Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 22 August 1813

To Abigail Adams

Monticello Aug. 22. 13.

Dear Madam

A kind note at the foot of mr Adams’s letter of July 15. reminds me of the duty of saluting you with friendship and respect; a duty long suspended by the unremitting labors of public engagement, and which ought to have been sooner revived, since I am become proprietor of my own time. and yet so it is, that in no course of life have I been ever more closely pressed by business than in the present. much of this proceeds from my own affairs; much from the calls of others; leaving little time for indulgence in my greatest of all amusements, reading. Doctr Franklin used to say that when he was young, and had time to read, he had not books; and now when he had become old and had books, he had no time. perhaps it is that, when habit has strengthened1 our sense of duties, they leave no time for other things; but when young, we neglect them, and this gives us time for any thing. however I will now take time to ask you how you do, how you have done? and to express the interest I take in whatever affects your happiness. I have been concerned to learn that, at one time you suffered much & long from rheumatism. and I can sympathise with you the more feelingly, as I have had more of it myself latterly than at any former period; and can form a truer idea of what it is in it’s higher degrees. excepting for this, I have enjoyed general health; for I do not consider as a want of health the gradual decline & increasing debility which are the natural diathesis of age. this last comes on me fast. I am not able to walk much; tho’ I still ride without fatigue; and take long & frequent journies to a distant possession. I have compared notes with mr Adams on the score of progeny, and find I am ahead of him, and think I am in a fair way to keep so. I have 10½ grandchildren, and 2¾2 great-grand-children; and these fractions will ere long become units. I was glad to learn from mr Adams that you have a grandson far enough advanced in age and acquirements to be reading Greek. these young scions give us comfortable cares, when we cease to care about ourselves. under all circumstances of health or sickness, of blessing or affliction, I tender you assurances of my sincere affection and respect; and my prayers that the hand of time and of providence may press lightly on you, till your own wishes shall withdraw you from all mortal feeling.

Th: Jefferson

RC (MHi: Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs Adams Quincy.” PoC (DLC).

The distant possession was TJ’s Poplar Forest estate in Bedford County. The comparison on the score of progeny took place in TJ to John Adams, 21 Jan. 1812, and John Adams to TJ, 3 Feb. 1812. TJ’s ½ grandchild was Septimia Anne Randolph (Meikleham), who was born on 3 Jan. 1814, and his ¾ great-grandchild was Ellen Monroe Bankhead, who was born on 3 Sept. 1813 (Shackelford, Descendants description begins George Green Shackelford, ed., Collected Papers to Commemorate Fifty Years of the Monticello Association of the Descendants of Thomas Jefferson, 1965 description ends , 1:128, 2:48 [with Bankhead’s birth year mistakenly given as 1812]; Richmond Whig & Public Advertiser, 19 Jan. 1838). The Adams grandson able to read greek was George Washington Adams.

1Manuscript: “strengthed.”

2Integer reworked from “3.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, Abigail Smith (John Adams’s wife); correspondence with TJ search
  • Adams, Abigail Smith (John Adams’s wife); family of search
  • Adams, Abigail Smith (John Adams’s wife); health of search
  • Adams, Abigail Smith (John Adams’s wife); letters to search
  • Adams, Abigail Smith (John Adams’s wife); TJ sends greetings to search
  • Adams, George Washington (John Adams’s grandson) search
  • Adams, John; and correspondence with TJ search
  • Adams, John; family of search
  • Bankhead, Ellen Monroe (TJ’s great-granddaughter) search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; on reading search
  • Greek language; read by G. W. Adams search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; relations with grandchildren search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; aging search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; rheumatism search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; reading search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; retirement search
  • Meikleham, Septimia Anne Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter) search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • women; letters to; A. Adams search