Thomas Jefferson Papers

Margaret B. Bonneville to Thomas Jefferson, 13 March 1813

From Margaret B. Bonneville

New York March 13. 1813 Barclay Strt No 8


From the time I inherited of T. Paine’s manuscripts, papers &c. &c. my intention was to have the honor to write to you concerning your most valuable letters to him. The troublesome and dissagreeable affairs which have been suscited to me since his death: If not an excuse to negligence was the cause of my delay.

Family affairs require my presance in France I am waiting only1 for a good opportunity.

Though the honor of Mr Paine has2 heirs & executor is near to me, your letters are incontestably yours, and at your disposal; and as soon [as]3 you will be pleased to let me know your intention, I will punctually execute cheerfully your orders.

Permit me Sir to renew here my thanks for your favourable lettre to my friend Mercier concerning me, and my regret of not having had personally the advantage of presenting my respect to you

I am with high consideration & respect

Sir Your obdnt Svnt

B. Bonneville

RC (DLC); dateline at foot of text; at head of text: “To the Honorable Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Mar. 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

Margaret B. Bonneville (ca. 1767–1846) was the wife of the French printer and revolutionary Nicolas de Bonneville. From 1797 until 1802 Thomas Paine lived with the Bonneville family in Paris. Shortly after Paine’s return to the United States, Bonneville and her three sons joined him on his farm at New Rochelle, New York. Her husband having run afoul of Napoleon and being prevented from leaving France, Paine helped to support Bonneville and provided educational opportunities for her sons. She periodically resided with him, cared for him late in his life, inherited much of his estate, saw that his wishes for burial on his farm were carried out, and arranged for the posthumous publication of his work On the Origin of Free-Masonry [New York, 1810]. After Paine’s death in 1809, New York journalist James Cheetham asserted in a biography that Paine had had an illicit relationship with Bonneville and fathered one of her sons. She promptly sued Cheetham and won a $150 libel judgment. Bonneville settled in Saint Louis about 1830 and lived there for the rest of her life (Bonneville to TJ, 12 Jan. 1809 [DLC]; 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 , Sec. of State Ser., 4:151–2; David Freeman Hawke, Paine [1974], esp. 395–7, 399–401; Jack Fruchtman Jr., Thomas Paine Apostle of Freedom [1994], esp. 36, 275, 395, 411, 420; James Cheetham, The Life of Thomas Paine [New York, 1809]; New York Public Advertiser, 21 June 1810; John F. Darby, Personal Recollections of Many Prominent People Whom I Have Known, and of Events—Especially of Those Relating to the History of St. Louis—During the First Half of the Present Century [1880], 233–7).

suscited: “raised from the dead” or “resuscitated,” from a similar French term (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). TJ included expressions favourable to Bonneville in a 6 Feb. 1803 letter to Louis Sébastien Mercier (DLC).

1Word interlined.

2Thus in manuscript.

3Omitted word editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Bonneville, Margaret B.; and TJ’s letters to T. Paine search
  • Bonneville, Margaret B.; identified search
  • Bonneville, Margaret B.; letters from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; with T. Paine search
  • Mercier, Louis Sébastien; letters to mentioned search
  • Paine, Thomas; TJ’s letters to search
  • women; letters from; M. B. Bonneville search