Thanks for the gift, but I MUST pay for it.
As a tribute of respect to your merits as a Friend of the People, & a promoter of the useful arts, I beg your acceptance of a Patent Saddle …
Stephen Burrowes to Thomas Jefferson, March 2, 1801
I recieved in due time your favor of Mar. 2. and the saddle also is come safely to hand. I am well pleased with it, and take it willingly, but on the express condition that you permit me to pay for it. I have ever laid it down as an unalterable law to myself to accept of no present while I am in a public office …
Response to Stephen Burrowes, March 9, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Conscientious leaders are careful to avoid all compromising situations.
Jefferson the accomplished horseman and daily rider would have been delighted with the gift of a new saddle. Jefferson the public servant could not accept it or any other gift. He kept the saddle but instructed Burrowes to call on his agent and receive payment for it.
There is no other correspondence between these men. I couldn’t find any information on Burrowes, or if something special characterized the saddle. His references to Jefferson as “a promoter of the useful arts” and to a “Patent Saddle” suggest an improvement in the design. We don’t know whether the saddle was to be a gift only, or if Burrowes had additional motives.
Jefferson had three choices:
1. Accept the gift and any implied obligation that came with it,
2. Return the gift, which would have appeared rude, or
3. Accept the gift but insist on paying for it, wiping out any obligation.
He wisely chose the third option.