1808: Thomas Talmadge Kinney to James Clapp

This letter was written by Thomas Talmadge Kinney (1785-1826), the son of Abraham Kinney (1762-1816) and Hannah Burnet (1761-1832). He wrote the letter to a young, 23 year-old lawyer named James Clapp (1785-1854) who was then practicing in New York City. Later, with partner William M. Price, they “packed their law library in a wagon and drove into the interior of the State to seek their fortunes, preferring the country to the city for their field of labor. They halted at several villages, which seemed to offer an opening for the practice of law, but were not satisfied with the outlook, and journeyed on until early one summer evening in 1808 they entered the village of Oxford. The beauty of its position, the neatness of the place, and the substantial air of comfort, which presented itself in every direction, determined them to take up their residence and end further prospecting. A small but neat building in the center of the village, owned by a milliner, was rented, their books, chairs, desks, and other belongings unloaded and arranged in order in the new office, and as the shades of night set in they nailed their sign on the window and were ready for any business that might come to them.”

From this letter we learn that Thomas’s client, Asa Rolfe (17xx-1816), held a delinquent note given to him by Cornelis Francisco, both of Essex County, New Jersey. Newspaper advertisements indicate that Rolfe was a master mariner on the ship Nonpareil who traded regularly with the West Indies. His sloop was rescued by the U.S.S. Adams in caribbean waters in 1800 after it was captured by French privateers during the “Quasi-War” with France.

Cornelius Francisco (1759-1837) was the son of Johannis (John) Francisco (1724-1771) and Aeltje Doremus (1726-1771).

Stampless Cover


Addressed to James Clapp, Esq., Attorney at Law, New York

Newark [New Jersey]
April 1st 1808


1808 Letter

Mr. Asa Rolfe, who is a client of mine in this State, gave me the enclosed note with a request to forward it to some gentleman of the profession in your city for collection. Possessing no personal acquaintance with you, I still venture to direct it to you at the recommendation of one of my friends. The depo[sition] must be held to mail & if an affidavit is required it shall be immediately forwarded. He is a mechanic living as I am told near the 2-mile stone.

The amount is small & your costs may possibly not be adequate to the trouble of collecting it, but it will be in my power to throw much of this kind of business in your hands in the course of a year & I therefore trust that you will not hesitate to attend to this affair. I will thank you to acknowledge the receipt of this & if you require any further information, it can be obtained by applying to

Yours very respect, Thomas T. Kinney

N.B. As the signature to the note is somewhat difficult, you may not be able to read it. It is Cornelius Francisco.


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