Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Delaplaine, 12 April 1817

To Joseph Delaplaine

Monticello Apr. 12. 17.

Dear Sir

My repugnance is so invincible to be saying any thing of my own history, as if worthy to occupy the public attention, that I have suffered your letter of Mar. 17. but not recieved till Mar. 28. to lie thus long, without resolution enough to take it up. I indulged myself at some length on a former occasion, because it was to repel a calumny still sometimes repeated, after the death of it’s numerous brethren, by which a party at one time thought they could write me down, deeming even science itself, as well as my affection for it, a fit object of ridicule and a disqualification for the affairs of government. I still think that many of the objects of your enquiry are too minute for public notice. the number, names, and ages of my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren Etc would produce fatigue and disgust to your readers, of which I would be an unwilling instrument. it will certainly be enough to say that from one daughter living and another deceased1 I have a numerous family of grandchildren, and an increasing one of great grandchildren.—I was married on new year’s day of 1772. and mrs Jefferson died in the autumn of 1782.—I was educated at William and Mary college in Williamsburg. I read Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, and English of course, with something of it’s radix the Anglo-Saxon. I became a member of the legislature of Virginia in 1769. at the accession of Lord Botetourt to our government. I could not readily make a statement of the literary societies of which I am a member. they are many and would be long to enumerate, and would savour too much of vanity and pedantry. would it not be better to say merely that I am a member of many literary societies in Europe and America? your statements of the corrections of the Declaration of Independance by Dr Franklin and mr Adams, are neither of them at all exact. I should think it better to say generally that the rough draught was communicated to those two gentlemen, who, each of them made 2. or 3. short and verbal alterations only. but even this is laying more stress on mere composition than it merits; for that alone was mine; the sentiments were of all America.   I already possess a portrait of mr Adams, done by our countryman2 Brown, when we were both in England, and have no occasion therefore for the copy you propose to me. accept my apologies for not going more fully into the minutiae of your letter, with my friendly & respectful salutations.

Th: Jefferson

RC (LNT: George H. and Katherine M. Davis Collection); addressed: “Mr Joseph Delaplaine Philadelphia”; franked; postmarked; endorsed by Delaplaine; with additional notation in an unidentified hand: “Hair to retreat from the top from the lid of the eye to eyebrow right Eye Left cheek & eye more in shadow.” PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover to TJ; torn at seal; endorsed by TJ.

1Preceding seven words interlined.

2Manuscript: “countrymen.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and Declaration of Independence search
  • Adams, John; portraits of search
  • Anglo-Saxon language; TJ’s study of search
  • Botetourt, Norborne Berkeley, baron de; colonial governor of Va. search
  • Brown, Mather; and portrait of J. Adams search
  • Declaration of Independence; TJ as author of search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; and biography of TJ search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; Delaplaine’s Repository search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; letters to search
  • English language; TJ on study of search
  • Eppes, Maria (Mary) Jefferson (TJ’s daughter; John Wayles Eppes’s first wife); family of search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; and Declaration of Independence search
  • French language; TJ on study of search
  • Greek language; TJ on search
  • Italian language; TJ on study of search
  • Jefferson, Martha Wayles Skelton (TJ’s wife); death of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; biographies of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; as Va. burgess search
  • Latin language; TJ on search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); children of search
  • Spanish language; TJ on study of search
  • William and Mary, College of; TJ attends search