Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Madame de Tessé, 19 March 1801

To Madame de Tessé

Washington Mar. 19. 1801.

Dear Madam

After so long a time & such various events, I take the liberty of recalling myself to your recollection. a letter I recieved yesterday from the Marquis de la Fayette informed me you were living in Paris. this is the only certain information I have recieved of the place where you were, except once by mr Gautier to whom I immediately addressed a letter for you, which I hope you recieved. I congratulate you sincerely on your return to your own country. from my knowledge of your physical & moral constitution I am sure you cannot be as happy in any other. from the same circumstances I have been satisfied your sufferings must have been great during your absence. I assure you with truth, Madam, that I have felt much for you, and partaken sincerely of the afflictions you must have felt. the convulsions of Europe have agitated even this country, & though in a small degree comparatively, yet more than I had imagined possible. we are now removed from them, & I hope from the public papers your country is also in a great degree. since my return, I have not been permitted to enjoy much those fine poplars of which you used to speak with such rapture. it would have been a great consolation to me on your account could I have known that your charming gardens at Chaville had been preserved to you unhurt. they have been the subject of my frequent enquiries, but without recieving information. I presume however they have suffered in the general run. perhaps you will now prefer adopting flowers, instead of trees, as promising earlier enjoiment. the very great civilities & even proofs of friendship by which you distinguished me in Paris, have made an indelible impression on my mind, and I shall for ever take an anxious concern in your happiness. it would give me great pleasure to learn that you are restored to the comforts of your former situation: that you enjoy good health, that M. de Tessé is also in health, and that you are both happy in the midst of your friends. accept I pray you the assurances of my constant and sincere affection, and the homage of my high consideration & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Made. de Tessé.”


Letter I received yesterday: the letter from Lafayette printed at 10 Jan. 1801 (Vol. 32:427–32).

TJ had last written Madame de Tessé on 6 Sep. 1795, soon after learning from the banker Jean Antoine Gautier, who had written on 24 Mch. of that year, that the comtesse was still in Switzerland. TJ sent that letter to Madame de Tessé and one to Gautier of 7 Sep. in a communication to James Monroe, who was then in France; see Vol. 28:448, 451–4.

During TJ’s residence in France and after his return to the United States he endeavored to obtain plants and seeds from Virginia, South Carolina, and elsewhere for the comtesse’s formal garden at Chaville, between Paris and Versailles. Before the French Revolution she had employed a British gardener and attempted to cultivate a variety of American plants and trees. In a letter to Lafayette on 16 June 1792, TJ wondered if Madame de Tessé might have preferred residing “under the Poplars of Virginia” to living in Switzerland (Vol. 9:228–30, 238, 253–5, 505–6; Vol. 10:xxvii, 178 [illus.], 514n; Vol. 11:121–2, 187, 233, 253; Vol. 13:xxx, 110, 137–8, 187, 476–7, 480 [illus.], 483–5; Vol. 16:223n, 226–8).

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