Thomas Jefferson Papers
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John Wayles Eppes to Thomas Jefferson, 25 May 1813

From John Wayles Eppes

Washington may 25. 1813.

Dear sir,

I received in due time the letter forwarded from Floods—I regret that my letter contained any thing which could induce you to suppose me either unreasonable in my proposals or diffident of your attatchment to my child—Being incapable of expressing either directly or indirectly any sentiment calculated to wound your feelings I have no hesitation in solemnly disclaiming any expression not in perfect unison with the affection and respect which I have ever felt for you—The propositions contained in my letter were seperate and distinct.

 1. Exchange—the quantity of land—the clearings and improvements equal—

or. 2. The House at present on the Bedford land thrown in in lieu of the clearings and improvements—This I knew would make the Bedford land more valuable than Pant-ops as it stands—but in the first place you had declared your intention of adding them hereafter and in the second place I had always considered that if Pant-ops was retained Francis had a claim to a house on it of stone instead of brick similar to the one erected in Bedford—Your letters on this subject (of which probably you have copies) place this subject out of the reach of doubt—

The other proposition viz that in the event of accident to Francis I should receive in lieu of the exchanged property the value of Pant-ops was introduced to prevent the possibility [in the event of your throwing in the house] of my deriving benefit1 from improvement which of course it would be your choice to bestow on some one of your grand children—you may recollect that I have heretofore expressed to you my opinion on the subject of Mrs Randolphs reversionary interest—So far as it respects yourself it is merely nominal—It is in your power to make Mrs Randolph acquiese in any disposition of your property which you may think proper to make—If I had acceeded to your proposition of purchase her reversionary interest was gone—and so it ought to be as it respects me—I supposed of course the same principles would govern the exchange that would have applied to the purchase—you tell me however that it would not be your act but the act of the law—Even supposing this to be the fact I shall not consent to receive from you sheer law—I know that a mind like yours is compelled to yield me all that the relation in which we stand authorizes me to claim—I have a right to stand in relation to Pant-ops on the same footing with your other son in law—I cannot believe that my misfortunes can sever the ties by which we are bound or that either my claims on you or yours on me are hereafter to depend on mere law—Can you consider it equitable that one of your sons in law shall possess an uncontrouled authority over property conveyed for the same purposes by yourself—and the other not even a reversionary interest—Can you violate as it respects me a principle sanctioned by your own example—You yourself hold the property acquired by marriage in fee simple—So did my Father, so does colo: Skipwith—It was in my power at any time previous to my misfortune to have the fee simple in Pant-ops—This I do not require, but claim in the event of exchange that the exchanged property shall be freed from all reversionary claims on the part of yourself or family—You cannot refuse this principle having already substantially admitted it in your letter offering to purchase Pant-ops—If contrary to my expectations you were to refuse I should never cease to feel it as an act of injustice—In the relations in which I stand to you, I have scrupulously fulfilled my duties, and am not consious of any act on my part which can authorize on yours a marked distinction between myself and those who stand in the same relation to you—

If the same principles govern the exchange which would have regulated the purchase I am ready to complete it on the terms you propose viz “an immediate exchange of title possession to be exchanged at the determination of Mr Randolphs lease, the number of acres equal, the quantity of cleared land equal say 250 acres & farm buildings equal in value with those now at Pant-ops”2

In February last I received from a friend of mine information on the subject of Gerrardins school accompanied with an opinion that it would not continue long & even if it did that it was not a desirable situation for a boy as young as Francis—being better calculated for boys already advanced—In consequence of this I sent him to Lynchburg—He boards with an old school fellow of mine Seth Ward and the school at which he is placed is a very good one—The vacation takes place in August at which time Francis shall certainly come up and pass some time with you—I would have sent him up before sending him to Lynchburg but the winter was so severe that I thought it not proper for him to ride so far—I received from him a letter this morning—He is in good health. If after the vacation you consider the school of Mr Robertson in Albemarle a better situation than the one in which he is placed I shall feel pleasure in yielding on that subject my opinions to yours—

