Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush, 31 May 1813

To Richard Rush

Monticello May 31. 13.

Dear Sir

No one has taken a more sincere part than myself in the affliction which has lately befallen your family, by the loss of your inestimable and ever to be lamented father. his virtues rendered him dear to all who knew him, and his benevolence led him to do to all men every good in his power. much he was able to do, and much therefore will he be missed. my acquaintance with him began in 1776. it soon became intimate, and from that time a warm friendship has been maintained by a correspondence of unreserved confidence. in the course of this, each has deposited, in the bosom of the other, communications which were never intended to go further. in the sacred fidelity of each to the other these were known to be safe: and above all things that they would be kept from the public eye. there may have been other letters of this character written by me to him: but two alone occur to me at present, about which I have any anxiety. these were of Apr. 21. 1803. & Jan. 16. 1811. the first of these was on the subject of religion, a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his maker, in which no other, & far less the public, had a right to intermeddle. to your father alone, I committed some views on this subject in the first of the letters abovementioned, led to it by previous conversations, and a promise on my part to digest & communicate them in writing. the letter of Jan. 16. 1811. respected a mutual friend, between whom & myself a suspension of correspondence had taken place.1 this was restored by his kind intervention, the correspondence resumed, and a friendship revived which had been much valued on both sides. another letter of Dec. 5. 11. explains this occurrence. I very much wish that these letters should remain unseen and unknown. and, if it would be too much to ask their return, I would earnestly entreat of you so to dispose of them as that they might never be seen, if possible, but by yourself, with whom I know their contents would be safe. I have too many enemies disposed to make a lacerating use of them, not to feel anxieties inspired by a love of tranquility, now become the summum bonum of life. in your occasional visits to Philadelphia, perhaps you can lay your hand on them, which might be preferable to the drawing a marked attention to them by letter. I submit all this to your honorable & candid mind, and praying you to tender to your much esteemed mother my sincere condolances & respects, accept for yourself the assurance of my great esteem & consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NjP: Rush Family Papers); addressed: “Richard Rush esquire Treasury office Washington. Col.”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 9 June; endorsed by Rush on address cover, with his additional notations: “On my father’s death, with tributes to him; and referring to confidential letters that had passed between them” and “Under this Letter, I became the medium of the restoration to Mr Jefferson of the letters in question”; docketed by Rush on a separate slip: “Received at Washington soon after the death of my Father.” PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ. Tr (PU: William Pepper Papers); entirely in Rush’s hand.

The mutual friend was John Adams.

1Rush here placed a ⁜ symbol keyed to a note he wrote in the left margin of RC and at foot of page in Tr: “The elder Adams is here meant,” adding to the Tr that it was a “(Note by Richd Rush).”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; resumes correspondence with TJ search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; return of confidential letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; friendship with B. Rush search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; B. Rush search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; religion search
  • religion; TJ on search
  • Rush, Benjamin; and resumption of correspondence between TJ and J. Adams search
  • Rush, Benjamin; death of search
  • Rush, Benjamin; TJ’s confidential letters to search
  • Rush, Julia Stockton (Benjamin Rush’s wife); TJ sends greetings to search
  • Rush, Richard; and TJ’s confidential letters to B. Rush search
  • Rush, Richard; letters to search