Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Elizabeth Wayles Eppes, 15 May 1791

To Elizabeth Wayles Eppes

Philadelphia May 15. 1791.

My dear Madam

I received your favor of Apr. 6. by Jack, and my letter of this date to Mr. Eppes will inform you that he is well under way. If we can keep him out of love, he will be able to go strait forward, and to make good way. I receive with real pleasure your congratulations on my advancement to the venerable corps of grandfathers, and can assure you with truth that I expect from it more felicity than any other advancement ever gave me. I only wish for the hour when I may go, and enjoy it entire.—It was my intention to have troubled you with Maria when I left Virginia in November, satisfied it would be better for her to be with you. But the solitude of her sister, and the desire of keeping them united in that affection for each other which is to be the best future food of their lives induced me to leave her at Monticello; and the rather as I proposed to bring her here as soon as I can find a good situation for her. In answer to a paragraph of Mr. Eppes’s letter of Apr. 5. that it had been said I did not leave her with you for fear it should be too troublesome, I assure you that reason had no operation with me. I know that with such minds as his and yours, trouble is a pleasure when it is to serve our friends living or dead. I know you both too well to have a hesitation on that account, and the freedoms I have taken in that way have proved it. Adieu my dear dear madam. Yours affectionately,

Th: Jefferson

Tr (ViU); 19th-century transcript.

Ironically, TJ’s desire to keep Jack from falling in love so that he would not be diverted from his studies—something he had himself experienced at about the same age—was defeated by his plan to bring Polly to Philadelphia. The two had known each other as children at Eppington, where Elizabeth Wayles Eppes had been such a a devoted surrogate mother that Polly “may be said to have been an Eppes in spirit before she became one in name” (Malone, Jefferson description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and his Time, Boston, 1948–1981, 6 vols. description ends , iii, 239). On his return to Philadelphia in the autumn of 1791, TJ brought Polly with him, and the affection of the two cousins for each other was given fresh stimulus. Jack was then eighteen and Polly thirteen. They were married during TJ’s first year as Vice-President, with his unqualified approval.

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