Thomas Jefferson Papers

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte to Thomas Jefferson, 25 March 1815

From Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte

Baltimore march 25. 1815


I allow myself a great liberty in thus addressing you on a subject entirely personal. My health obliges me to go to Europe & I shall embark with mr & mrs Eustis for Holland on my way to France. If you, Sir, will have the goodness to give me letters of recommendation; my admittance into the first Circles of Paris will be secured, as the respect & admiration with which you are considered in Europe must attract attention to the Person, who has the honour of being introduced under your Auspices. Should I be happy enough to succeed in obtaining Letters from you, Sir, I will thank you to have the goodness to mention me as mrs Patterson; since I am informed by letters from Paris that my retaining there1 the name of Bonaparte, could be only prejudicial. Letters for me, enclosed to mr Eustis minister to Holland, at Boston, would reach me there; or in the event of our having sailed, would be sent after us.

I have the honour to remain, Sir, with the highest respect your obt hble &c. &c.

E Bonaparte.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 31 Mar. 1815 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Bonaparte, 24 Apr. 1815, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Charlottsville Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Baltimore, 25 Mar., and Charlottesville, 30 Mar.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte (1785–1879), the daughter of a wealthy Baltimore shipping and real-estate magnate, married Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jerome Bonaparte, in Baltimore in 1803. The French ruler, however, had other matrimonial plans for his sibling and ordered him back to France, refused to recognize the marriage and, when unable to procure a papal annulment, had the union disavowed by a French ecclesiastical court in 1806. Bonaparte accompanied her husband to Europe, but they separated permanently even before she bore him a son in England in the summer of 1805 and returned to the United States. Although Napoleon later granted her an annual pension, she sought and obtained a divorce from the Maryland legislature in 1813. During the two decades following Napoleon’s downfall, Bonaparte traveled extensively in Europe. Her father left her very little when he died in 1834. Bonaparte’s astute business sense and frugal lifestyle, however, allowed her to leave a large estate when she died in Baltimore (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Connelly, Napoleonic France description begins Owen Connelly and others, eds., Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France, 1799–1815, 1985 description ends , 77–8; Charlene Boyer Lewis, “Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte: A Woman between Two Worlds,” in Leonard J. Sadosky and others, eds., Old World, New World: America and Europe in the Age of Jefferson [2010], 247–75; New-York Tribune, 5 Apr. 1879).

William Eustis and his entourage sailed from Boston on 8 June (Boston Patriot, 10 June 1815).

1Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Bonaparte, Elizabeth Patterson; identified search
  • Bonaparte, Elizabeth Patterson; letter from search
  • Bonaparte, Elizabeth Patterson; seeks letter of introduction from TJ search
  • Bonaparte, Elizabeth Patterson; visits Europe search
  • Eustis, William; as minister plenipotentiary to the Netherlands search
  • Eustis, William; departs Boston for the Netherlands search
  • The Netherlands; W. Eustis as U.S. minister to search
  • women; letters from; E. P. Bonaparte search