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Sarah Grotjan to Thomas Jefferson, 15 March 1813

From Sarah Grotjan

Philadelphia March 15th 1813.

Honoured Sir!

Convinced that You will pardon an entire Stranger for intruding on Your time for a few minutes, when You become acquainted with the motives by which she is actuated, I solicit the favour of a few Lines in answer to the following Inquiry.

Accident has thrown in my way an unfortunate person by the name of Julia Bradley, whose maiden name as she informed me was Julia Webb, of Richmond Virginia. The distress in which she is at present, and her engaging manners have interested me powerfully in her behalf. During a Conversation which I lately held with her she accidentaly informed me, that she had the honour to be known to You and Your family.

Should this be really so, and her relations, perhaps from a false pride on her part be unacquainted with her present distress, I should feel the greatest Comfort of having been instrumental to promote her relief.

I take this Step without her knowlledge, or that of her husbands, who lives with her in this place, in a miserable abode, allmost deprived of the absolute necessaries of Life.

An Answer addressed to Mr Peter A. Grotjan in Philadelphia, will reach

Your Obedient humble Servant

Sarah Grotjan

RC (DLC); at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esq:”; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Mar. 1813 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Heritage Auctions, auction 6054, New York City, 8 Apr. 2011, lot 34170); in Grotjan’s hand; edge frayed; substantially different text reading as follows: “Sir! Will you have the goodness to pardon a stranger, who wishes to intrude a few moments on your attention, and request a favou[r.] Although personally unknown to you, I have long ago been suff[i]ciently acquainted by report with your known benevolence, to hazard the liberty I am taking. Accident has thrown in my way an unfortunate wooman called Mrs Bradley, whose name she tells me, was formerly Julia Webb, and that she had had the honour to be known and reside in your family.—She is here in a state of very great distress, which however she appears to wish to keep concealed. The favour I have to request of You Sir, is that you would honour me with a few lines, informing me whether You know any thing of her family or friends, that by that means they could have some information concerning her.—Please direct to Sarah Grotjan No 77 Walnut Street Philadelphia”; at head of text: “Copy.”

Sarah Fenimore Grotjan (ca. 1788–1830) married Peter A. Grotjan, a Philadelphia newspaper publisher, in 1809. She later named one of her children after TJ and obtained a letter of advice from him to the young boy (Peter A. Grotjan, “Memoirs of an Early American,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine 172 [1936]: 168–9; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 2:917; Grotjan to TJ, 1 Jan. 1824; TJ to Grotjan and to Thomas Jefferson Grotjan, both 10 Jan. 1824; Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 29 July 1830).

Index Entries

  • Bradley, Judith (Julia) Webb; poverty of search
  • charity; requests to TJ for search
  • Grotjan, Peter Adolph (Sarah Fenimore Grotjan’s husband); mentioned search
  • Grotjan, Sarah Fenimore; and aid for J. Bradley search
  • Grotjan, Sarah Fenimore; identified search
  • Grotjan, Sarah Fenimore; letters from search
  • women; letters from; S. Grotjan search