Thomas Jefferson Papers

Fontaine Maury to Thomas Jefferson, 18–29 July 1812

From Fontaine Maury

Onboard the Ship Diana off Cape Henry 18th July 1812

Dear Sir

On the 3rd of June your worthy Kinsman Mr Geo. Jefferson, Embarked from Lisbon with Mr Jonathan Pinckney, Doctor M C. Watkins and myself as Passengers in the Ship Diana for Baltimore, at wh time he was in a weak nervous Situation, which has since so effected his general System as to produce a complete State of Derangement, insomuch that he has within the last few days, on several occasions, discovered a Strong disposition to destroy himself

He originally intended to have Landed at Norfolk, or Hampton, but he is now in so low a State that Doctor Watkins and myself have deemed it most advisable to Land him at Baltimore, where every attention1 in our power will be paid to him untill his Friends shall come forward, and I have written those of them, at Richmond advising of this arrangement that they may loose no time in doing so

I am with real Esteem

Dear Sir your Friend & mo obt

Fontaine Maury

Baltimore July 29th 1812

The foregoing was written at a moment when I had Flattering hopes that my calculations were likely to be realized, in place of which I have now the unpleasant task of relaying to you that our Friend is no More—he died on the Morning of the 19th Instant & it fell to my Lott to perform the Usual Ceremony on the Element in which we were placed. The Keys of his Baggage are in my possession & will be delivered as Mr Gibson shall direct from whom I expect to hear in four or five days—I have enclosed a lock of Hair for any of his Friends who may wish it—With real Esteem & Respect I am

Dear Sir your mo obt

Fontaine Maury

RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); written on both sides of a single sheet, with “P.T.O.” (that is, “Please Turn Over”) at foot of recto and 29 July 1812 postscript on verso; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 18 and 29 July 1812 received 9 Aug. 1812 and so recorded in SJL.

Fontaine Maury (1761–1824) was the son of TJ’s schoolmaster James Maury (1718–1769) and the brother of his longtime friend James Maury (1746–1840). He served briefly in the Revolutionary War, then moved in the latter part of the 1780s from his native Albemarle County to Fredericksburg, where he managed a family importing enterprise. A Republican, Maury served as the town’s mayor for three one-year terms in the 1790s and as a superintendent of the Fredericksburg branch of the Bank of Richmond. He moved about 1802 to New York City, where he ran a commission business for about six years. By his own account, Maury was reputable but not prosperous, and he unsuccessfully sought appointments as collector for the District of Tappahanock (1811) and as consul at Lisbon (1812). During his longterm but sporadic correspondence with TJ he facilitated the transfer of books and letters between him and James Madison. By 1819 Maury had moved to Washington, where he served as a State Department clerk until his death (WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892–  description ends , 1st ser., 10 [1901]: 122–3; VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893–  description ends 27 [1919]: 375–6; Silvanus J. Quinn, The History of the City of Fredericksburg Virginia [1908], 336; Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1792–93 sess.], 105; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , 25:529–30, 26:575, 28:178, 30:351n, 31:480, 553; Longworth’s New York Directory description begins Longworth’s American Almanac, New-York Register, and City Directory. New York, 1796–1842 (title varies; cited by year of publication) description ends [1802], 268; [1807], 259; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:390, 3:132n; Maury to James Monroe, 15 Sept. 1812, and supporting documents [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17]; Maury to TJ, 14 Feb. 1819; Judah Delano, The Washington Directory [1822], 56; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 29 Jan. 1824).

TJ’s cousin George Jefferson had been weak for some time. On 29 May 1812 he advised Secretary of State James Monroe from Lisbon that his health was so poor “as to render it absolutely necessary that I should return to the U. States. This climate, good as it is generally said to be, certainly not agreeing with my constitution. Nothing short of a conviction, that a longer stay would endanger my life, would have induced me to leave my post, without giving you the proper notice” (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17).

1Manuscript: “attion.”

Index Entries

  • Gibson, Patrick; and death of G. Jefferson search
  • Jefferson, George (TJ’s cousin); death of search
  • Maury, Fontaine; and death of G. Jefferson search
  • Maury, Fontaine; identified search
  • Maury, Fontaine; letters from search
  • Monroe, James; as secretary of state search
  • Pinckney, Jonathan; and death of G. Jefferson search
  • Watkins, M. C.; and death of G. Jefferson search