placing his agreement with his tenants above his desire to see the land sold.

Autograph letter signed, as Chief Justice, unpublished until now, no date but from the subject matter mid to late 1804, to Bernard, about this land. “I received your letter inclosing your promissory note & have no sort of objection to the execution of the deed to you at any moment. I shall be in Buckingham about the 20th of October & perhaps it will be convenient to execute it then. I defer it because perhaps we may come to some agreement respecting some adjoining land which you want. I am not willing to slip off the skirt of bottom but will let you have some twenty or thirty acres. By my contract with those who cultivate the land, the tenement [land] was to be returned…” The integral address leaf in Marshall’s hand is still present.

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