The state of parties in Congress is more favorable than we had expected—The majority in favour of the administration may be safely put down at 35—We have nothing from the army since Harrisons letter—Bad fortune blasts in the bud every expectation however reasonable—General Dearborne will probably fail to a considerable extent in his objects—a malignant fever has appeared among his Troops since the surrender of york and our last accounts state that many of his men had perished & that 400 were unfit for service—He has been compelled to send back for reinforcements & will I fear fail as to the other objects of the expedition. The Presidents message is luminous and manly & I hope we shall unite in pursuing a course calculated to destroy for ever the castles reared on the hopes of division—

Present me affectionately to the family & accept for your health & happiness every wish from yours affectionately

Jno: W: Eppes

RC (ViU: TJP-ER); brackets in original; endorsed by TJ as received 28 May 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

TJ’s other son in law was Thomas Mann Randolph. Eppes’s misfortunes included the death of his first wife, TJ’s daughter Maria Jefferson Eppes. Late in April 1813 General Henry Dearborn (dearborne) led a successful attack on york (now Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada, albeit one that incurred heavy casualties (Heidler and Heidler, War of 1812 description begins David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, 1997 description ends , 568–9). In his 25 May 1813 message to Congress, James Madison summarized events related to a recent offer by Russian emperor Alexander I to mediate peace between the United States and Great Britain; asserted that the United States had upheld the law of nations regarding the impressment of sailors and the search and seizure of enemy ships while Great Britain continued to wage war employing “a system of plunder and conflagration … equally forbidden by respect for national character, and by the established rules of civilized warfare”; highlighted the successes of the American navy and the capture of York as “a presage of future and greater victories”; reported on provisions to enlarge the army and appoint a new United States minister to France; and announced “the necessity of providing more adequately for the future supplies of the Treasury” by means of a “well dijested system of internal revenue,” which would reduce the need for loans and improve the terms on which they could be obtained (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 6:339–43).

1Manuscript: “befit.”

2Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Albemarle County, Va.; schools in search
  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; as peace mediator search
  • Buckingham County, Va.; Flood’s ordinary search
  • Congress, U.S.; J. Madison’s messages to search
  • Congress, U.S.; support for J. Madison’s administration in search
  • Dearborn, Henry; and War of1812 search
  • Eppes, Francis (TJ’s brother-in-law); acquires land through marriage search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); and Pantops search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, in Lynchburg search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); health of search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); and proposed land exchange with TJ search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); and sale of Pantops search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); letters from search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); on War of1812 search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); relationship with son search
  • Eppes, Maria (Mary) Jefferson (TJ’s daughter; John Wayles Eppes’s first wife); death of search
  • fevers search
  • Flood, Henry; and letters for J. W. Eppes search
  • Flood’s ordinary (Buckingham Co.; proprietor Henry Flood) search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; Albemarle Co. academy search
  • Harrison, William Henry; reports on military situation search
  • health; fever search
  • impressment; of American seamen search
  • Lynchburg, Va.; schools in search
  • Madison, James; messages to Congress search
  • Madison, James; on wartime finance search
  • Pantops (TJ’s estate); and T. E. Randolph search
  • Pantops (TJ’s estate); proposed exchange of portion of search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); main house at search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); and Pantops estate search
  • Randolph, Thomas Eston (TJ’s cousin); leases Pantops search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); mentioned search
  • Robertson, John (1767–1818); Albemarle Co. school of search
  • schools and colleges; in Albemarle Co. search
  • schools and colleges; in Lynchburg search
  • schools and colleges; J. Robertson’s Albemarle Co. school search
  • schools and colleges; L. H. Girardin’s Albemarle Co. school search
  • Skipwith, Henry (TJ’s brother-in-law); acquires land through marriage search
  • Tomahawk plantation (part of TJ’s Poplar Forest estate); proposed exchange of portion of search
  • Ward, Seth; F. Eppes boards with search
  • War of1812; U.S. financing of search
  • York (now Toronto), Upper Canada; U.S. capture of search