Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Elizabeth Chiswell Carter, 1 October 1790

To Elizabeth Chiswell Carter

Monticello Oct. 1. 1790.

Dear Madam

I am honoured with your letter of the 19th. Sep. and feel with great sensibility the events which have affected your circumstances. Assuredly I would do any thing in my power which might be useful to a family all the members of which are still very dear to me. I fear however that there is nothing in my position which can be rendered useful to your son at this moment. The office under my direction gives me the appointment of three clerks at 500. dollars a year, places of great drudgery, wherein no economy can save any thing, and no talents or merit give a prospect of rising. But I have said too much in saying that even these are in my gift; since they are at present held by gentlemen whom I found in them, whom my predecessor found in them, who in fact have exercised them for years and conducted themselves so unexceptionably in them, that nothing could justify the removing them to put others in. Nor would this I am sure be agreeable to you. I can do nothing more at present then but to assure you that should any thing occur hereafter I will keep in remembrance your anxieties for a son, and serve them with the zeal I retain for your family, assuring you that I am with unabated affection and attachment dear Madam, Your most obedient friend & servant,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mrs. Elizabeth Carter of Ludlow.”

Mrs. [Charles] Carter’s letter of 19 Sep. 1790 from Fredericksburg read in part: “From your friendship and willingness always to oblige my mother I am induc’d to take the liberty of addressing you on a very interesting subject; had an opportunity offerd, when you honourd me with a Visit, it wou’d have given me the greatest satisfaction to have advis’d with you on the best method of advancing the future welfare of my Sons. By adverse fortune we are reduc’d in our circumstances, indeed, was it not for that best of friends Mr. Carter of Shirley we shou’d have been in real want, but, by his great bounty and the small advantage arising from the board of a few young Gentlemen we have been hitherto enabl’d to educate our Children; my eldest Son is just turnd of eighteen, and has often express’d a desire of being bound to any Gentleman whom his Father or myself woud approve, our first choice woud be yourself, might we presume to ask such a favour. He is of a placid disposition and quick apprehention, as free from Vice as any boy of his age can be, rather too diffident in company, writes a tolerable hand‥‥ Shoud you honour me with an answer please to direct to Charles Carter of Ludlow to avoid mistakes” (RC in DLC: Applications for Office under Washington; endorsed by TJ as received 28 Sep. 1790 and so recorded in SJL). TJ’s visit to the Carters evidently took place when he passed through Fredericksburg on 15–17 Sep. 1790.

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