Thomas Jefferson Papers
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John Garland Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson, 12 December 1809

From John Garland Jefferson

Amelia December 12th 1809.

Dear Sir,

I have for some time past intended to write to you, but have putt it from time to time till the present moment. The desire of retaining unimpaired the regard and esteem of a man whose good opinion wou’d give to my existence additional value, induces me to address to you this letter. In truth I have been apprehensive that a letter written to you some time past upon the subject of which we seemed to differ, might have made on your mind an unfavorable impression: and yet perhaps I ought not to have apprehended from a mind liberal and enlarged like yours, that such a consequence wou’d have resulted, from a mere difference of opinion; especially when one side was necessarily subject to a bias, or to have that clearness of perception which is necessary to a correct dicision in almost every case, obscured by interest. There is one explanation which I shou’d scarcely die contented If I did not make. It strikes me that in replying to my brother’s letter to you. I made use of an expression by way of argument to this effect, “that according to his ideas my name admitting me to be qualified for an office worth accepting, wou’d be a misfortune instead of a benefit.”—I certainly did not intend that such an expression shou’d have a personal application to myself in the relations subsisting between us. I trust you received this expression in the most favorable light, and considered it as having been used only argumentatively. I shou’d be a monster who ought to be banished from society, if I did not cherish the remembrance of the benefits conferred on me by you. I must own with candor that my feelings were excessively wounded, that my brother shou’d seem to take a greater interest in what related to your fame and honor, than was entertained by self, and that your high commendation of his sentiments, was received as a tacit reproach on mine. I wrote therefore with a wounded spirit. To this explanation I have been impelled by my feelings. I have deferred it till you were out of office, lest it shou’d be thought possible that I might be actuated by some secret interested hope. I was mortified that I did not hear of your being in Amelia till it was too late to have the pleasure of seing you. Accept my best wishes for your health and happiness, as well as of all those that are dear to you, and believe me to be with the most affectionate regard,

Your sincere friend & kinsman

Jno G: Jefferson

RC (ViU: TJP); at foot of first page: “Mr Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Dec. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

John Garland Jefferson (d. 1815), a son of TJ’s first cousin George Jefferson and Elizabeth Garland Jefferson, studied law early in the 1790s with financial assistance from TJ, who also advised him on what books to read and gave him access to his library at Monticello. By 1800 he had established a legal practice in Amelia County. The following year Jefferson unsuccessfully petitioned TJ for a federal appointment (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 1:768; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 16:480–3, 17:10, 22:209–10, 24:577; Jefferson to TJ, 1 Mar. 1801 [ViU: TJP-CC]; Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine 7 [1925]: 51–3).

The expression in Jefferson’s letter to TJ of 29 Mar. 1801 (ViU: TJP-CC) argued against excluding “a man from office because he had the misfortune to be called by a particular name for in that case it might be considered by some as a misfortune.” Jefferson felt excessively wounded by his brother George Jefferson’s letter to TJ of 4 Mar. 1801 (MHi), which severely criticized him for trying to secure a position in the federal government, and he was also stung by the high commendation of these sentiments in TJ’s 27 Mar. 1801 response to that letter (DLC). TJ passed through amelia County late in October 1809 (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1249).

Index Entries

  • Amelia County, Va.; TJ visits search
  • Jefferson, George (TJ’s cousin); offends J. G. Jefferson search
  • Jefferson, John Garland; apologizes to TJ search
  • Jefferson, John Garland; identified search
  • Jefferson, John Garland; letters from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; nepotism search
  • law; TJ provides training in search