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John Wayles Eppes to Thomas Jefferson, 10 December 1809

From John Wayles Eppes

Washington Decr 10. 1809.

Dear Sir,

I have been looking with great anxiety for some time for a letter from you—My own situation has been such that I have not had a moment to devote to any purpose—You left me almost on the bed of sickness—So soon as I was able to perform the journey I went with Mrs Eppes to Carolina and my Journey was so long delayed that I did not return to Eppington until the 20th of November—On the 21st my sister was married & on the 22d I set out for Washington—This delay rendered it impossible for me to come by Monticello for my little boy as I had intended & I shall now be compelled to be seperated from him until the rising of Congress —It is the first time I have ever been seperated from him and except indirectly through Mr Coles who met with him at Monticello I have not heard from him since he was committed to your care—I need not express to you my sensibility on this subject—From you alone I can expect to hear of his welfare while at Monticello—I could almost reproach you with unkindness, but that the various proofs of affection I have received from you are too deeply engraved on my heart to induce me for a moment to indulge fears that time or circumstances can destroy those ties by which I still feel I am bound to you—Multiplied as have been the evils and misfortunes to which I have been subjected, nothing I am certain could reconcile me to this, but a thorough conviction that by imprudent or improper conduct I had forfeited my claims—

Our situation here is extremely difficult—Every step taken since the removal of the Embargo has plunged us still deeper into disgrace & difficulty—To use the remarkable words of Mr Pinkney in speaking of the removal of the Embargo, “It would be endless to enumerate the evils which will cling to us in this new career of vassalage and meanness & tedious to pursue our backward course to the extinction of that very trade to which we have sacrificed every thing else”1

The non intercourse law in its present form cannot be inforced—at the last session of Congress all the provisions necessary for inforcing it against Great Britain were repealed, on the presumption that the arrangement entered into by Erskine would be ratified & that the law would be continued only as to France—Most of the provisions repealed were part of what was termed the forcing law, which was so obnoxious to the Eastern people—To add these provisions to it now would be impossible as there is a decided majority against them—To continue the law without these provisions is useless as our own merchants are now in the daily habit of insuring against the penalties of our own law at 10 pr cent—On this subject I have heard but one opinion—Even the members of the cabinet with whom I have conversed consider the non intercourse system as useless and calculated only to increase the want of morality so strongly manifested heretofore by the mercantile class—

Much is said about a substitute for the non intercourse system—among those immediately around the Government & probably possessed of its confidence. It is proposed to exclude all British & French vessels both public and private—To substitute2 for the exclusion of goods a high discriminating duty—I find however all the mercantile part of Congress opposed to this system—The exclusion of the vessels they say would be retaliated by Great-Britain and France & increasing the duties would produce smugling—Some talk as heretofore of strong measures and among them Mr Giles—The same difficulties however which hampered & finally distracted and divided the 10th Congress still exist—To fight both powers is considered mere Quixotism—To select either power while the decrees of both remain in force neither politic or just—How far the recent correspondence and the total failure to adjust our differences may induce a selection of our real enemy Great-Britain it is impossible at present to say— No measure has yet been brought forward from which an estimate can be formed of the temper of Congress except Mr Giles’s resolution on the subject of Jacksons correspondence—This has passed to a third reading with a great vote in the Senate 20 to 4—Pickering, Hil[lhouse,] Loyd & Goodrich compose the four worthies—

as I know you are in the habit of preserving the public Documents I forward by this opportunity a pamphlet containing the Message & Documents

With every sentiment of respect & Sincere regard I am yours &c

Jno: W: Eppes

P.S. You were kind enough to promise me your opinion given as a member of Genl Washingtons cabinet on the Bank—I will take particular care of it & return it without delay—

RC (MHi); torn at seal; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello near Milton Virginia”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Dec. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

Eppes’s sister Mary “Polly” Eppes married Richard Noble Thweatt (Dorman, Eppes Descendants, 2:410). The next rising of congress occurred on 1 May 1810 (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States . . . Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers. description ends , 11th Cong., 2d sess., 680, 2054). American minister to Great Britain William Pinkney’s remarkable words on the consequences of removing the Embargo are in his 21 Sept. 1808 letter to James Madison (DLC: Madison Papers; printed in Washington National Intelligencer, 13 Mar. 1809). On 30 Nov. 1809 William B. Giles moved that the Senate refer recent correspondence between the administration and British minister Francis J. Jackson to a select committee (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 4:409, 412–3 [30 Nov., 11 Dec. 1809]). Madison sent his annual message to Congress on 29 Nov. 1809 (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:90–5), with supporting documents on relations with Great Britain and France (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, 3:301–26). On 15 Feb. 1791 TJ wrote an opinion unsuccessfully urging President George Washington to veto the bill establishing the bank of the United States (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 , 19:275–80).

1Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

2Manuscript: “subsitute.”

Index Entries

  • Bank of the United States; opposition to search
  • Coles, Isaac A.; visits Monticello search
  • Congress, U.S.; adjourns search
  • Congress, U.S.; and foreign affairs search
  • Congress, U.S.; and Non-Intercourse Act search
  • Congress, U.S.; J. Madison’s messages to search
  • Embargo Act (1807); W. Pinkney on search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); relationship with father search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); and TJ’s memorandum on U.S. Bank search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); illness of search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); letters from search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); relationship with son search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); travels to N.C. search
  • Eppes, Martha Burke Jones (John Wayles Eppes’s second wife); visits N.C. search
  • Eppington (Eppes’s Chesterfield Co. estate); family returns to search
  • Erskine, David M.; agreement with U.S. search
  • France; and U.S. search
  • Giles, William Branch; resolution of search
  • Goodrich, Chauncey search
  • Great Britain; and U.S. search
  • Hillhouse, James; as U.S. senator search
  • Jackson, Francis James; congressional resolution concerning search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; banks search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; memorandum on creation of U.S. Bank search
  • Lloyd, James search
  • Madison, James; and W. Pinkney search
  • Madison, James; annual message to Congress by search
  • marriage; of M. E. Thweatt search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Coles, Isaac A. search
  • Non-Intercourse Act; suspended search
  • Pickering, Timothy; and foreign relations search
  • Pinkney, William; and Embargo Act search
  • Senate, U.S.; resolution concerning Jackson search
  • Thweatt, Mary (Polly) Eppes (John Wayles Eppes’s sister; Richard Noble Thweatt’s wife); marriage of search
  • Thweatt, Richard Noble search
  • United States; and France search
  • United States; and Great Britain search
  • Washington, George; cabinet of search