Thomas Jefferson Papers

Margaret Bayard Smith to Thomas Jefferson, 21 July 1816

From Margaret Bayard Smith

New York—July 21. 1816.

Dear Sir.

Will you allow me to recall to your mind one, whom a long absence may have almost obliterated from your reccollection,—One, who never had any claim to your kind regard, but what she derived from a sensibility to that worth, which once to know, is never to forget.—Yes dear Sir, for the enthusiasm inspired by great talents, or the veneration awaken’d by the union of great virtue, to talent, may be deaden’d by absence from the object which gave them birth; but one who has been as happy as I have been, to have seen you in the bosom of your family, surrounded by objects & circumstances which excited the best affections of the heart, & whose sympathies in those affections have been awaken’d as mine have been,—never can forget,—So constantly is your venerated idea present to my mind, so habitualy is my tongue familiar with your name, that I can scarcely believe that so many years have elaps’d since I have seen your face, or heard your voice.

After an absence of fourteen years I am once more in the circle of beloved relations & dear & enlighten’d friends.—They naturaly enquire & listen with interest to events, & characters with which I was acquainted during that time; & those occurences in which your name is introduced, or your character delineated, awaken the most lively interest.

At present a more than usual degree of interest is awaken’d, by a rumour which has lately become the topic of conversation; which is, that in a letter which you have written to Mr Charles Thompson, you have express’d opinions so highly favorable to the christian religion, that they amount to a profession of faith.

The public mind has of late years, been much turn’d to plans for the diffusion of the Christian faith; Bible societies, sunday schools, & various charitable institutions have been form’d, which whatever may be their result, owe their existence to a zeal for religion which pervades all ranks of society; the rich & the gay, the ignorant & the poor; & which has in no age of the church been more ardent or more universal. Sunday schools, both here & in Philadelphia, have been establish’d on a broad & liberal bassis & vagabonds of all ages, sexes, or colours, are collected in well regulated schools, where they are instructed not from the love of money but from the love of God. In the present state of the public mind, when so much zeal for religion is awaken’d, it is not surprising that the rumour to which I have alludeed, should excite attention & enquiry—When enquired of, as to the truth of this report, I can only answer that as I am certain you never was the enemy of the christian religion, I can easily believe you to be its friend. You have no idea Sir what an interest is excited in the minds of zealous christians, & how pleasing to them1 & how glorious to the cause, it would be, to see the name of one of the greatest of Statesmen & Philosophers enrol’d among that of Christians!—

It would be highly gratifying to me my dear Sir, to be able to give satisfactory answers, to all the enquiries that I hear, & [if?] amidst the felicities of domestic life, & the [occu]pations of your ever busy mind, you could find a few moments to answer this, you would confer a degree of pleasure, I will not attempt to describe.

And, will you too? say something of the dear family of Monticello, every individual of whom inspires an interest far beyond that of acquaintance, & near akin to the most affectionate friendship.—I was delighted to see Ellen last winter, & my only regret was that I saw her so seldom; Her name, accompanied with the highest praises, was familiar to me in Philadelphian circles, where I often met with her warm admirers—But her friends there complain sadly of her silence & accuse her of having totaly forgotten them.—Accept Sir, of an expression of sentiments of affectionate respect & veneration, from yours,

M. Harrison Smith.

If I should have the pleasure of an answer to this, please to direct it to the Care of Saml Boyd. Pine Street New York—as I shall not return to Washington for some time.

RC (MHi); mutilated at seal; postscript on address leaf; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Montecello Virginia”; franked; postmarked New York, 22 July; endorsed by TJ as a letter from “Smith M. Harrison” received 1 Aug. 1816 and so recorded in SJL.

1Manuscript: “then.”

Index Entries

  • Boyd, Samuel (of New York City) search
  • Christianity; increased zeal for search
  • Christianity; TJ on search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); travels of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Christianity search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; religion search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Smith, Margaret Bayard and Samuel H. search
  • New York (city); religious zeal in search
  • Philadelphia; religious zeal in search
  • religion; TJ on search
  • Smith, Margaret Bayard (Samuel Harrison Smith’s wife); and E. W. R. Coolidge search
  • Smith, Margaret Bayard (Samuel Harrison Smith’s wife); and TJ’s religious beliefs search
  • Smith, Margaret Bayard (Samuel Harrison Smith’s wife); letters from search
  • Smith, Margaret Bayard (Samuel Harrison Smith’s wife); Monticello visit described by search
  • Smith, Margaret Bayard (Samuel Harrison Smith’s wife); on growth of religious zeal search
  • Smith, Margaret Bayard (Samuel Harrison Smith’s wife); visits New York City search
  • Smith, Samuel Harrison; visits Monticello search
  • Thomson, Charles; and TJ’s religious beliefs search
  • women; letters from; M. B. Smith search