Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Joseph Rey, 23 January 1806

Washington 23d. January 1806.


Persecution & distress in Violation of the law of Justice, procured me the means of your paternal acquaintance, at the beginning of your Memorable administration; but now, the very elements are menacing my existence, already attenuated by age, great sufferings, privation of Wealth, & of a home.

I have seen the time in which my soul rejoiced with the delight of a hope, that I had found a parent in my orphan state; recognized by an amiable Reciprocal Correspondence, as the basis, or eve, of a much happier verbal intercourse. But alas, that time is no more! none of my addresses are answered; none of my clamours heard; & my fate worsted, rather than bettered. Where is that perfidious tyrant that Stands between us? Is it the extravagance of my charges that compel—you to abandon me? Surely the highest one Contained in my few letters does not exceed a redress for wrongs; nor the desire of obtaining a true, & useful knowledge; not as a mere object of curiosity, or monopoly for myself; but to spread it so far as necessary, as a blazing fire amidts dry straw.

In another place, it will be found, my offer of services to inculcate into the minds of young people, the principles of pure virtue, & lawful industry; the knowledge & fear of god; their duties & respect towards one another; love & fidelity between husbands & wives; & tender feelings for their children; obedience to lawful, but resistance to unlawful command of the elders & rulers; honesty in dealings, & friendship in society. As nothing can be obtained without money; nor money—without an equivalent; it becomes the duty of those who possess neither; to apply for the same: Consequently, after I had the honor to acquaint you with the state & causes of my misfortunes, I requested of you in my last visit, to be kind enough to employ me under your administration, in order that I might get an honest living; some conversation took place about the War, & naval departments, which I did not sufficiently Comprehend; & shortly after, I expressed to some individuals the abhorrence I had for War; & all its concerns: from that time to this, there is hardly—any Calamity or misery but I have been exposed to: & a general policy adopted, as if it were, a new doctrine under the names of the old; which every body understands but me; however wise & prudent the system may be; I know no reason why it should be Concealed from me; for—if it is good, I delight in it. When I ask any questions, even of the members of such institutions; they are always Crowded with company, or business; or if any answer is given, it is Contrary to its real sense.

I am obliged to make use of all honest means to get money to pay for house rent, food & raiment; walking through mud, rain, snow, and other inclemencies of the Weather; whether sick, or well; & yet I cannot obtain half the necessaries. The more I wish to speak to you, the more I am deprived of that favor: is it because you know I regard—the Value of your Company more than the vanity of honors, power—or treasure that is in your possession? does my poverty discourage you, or my esteem offend you? Do grant me a Complete day of pleasure, before I die; a day’s hospitality in the enjoyment of such refreshment, as you are pleased to give me; which may prove the end of my—troubles, & commencement of my happiness. I wait in Mr. Coale’s apartment for the favor of your answer. Sir, receive this,—as the seal of inviolable friendship, from,

J. J. Rey

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

Index Entries