Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Woodson to Thomas Jefferson, 12 September 1817

From John Woodson

Cartersville Septr 12. 1817

Dear Sir.

It may be presumption in me to ask your Opinion, on a Subject near my heart; and one which I think the whole human race are interested in. but when you hear my reason for intrudeing upon your useful time; I hope your goodness will pardon the liberty I take. Being in company1 with a Divine a few weeks past the Centrl college was the topic. it was observd that it was patronizd by Mr Jefferson it was suggested whether you woud listen to a lecture on Theolojy, for it was the Opinion of many you did not believe in Reveald Religion, neither did you believe in the divinity of our Saviour, often have I heard the same Opinion advanced, but never coud be braught to believe that a man of your understanging and advanced stage of life had not2 thaught Seriously what was to become of him after death. I believe there is a God3 we are accountable to him for all our actions, that there is rewards and punishments, & I believe in the Immortality of the soul. The incarnation of our Saviour and predistinations is a Subject involvd in mistery & there are Misterys in our natures and evey thing around us equally incomprehesible, yet it is our duty to believe & tremble and look up to the Majesty of heaven with wonder & delight. Please to give me your Opini[on] upon this—I consider all important Subject, not that I intend to make it public, but to stop the mouth of Censure & to have the Opinion of the great & Good to strengthen me in the pursuit of heaven. My dear Sir your great age & your reflectng mind must have markd a course to meet death, & we have as good ground to believe the Bible & the characters there expressd—as to believe in Antient history and that such men as Ceasar Pompy & the long list given in Prophane history. Yet we are hard to believe in a book that teaches the best Morals ever pen’d. I dont recollect a Martyr for Infidelity, numbers have died for the pure religion handed down in the bible.

I am no enthusiest, but a plain planter, have spent some happy moments under your hospitable roof; but perhaps forgotten by you, depend upon it my friend it is time to know the truth; there is a life beyond the grave, happiness or missery awaits us there. if the former cha[nces to] be our happy lott; we shall live imm[or]tal in a better world than this. May your good sence teach you, & may the finger of god point you to a seat in heaven

Yrs Sincerly & Respectfuly

Jno Woodson

NB A letter by post will be thankfully Recd


RC (DLC); edge trimmed and torn at seal; addressed: “Mr Thomas Jefferson Monticello near Charlottsville” by “Mail”; franked; postmarked Cartersville, 14 Sept. 1817; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Sept. 1817 and so recorded in SJL.

1Manuscript: “compay.”

2Word interlined.

3Preceding four words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Caesar, Julius; mentioned search
  • Central College; mentioned search
  • Pompey the Great search
  • religion; exhortations to TJ search
  • Woodson, John; and TJ’s religious beliefs search
  • Woodson, John; letter from search
  • Woodson, John; on religion search