Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Matthew Anderson, 31 January 1802

To Matthew Anderson

Washington Jan. 31. 1802.


I have recieved through the channel of mr Eppes a piece of silk which mrs Anderson has been so good as to present me, raised and manufactured in your own family. this sample of domestic skills is evidence that you possess the most pleasing of all human spectacles, a well ordered houshold, usefully employed. if my principles have pointed me out as worthy of this attention from mrs Anderson, it will add to their value in my own eyes; since next to an approving conscience, our best consolation is the esteem of that portion of1 our fellow citizens who retired from the contentious bustle of the world, judge us in calm tranquility from our works alone. I pray you to make my particular thanks acceptable to mrs Anderson, and to recieve yourself assurances of my respect and consideration

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); in ink at foot of text: “Mr. Matthew Anderson Gloucester.”

Matthew Anderson (1743–1806), served in the Virginia General Assembly as a senator representing Gloucester, Middlesex, and Mathews from 1783 to 1794 and as a delegate representing Gloucester from 1801 to 1803 and from 1804 to 1805. He and his wife Mary Dabney Anderson were sericulturists at Exchange on the North River in Gloucester County, where they kept silkworms in the attic of their home and, in 1794, presented to George Washington enough silk for two suits (Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, Richmond, 1978 description ends , 151, 198, 223, 227, 235; Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, Epitaphs of Gloucester and Mathews Counties in Tidewater Virginia Through 1865 [Richmond, 1959], 88–9; Lyon G. Tyler, “Old Tombstones in Gloucester County,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892- description ends , 1st ser., 3 [1895], 184–5; W. P. Anderson, Anderson Family Records [Cincinnati, Ohio, 1936], 38–9; Mary Anderson to George Washington, 17 May 1794, in DLC: Washington Papers; Vol. 30:303–4).

A Piece Of Silk: Samuel Latham Mitchill described to his wife a dinner party at the President’s House in early February 1802 when “Mr Jefferson shewed us a peice of home-made Silken Cloth. The trees grow & the worms were bred in Virginia. And there too the Silk was wound, wove and dyed. The Peice is large enough to make a Surtout; and he talks of sending it to Europe to be made water-proof, before it is made into a garment.” TJ extolled the virtues of waterproof cloth and demonstrated with his “Surtout of British Broad Cloth.… He took hold of one part of the Skirt, and myself of the other end, so as by skilful folding to make a hollow or Cavity. Into this some water was poured. We stirred and moved it about. I put my hand to the under-side and agitated it there. But not a drop came thro. The President said he had hung up such a woolen-bag of Water for several weeks & it did not leak at all, during the whole time.—Paper prepared in this Manner resists the Action of Water to a remarkable Degree. It will not receive the full charge of the liquid but repels it.—The Process is said to be cheap in England; and the introduction of such Clothing would guard a man as effectually against a Shower of rain as the Coat of Feathers of a Water fowl” (Samuel L. Mitchill to Catharine Mitchill, 10 Feb. 1802, in NNMus).

1Preceding three words interlined.

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