Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 8 July 1811

To Lafayette

Monticello July 8. 11.

My dear friend

I have just recieved your letter of Mar. 12. and learning by our yesterday’s post that mr Barlow & mr Warden will sail in the course of the week, I endeavor by this day’s return of the mail to get an answer into their hands before their departure. I feel very sensibly the reproaches of silence pressed in your letter. a few days before my departure from Washington (in Feb. 1809) I wrote you on the subject of your interests, in the moment of turning them over to my successor. I had never ceased to press on the proper agents the location, the survey, & the returns of your lands, in order to sign the grants before I quitted office. but they had not yet come on for signature. and as I had chiefly taken the business on myself, because I knew my station would give more effect to my urgencies, so I knew it to be for your interest to commit1 the business then completely into the hands of mr Madison, who succeeding to the same station, would employ as much zeal in promoting your interests. whenever therefore I recieved a letter from you on the subject, instead of answering you, I wrote to him, & found him always on the alert & doing whatever circumstances rendered practicable. indeed I could not answer you, because the non-intercourse then existing, admitted no conveyance by private vessels, and if ever a public vessel went, it was from N. York 500. miles from Monticello, & my first information would be from the newspapers, that on such a day, sailed such a vessel Etc. as soon as the President’s proclamation permitted a revival of intercourse, I began my letter of Jan. 20. but kept it open, till I learned the appointments of mr Barlow & mr Warden to France, and concluding it the 27th of Mar. forwarded it to them in expectation they were to sail immediately. I at the same time wrote to Made de Tesse, & others of my friends with you. I had written to mr Tracy Jan. 26. that letter, which like the rest, is only now on it’s departure, tho’ delivered from my hands so long ago, will prove to M. Tracy how little disposed I was to delay the publication of his work, the extraordinary value I placed on it, & my anxiety that he should extend his commentaries thro’ the whole of Montesquieu’s work. such were the real causes of the intermission of my letters, which render unnecessary the addition of any other. yet there exists another cause and a growing one for a remission at least in my correspondencies. I know that after long absence, we are apt to consider our friends as still being what they were when we saw them last, with undiminished vigour of body & mind. but 22. years have made a great alteration in me, my friend, much greater than with you I hope. one birth-day more commits me to my 70th year. I have enjoyed good health; but I am greatly enfeebled. I can barely walk out into my garden and grounds appurtenant to the house. retaining the power of riding on horseback, I have passed from breakfast to dinner chiefly in that way, and when within doors, I read much more willingly than I write. I am therefore grown remiss in my correspondencies, and disposed to indulge a debility which is gaining on me. I hope therefore you will impute the silence complained of to it’s true causes, and by no means to any relaxation in my friendship to you, or in my zeal for your interests and happiness. I rejoice that you have obtained so good a price as is mentioned in your letter, for the portion of your lands at Point Coupée disposed of to mr Baring. it justifies my recommendation of all the delay in selling which your situation would admit. you have got at least six times as much as you could have sold for in the first instant, & therefore may well have afforded to pay common interest for the delay. having attained this height, their further advance will be more slow, because more nearly on a level with prices in our older possessions, and if you could free yourself entirely by a further sale on as good terms, it could not but be a great relief to your mind. their value will still rise faster than common interest, but whether that may requite the uneasiness of your present situation, you are best judge. at least mr Madison’s judgment on that point will deserve far more weight than mine from the superior state of his information. referring to my former letter which has been so long delayed, and will go at length2 with this I shall only repeat the assurances of my constant & affectionate friendship and respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (CLU-C); addressed: “M. de la Fayette.” PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ. Enclosed in TJ to David Bailie Warden, 8 July 1811.

The letter TJ wrote Lafayette just before his departure from washington is dated 24 Feb. 1809 (DLC). James Madison’s proclamation of 2 Nov. 1810 authorized a revival of intercourse with France (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:612–3).

1Word interlined in place of “turn.”

2Preceding two words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Baring, Francis; and Lafayette search
  • Barlow, Joel; U.S. minister to France search
  • Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws (Destutt de Tracy); TJ’s role in publication of search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; letters to mentioned search
  • France; and U.S. search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; debility search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; land of, in La. search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; letters to search
  • Madison, James; and Lafayette search
  • Madison, James; presidential proclamations of search
  • Non-Intercourse Act; lifted against France search
  • Pointe Coupee, La.; Lafayette’s land at search
  • Tessé, Adrienne Catherine de Noailles de; and Lafayette search
  • Warden, David Bailie; and consular nomination search