Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to David Austin, 14 July 1801

To David Austin

Washington July 14. 1801.


Understanding that Joseph Daugherty and Maria Murphy servants in my family propose to intermarry, and that on application to yourself to perform the ceremony, you expressed a wish to know whether it was with my knolege & approbation, I with satisfaction declare they have conducted themselves well in their several departments so as to merit and obtain my approbation, and that I know of no serious impediment why they should not be joined together in marriage each of them being free in their condition & of an age which requires nothing than their own consent to the ceremony. I pray you to accept assurances of my respectful consideration.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “The revd mr Austin”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

Joseph Dougherty and Maria (Mary) Murphy both entered TJ’s employ in March 1801 and remained part of his household staff for most of his presidency. A marital dispute forced Joseph’s temporary withdrawal from TJ’s service in 1807. The couple soon reconciled, however, much to the satisfaction of TJ, who reminded Dougherty that “the differings between man & wife, however they may affect their tranquility, can never produce such sufferings as are consequent on their separation.” The Doughertys were living in poverty with their three daughters in Washington in 1823, when Mary wrote TJ for assistance, “knowing that your generous heart would not let us suffer.” TJ responded by sending $25 to the family (Lucia Stanton, “‘A Well-Ordered Household’: Domestic Servants in Jefferson’s White House,” White House History, 17 [Winter 2006], 4–23; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1036, 1206n, 1401; John Adams to TJ, 24 Mch. 1801; TJ to Joseph Dougherty, 6 Sep. 1807; Mary Dougherty to TJ, 25 Oct. 1823, 27 Jan. 1824).

Index Entries