Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Mary Jefferson Eppes, 26 December 1803

To Mary Jefferson Eppes

Washington Dec. 26. 03.

I now return you, my dearest Maria, the paper which you lent me for mr Page, and which he has returned some days since. I have prevailed on Doctr. Priestly to undertake the work of which this is only the syllabus or plan. he says he can accomplish it in the course of a year. but in truth his health is so much impaired, and his body become so feeble, that there is reason to fear he will not live out even the short term he has asked for it. you may inform mr Eppes and mr Randolph that no mail arrived the last night from the Natchez. I presume the great rains which have fallen have rendered some of the watercourses impassable. on New year’s day however we shall hear of the delivery of New Orleans to us. till then the legislature seem disposed to do nothing but meet & adjourn. mrs Livingston, formerly the younger miss Allen, made kind enquiries after you the other day. she said she was at school with you at mrs Pine’s.   Not knowing the time destined for your expected indisposition, I am anxious on your account. you are prepared to meet it with courage I hope. some female friend of your Mama’s (I forget who) used to say it was no more than a knock of the elbow. the material thing is to have scientific aid in readiness, that if any thing uncommon takes place, it may be redressed on the spot, and not be made serious by delay. it is a case which least of all will wait for Doctors to be sent for. therefore, with this single precaution, nothing is ever to be feared. I was in hopes to have heard from Edgehill last night, but I suppose your post has failed. I shall expect to see the gentlemen here next Sunday night, to take part in the Gala of Monday. give my tenderest love to your sister of whom I have not heard for a fortnight; and my affectionate salutations to the Gentlemen & young ones. continue to love me yourself and to be assured of my warmest affections.

RC (DLC); addressed: “Mrs. Eppes Edgehill near Milton”; franked. Enclosure: see below.

the paper which you lent me: TJ originally sent a copy of his syllabus on the philosophy of Jesus to his daughter on 25 Apr. 1803. He borrowed it from her to lend to John Page, who returned it in his letter to TJ of 16 Nov.

Mary Masters Allen livingston, the youngest of the three daughters of James and Elizabeth Allen of Philadelphia, was the wife of New York congressman Henry W. Livingston. She and her husband were dinner guests at the President’s House on 23 Dec. (PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877- description ends , 9 [1885], 179; Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, Social Life in the Early Republic [Philadelphia, 1902], 30-1; Vol. 41:545, 550n).

In 1791-92, Mary Jefferson attended a boarding school in Philadelphia run by Mary Pine, widow of artist Robert Edge Pine (Vol. 22:233n, 294).

Because New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday, the annual gala at the President’s House occurred on monday, 2 Jan. 1804. Samuel L. Mitchill described the event as “neither so numerous and splendid as on last new years day.” Cabinet secretaries and their wives, members of Congress, some foreign envoys, military and naval officers, and local residents gathered to “make the congratulations of the day at Mr. Jefferson’s” and celebrated with a “fine band of Musick” and a sideboard laden with cake and punch (Samuel L. Mitchill to Catharine Mitchill, 3 Jan. 1804, in NNMus; National Intelligencer, 4 Jan. 1804).

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