Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John F. Oliveira Fernandes, 16 December 1815

To John F. Oliveira Fernandes

Monticello Dec. 16. 15.

Dear Sir

Disappointments in procuring supplies have at length left me without a drop of wine. I must therefore request you to send me a quarter cask of the best you have. Termo is what I would prefer; and next to that good port. besides the exorbitance of price to which Madeira has got, it is a wine which I do not drink, being entirely too powerful. wine from long habit has become an indispensable for my health, which is now suffering by it’s disuse. this urges me to request the immediate forwarding what is now desired to Messrs Gibson and Jefferson of Richmond to whom I now write to pay your draught for the amount at sight. should you have no sound wine of the characters I have named, my necessity obliges me to ask the favor of you to get any person in Norfolk who has such as you can recommend to forward me the supply, whose draught on your letter of advice to Gibson & Jefferson will be instantly paid. the wine should be in a double cask to prevent adulteration.

I have had the happiness of possessing here two or three times your most learned and amiable1 countryman Correa di Serra. he left us a few days ago; but I hope to have him here again in the spring. it would double the pleasure were curiosity or any other motive to induce you to visit this part of the country & meet him here. I think you should see something of the interior of our country.

I salute you with assurances of great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of a letter to TJ addressed by James Ligon; at foot of text: “Dr Fernandes”; endorsed by TJ.

John Francisco Oliveira Fernandes (1761–1829), physician, wine merchant, and diplomat, was a native of the Madeira Islands. He earned a medical degree from the University of Coimbra in 1785 and practiced medicine in Lisbon. After an 1803 gift of lands from the prince regent of Portugal (later King John VI), he added Fernandes to his name. Soon thereafter, to help his friend the prince regent avoid a scandal, Oliveira Fernandes ostensibly kidnapped the prince’s supposed mistress and was duly sentenced to death. Oliveira Fernandes fled to the United States in 1803, settled in Norfolk, and established himself as a physician and a wine importer, operating first under the name Oliveira Fernandes & Company and by 1810 as Oliveira & Sons. He was active in the Catholic church in Norfolk, where he lobbied for greater lay authority. TJ met Oliveira Fernandes in November 1803 and began buying wine from him two years later. The two corresponded on the subject of wine, and Oliveira Fernandes sent TJ a walking stick in 1805. His death sentence was overturned in 1820, and he served successively as Portuguese minister plenipotentiary to England, as ambassador to France, and as a representative of the Madeira Islands in the Portuguese parliament. Oliveira Fernandes died in Lisbon (Grande Enciclopédia Portuguesa e Brasileira [1935–60], 19:374–5; Patrick W. Carey, “John F. O. Fernandez: Enlightened Lay Catholic Reformer, 1815–1820,” Review of Politics 43 [1981]: 112–29; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends ; TJ to Oliveira Fernandes, 4 Jan. 1805 [DLC]; Stein, Worlds description begins Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, 1993 description ends , 428; The Norfolk Directory [Norfolk, 1806], 15, 25; Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., 2:594, 3:1; Oliveira Fernandes, Letter, Addressed to the Most Reverend Leonard Neale, Arch Bishop of Baltimore [Norfolk?, 1816]; DNA: RG 29, CS, Norfolk Borough, 1820).

1Reworked from “able.”

Index Entries

  • Corrêa da Serra, José; visits Monticello search
  • Gibson & Jefferson (Richmond firm); and wine acquired by TJ search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; orders wine from J. F. Oliveira Fernandes search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; and wine search
  • Madeira (wine) search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Corrêa da Serra, José search
  • Oliveira Fernandes, John Francisco; and wine for TJ search
  • Oliveira Fernandes, John Francisco; identified search
  • Oliveira Fernandes, John Francisco; letters to search
  • Oliveira Fernandes, John Francisco; TJ invites to visit Monticello search
  • port (wine) search
  • Termo (wine) search
  • wine; Madeira search
  • wine; port search
  • wine; Termo search
  • wine; TJ orders from J. F. Oliveira Fernandes search