Thomas Jefferson Papers

Susan Maria Bruff to Thomas Jefferson, 31 March 1816

From Susan Maria Bruff

Washington City 31st March 1816.

Respected Sir,

I flatter myself that the generosity of your heart will induce you to excuse the seeming presumption of a stranger. But truely I have been no stranger to those condescending manners which helped to endear you so much to my dear Father.—My beloved Father, as you, Sir, well know, possessed an uncommon active genius—was engaged in many Inventions; particularly one for making Shot & Ball; and for which I beleive Sir, you had the goodness to recommend him to Mr Madison. But he was not so fortunate as to be patronized—repeated disappointment was his lot in life. At the blowing up of the Navy Yard & Fort he lost two very valuable machines, which had been the toil and labour of several years. His losses at that time he estimated at not less than ten thousand dollars. He petitioned Congress, at the last session, for some compensation: it was merely read, and then laid by.—These misfortunes depressed his spirits, and began visibly to undermine his Health. About 6 months ago, he was induced by the almost certain prospect of making a brilliant fortune, to visit N. York. Indeed, it was not ambition that allured my pious Father: but to acquire a competency for his children. in this he failed.—and last week, when we were just looking forward with painful anxiety for his return to a beloved family, Alas! the heart-rending intelligence arrived that he was no more— Oh Sir, picture to yourself our agony—our distraction—deprived of our staff—my Mamma left in a state of ill Health,1 with 5 children to support and educate, without the means. Pardon me, honoured Sir, It is not my wish to intrude my griefs—you will excuse a young female who has been raised with the tenderest care, and from Infancy taught to beleive that she should one day be independant of the unfeeling world: but in one Sad hour, bereft of a precious, tender Father; and with him vanished all the golden dreams—the bright Illusions that dazzled in anticipation.

You, dear Sir, were among the few that evinced a friendly disposition toward my Father—How often, and sweetly have I heard your name sounded from those lips that are now mouldering in the silent dust. Yes: I beleive, Sir, that had you continued in that important Station which you were So emminently calculated to fill—my ever-lamented Father would have Shared a better fate; and in all probabillity would now have been here to rejoice our weeping Eyes.

It is not Sir for myself that I have presumed [to] appeal to your humanity—but in behalf of my three little helpless brothers, who seem to have inherited somewhat the genius of their father, as it is developed in a considerable talent for drawing and painting. My disconsolate Mother joins her prayers to mine, that every blessing may attend you.

Yours, with the highest respect

Susan Maria Bruff.

RC (DLC); edge chipped; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 30 Mar. 1816 received 9 Apr. 1816 and so recorded in SJL.

Susan Maria Bruff (ca. 1799–1822) married Georgetown newspaper publisher William A. Rind in 1818 (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:92, 93; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 24 Nov. 1818, 26 Apr. 1822).

For TJ’s recommendation of Bruff’s father, Thomas Bruff, to President James madison, see TJ to Madison, 6 June 1812, and TJ to Thomas Bruff, 7 June 1812. The elder Bruff petitioned congress on 17 Oct. 1814, but no further action was taken after the appeal was referred to the secretary of war on 23 Nov. of that year. His widow, Mary Bruff, had a similar petition introduced on 30 Dec. 1816, but on 2 Feb. 1820 the House Committee on Pensions and Revolutionary Claims gave it an unfavorable report, and it was tabled (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 9:478, 542, 10:116, 13:189).

1Manuscript: “Heath.”

Index Entries

  • Bruff, Mary (Thomas Bruff’s wife); petitions Congress search
  • Bruff, Mary (Thomas Bruff’s wife); widowed search
  • Bruff, Susan Maria; appeals to TJ search
  • Bruff, Susan Maria; identified search
  • Bruff, Susan Maria; letter from search
  • Bruff, Thomas; death of search
  • Bruff, Thomas; patent of for improved shot manufacture search
  • Bruff, Thomas; proposal for shot factory search
  • Congress, U.S.; petitions to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); presidency of search
  • patents; of T. Bruff search
  • shot manufacture search
  • women; letters from; S. M. Bruff search