Thomas Jefferson Papers
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James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, 4 September 1809

From James Monroe

Albemarle Sepr 4. 09.

Dear Sir

It has been intimated to me by unquestionable authority, that a visit by you to Col: Walker would at this time be consider’d by him, an act of great kindness, & be received with much sensibility. You know the wretched condition in which he is, tortur’d by1 an incurable disease, which must soon take him from this scene. The idea was suggested to me before I went to Richmond, but it did not appear then to rest on such ground as to justify the communication of it to you.2 The friend who imparted it to me, has since led the conversation with the utmost delicacy & caution to that topick, & ascertain’d with certainty that such are Col: Walkers sentiments. I have thought that it would be agreable to you to receive this information & hasten to give it. It is proper that you should also know that Col: W. proposes to make a visit to Phila in the hope of deriving some aid from the faculty there, & that the day after tomorrow is spoken of, as fix’d, for his departure. The necessity I am under of going immediately to Loudoun & the preparation incident to the journey, will excuse my not communicating this to you in person.

I am dear Sir with great respect & esteem your friend & servant

Jas Monroe

It may be satisfactory to you to know that I recd the above from Dr Everett. I mention this in confidence.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 4 Sept. 1809 and so recorded in SJL. Dft (DLC: Monroe Papers); with numerous emendations; at head of text: “To Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by Monroe in part: “presumed not sent to Mr Jefferson.”

Colonel John walker, of Belvoir plantation in Albemarle County, died shortly hereafter, with his death occurring at Orange Court House on his way to Philadelphia to be treated for an “ulcerated face.” His wife died on 10 Sept. 1809 (William D. Meriwether to Charles Meriwether, 17 Sept. 1809 [NcU: Southern Historical Collection, Meriwether Family Papers]; Lay, Architecture description begins K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia, 2000 description ends , 45, 304n; Richmond Enquirer, 2 Jan. 1810). Walker and TJ had been boyhood friends, attended the College of William and Mary together, and served concurrently in the House of Burgesses. TJ was an attendant at Walker’s 1764 wedding to Elizabeth (Betsey) Moore. Their friendship became strained in 1790 when Walker lost a bid for reelection to the United States Senate to TJ’s friend Monroe. Early in the 1800s tensions ran high when James Thomson Callender published allegations of TJ’s much earlier advances toward Mrs. Walker, with the story subsequently appearing in the Boston New-England Palladium on 18 Jan. 1805 and attracting discussion in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Walker believed that the advances had begun in 1768, during his temporary absence, and had continued until 1779, well into TJ’s own marriage. In the spring of 1805 he demanded satisfaction from TJ. Although TJ denied that his efforts at seduction continued after his own marriage, he resolved the matter by admitting to Walker the incorrectness of his conduct and exonerating Walker’s wife of any guilt (Malone, Jefferson description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and his Time, 1948–81, 6 vols. description ends , 1:153–5, 447–51).

Monroe was traveling to Oak Hill, his estate in loudoun County (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ). Charlottesville physician Charles everett was a close friend of the Walkers (Mary Rawlings and W. Edwin Hemphill, eds., “Dr. Charles Brown’s Reminiscences of Early Albemarle,” MACH description begins Magazine of Albemarle County History, 1940– description ends 8 [1947/48]: 60; Woods, Albemarle description begins Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia, 1901, repr. 1991 description ends , 189–90).

1Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “languishing under.”

2In Dft Monroe here canceled “Without any compromittment of you.”

Index Entries

  • Callender, James Thomson; and Walker affair search
  • Everette, Charles; mentioned search
  • Monroe, James; and J. Walker’s health search
  • Monroe, James; letters from search
  • Walker, Elizabeth Moore (John Walker’s wife); relations with TJ search
  • Walker, John (1744–1809); illness of search
  • Walker, John (1744–1809); relations with TJ search