Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Pseudonym: "Woman", 3 April 1820

Greensboro Apl 3rd 1820

Honoured Sir

Do I presume to far in placing implicit reliance on the well known generosity and philanthrophy of your heart to pardon the presumption of a stranger who through the medium of pen and paper thus ventures to lay before you the situation of her family to solicit for them pecuniary aid and yet withhold her name permit me sir to say with Dr Cotton in the introduction to his visions

Let me this dangerous secret hide
I’ll lift you every thing beside

the reason assigned by the above quoted author for suppressing his name are of A similar motive to that which induces me to wish my own may remain A secret at present viz the fear of dishonouring my friends as I have consulted no one on the measure I am taking I feel that no one should participate in the disgrace should it be deemed an improper one which notwithstanding I have often revolved it in mind and it has long been a subject of contemplation for my midnight houres and ’tho I cannot myself view it dishonourabl under existing circumstances yet my heart has some misgivings and I write with trembling uncertainty of the correctness of my own decision with due respect sir I submit the decision to you, and procede to make you acquainted with the character and circumstance of the man for whom I am thus dareing: he was left an Orphan at the age of seven with little or no property has without becoming burthensome to his friends or entering into any speculation by which to inrich himself at the expence of his fellow citizens made his way thus far thro’ life supported and for this country decently [. . .] a rising family and maintained a character unimpeachable for intigrity probity and Honour from the age of twenty eight to the present time (which constitutes half his life) with little intermision he has served the publick in various offices and is seen alternately at the plough and in the counsils of State in those times of peril and danger in those days which tried mens souls he stood allmost a solitary member from this county in the house of representatives who filt his countrys wrongs and whom neither favors nor promises could shake from his sturdy purpose to guard her rights, from a combination of courses which he could neither foresee or prevent his circumstances have become embarrased he holds property in lands which could he dispose of even for less than their Value for each would answer all demands against him but the pressure of the times the severity or rather entire destitution of money renders it difficult if not alltogether impossible to raise it on lands either by loan or sale he has claims to a considerable amount in the State of Virginia has at times contemplated A journey thither various reasons have as yet left him undetermined whether or not he should make the tour there of which I beg leave to name the uncertainty of obtaining property immediately the, bad affects of travelling on his health allready much impared by use and intense applications to business absence at this time unless he could be sure of obtaining means of relief from might increase his embarrasment could he be assured of the sum of two thousand dollars on the lands above mentioned I think he would wave all objections and set out immediately the favour I solicit honoured sir is the loan of that sum on that security I acknowlege this an extraordinary request at the same time suffer me to remind you: that it is made to no ordinary personage deign sir to reflect that it is only to the real philanthrophist that the unfortunate can apply with any hope of success then recollect how seldom this character is to be found and you sir may passably come to wonder that an inhabitant of the northern extremity of the union should apply to your for assistance in the day of affliction I have not nor can I ever expect to have the honuor of A personal acquaintance nor do I expect the sage of Monticello’ the often [. . .] justly styled the father of his country can take every family under his care and supply their various wants nor will my veneration for his character (which I have admired with a degree of enthusiasm from my earliest remembrance) suffer any dimonition, should he refuse the assistance here requested the making such A request I am sensible t[. . .] to prove what most writers have agreed in who have troubled on the subject that women are wanting in strength of mind and solidity of judgment but allow that they excell in quickness of preceptions and flights of imagination these united with warm maternal affection will urge a mother to daring beyound her sex I will not sir endeavour to excite your sympathy by a highly [. . .] family picture I will only say that ours has ben frequently the house of mourning and sorrow that we have recently ben called to commit the remains of our eldest to the silent tomb son A youth of twenty six who promised much usefullness to his country the love of which was interwoven with every fibre of his heart and for her honour he would willingly sacrificed his life our second not two years behind him in age is I fear [. . .] to him in destiny he has strong marks of the same slow fattening disease which when once she has marked her victim is sure to undermine by allmost imperestable degrees and sap the foundations of health and lay prostrate youth beauty and vigor Pulimonary Consumption which for some years preyed on—and at last destroyed his brother he too like him finds that “to live is not to breath but to be well“ to use the words of Mr Adison or rather to use the language of the two brothers of whom I am writing (for there was a similarity of sentiments and feelings prevaded their hearts) it is not life to live unless we can be useful we much fear his active spirit will wear out its final tenement of clay and that he too will sink to an early tomb it is on his account that I feel most sensibly our embarrassments were our circumstances such as the sum I have named would make them I think I should persuade his father and him to take some care of their health I do not mean to represent that we are suffering the extremity of poverty no we can retire within the limits of A jail and by industry and eoconemy procure a decent living but this sir is not the point that penes us most closely merely our own convenience it is that our creditors should suffer loss that the honour and integrity of A man whose whole life has evinced that his every action has been governed by a principal of moral rectitude should his compeled to disappoint the expectations of those who have relied with implicit confidence on him I think we should not be watched in any situation (with health) short of positive suffering could we satisfy the just demands of our creditors and assist the son above mentioned to preserve a life to us so dear, now sir if you can deem it proper without direction to comply with this request and will so far condescend as to write under cover to the postmaster Greensboro he will forward it me I shall then present a coppy of this with your answer to my husband I think he will immediately set off for Virginia where should he arrive in safty will do himself the honour sir to call on you avow his name give an indisputable title to lands sufficient to secure the sums mentioned if on the contrary you should consider this application presumptions and consequently unworthy unworthy your regard I can only defend in extenuation the high veneration I had conceived for your character and a too earnest solicitude for the health and happiness of my family there I must hope sir will have this weight that I receive no punishment more severe than your disapprobation manifested by neglecting to write as above requested whatever may be the fate of this application. I think I may in same measure [. . .] the perturbation of my feelings by an assurance that your enlightened and generous spirit will never stoop to expose the weakness of an imperfect


be pleased sir with the homage of my high respect to accept the most sincere wish that the evening of your life may be as happy as its morning and meridian have been useful and prosperous

MHi: Coolidge Collection.

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