The Papers of William Short

About The Project

The Papers of William Short is a born-digital selective documentary edition focusing on Virginian William Short (1759-1849), Thomas Jefferson’s “adoptive son,” diplomat and fiscal agent in Europe, successful businessman and philanthropist in the United States, and an early advocate of emancipation.

The project will comprise transcriptions and translations of Short correspondence and business documents. It has already collected a major part of Short’s papers and correspondence, with the Université Paris Est-Créteil financing the purchase of the complete microfilmed collection of the Short Papers held in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Research continues with initial publication set for early 2025.

With support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, as well as our partners at the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina and the Center for Digital Editing at the University of Virginia, the project sheds light on an enterprising and knowledgeable yet forgotten diplomat, businessman, and philanthropist, who navigated confidently and with vision the choppy waters of a Euro-American world in full convulsion, reconfiguration, and construction.

The digital publication of Short’s papers will enable scholars and the general public to reevaluate the history of international relations, diplomacy, economy, politics, and finances of the late 18th-century United States and Europe, notably France. His personal letters with the Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld reveal his reactions to the French Revolution.

Of enormous interest as well is Short’s correspondence about slavery, colonization, and a proposed Black tenancy project in Albemarle County, Virginia, which was instrumental in plans that were ultimately unrealized for emancipation.

Short’s correspondence with his business partners, in particular his nephew John Cleves Short, and business papers are untapped resources for early 19th-century economic history.

Project Directors: Monica Henry and Marty D. Matthews

Host Institution: The Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina

The Papers of William Short on a desktop