Thomas Jefferson Papers

Charles Thomson to Thomas Jefferson, [by 7 January 1817]

From Charles Thomson

[by 7 Jan. 1817]

My very dear, ancient and belovd friend

I received your1 letter of January last when I was under a paralytic stroke but not Sensible of it. I felt no acute pain, and my Sight was as usual. I could read without spectacles but could not comprehend what I read, nor its connextion with what preceded or followed. I read your letter and was pleased. I made sundry attempts to answer it but in vain, and what at last I sent as an answer, I do not now recollect.

The powers of my mind were2 weakened to such a degree that I forgot the names not only of my neighbours but even of my family and even of what I myself had said or done but a few minutes before. After this stroke fell suddenly another3 on the powers of the body (excepting the4 eye which still continued as usual).5 One night (at what distance of time from the first stroke I do not recollect) I went to bed in usual health and in the morning I found I was struck dumb. I could not utter a sound from my mouth. When I attempted to speak a strange rumbling sound seemed to come out at the ear, but not a word could I utter from the mouth. My Appetite for food now failed and all of my bodily powers (except the eye)6 became weaker and weaker till the first or7 second week8 in November, at the end of the 87th and beginning of the 88 year of my Age. The beginning of my recovery was as Sudden as the strokes I had received. One morning being unusually refreshed with sleep I awoke as from a transe9 and found a wonderful change in my whole System. From that time to this I have been gradually but slowly10 recovering the due exercise of the powers both of mind and body except the hearing11 which continues dull as it was.

I have been thus particular to apologize for my answer to your letter, and for an Answer which I gave on the 9th of Sept to what I deemed an impertinent question of Mr Delaplaine which has occasioned a very improper application to you. The case as far as I can now recollect was simply this—Among many other questions he asked me one which seemed to refer to the slanderous charges bandied about respecting your infidelity and disbelief12 of Christianity this roused my resentment and I wished to answer it by a sentence of your letter which at the instant occurred to my mind. On looking for the letter I could not find it. But after several questions I recollected that passage of your letter in which you informed me that you had employed some time in composing “a wee little book which was a document in proof that you are a real Christian that is a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.” With these words I answered his question. He put several questions touching the meaning, but I answered all, with a repetition of the same words at the same [time]13 trying to recollect when or where I had lost the letter. At last it occurred to me that I had been in Philadelphia and had shewn the letter to Doct Patterson, I thereupon desired Mr Delaplaine14 to call on Doct.15 Patterson & enquire if I had left it there. This happened to have been the case. I had laid it on the table16 and forgot it; But Mr D. it seems construed the favour I asked into a grant of something to himself

After all this detail accept

My ever dear friend, an Assurance17 of the sincere and uninterrupted esteem and regard with which I am Yours

Charles Thomson

RC (CSmH: JF-BA); undated; endorsed by TJ as received 12 Jan. 1817 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Joseph Milligan, 27 Jan. 1817, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson—at MontecelloVirginia”; stamp canceled; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 7 Jan. Dft (DLC: Thomson Papers); undated, unsigned, unaddressed, and incomplete; differs substantially from RC, with only the most significant variations noted below.

Joseph Delaplaine made what Thomson apparently considered a very improper application for information about the former president’s religious beliefs in his letter to TJ of 23 Nov. 1816.

1Dft here adds “kind.”

2Dft here adds “soon.”

3Word, not in Dft, is interlined in RC.

4RC: “they.” Dft: “the.”

5Omitted closing parenthesis editorially supplied.

6Parenthetical phrase not in Dft.

7Preceding two words not in Dft.

8RC: “woek.” Dft: “week.”

9Remainder of sentence not in Dft. Preceding six words reworked in Dft from “I awoke repeating this sentence/ Thanks for merci[e]s past received/ Pardon of my sins renew/ Teach me henceforth how to live/ With eternity in view.” These four lines (one word editorially corrected) were taken from the first hymn in the second book of John Newton, Olney Hymns, in Three Books (London, 1779), 182.

10Preceding two words not in Dft.

11Remainder of sentence not in Dft.

12Preceding two words interlined. Dft: “and utter disbelief.”

13Omitted word supplied from Dft.

14RC: “Delaplane.”

15Reworked from “Mr.”

16Dft ends here with partially canceled beginning of a new paragraph reading “I have been thus par.”

17RC: “Assurane.”

Index Entries

  • books; of hymns search
  • Christianity; TJ on search
  • deafness; and old age search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; and publication of TJ’s letters search
  • eyeglasses search
  • health; appetite loss search
  • health; deafness search
  • health; memory loss search
  • health; speech impairment search
  • health; stroke search
  • household articles; eyeglasses search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Christianity search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Jesus search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; religion search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth search
  • Jesus; TJ on search
  • music; hymns search
  • Newton, John (1725–1807); Olney Hymns, in Three Books search
  • Olney Hymns, in Three Books (J. Newton) search
  • Patterson, Robert; and TJ’s religious beliefs search
  • religion; TJ on search
  • Thomson, Charles; and TJ’s religious beliefs search
  • Thomson, Charles; health of search
  • Thomson, Charles; letters from search