Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Wayles Eppes to Thomas Jefferson, 11 December 1817

From John Wayles Eppes

Washington Decr 11. 1817.

Dear Sir,

I forwarded to you at the commencement of the Session the Message of the President—In the house of Representatives Spanish affairs have served as a barrel to occupy the whale and various motions have been made on that subject—I have conversed with several of the gentlemen who have been most prominent and find the object to be a recognition on the part of the United States of the Independence of the Spanish patriots—How far such a recognition on the part of the United States would be a just cause for war on the part of spain is a question—Perhaps a mere recognition without aid might not be—after however the difficulties experienced in prosecuting a war where all the injury was our own I should feel great reluctance in supporting any measure which might involve us even in support of our own principles—I understand too from high authority that in event of a Rupture between the U.S. and Spain it has been intimated in very direct terms that Spain would ask and receive the mediation of the allied powers and that they would propose the Mississippi as our boundary—

The President in his message as you will observe has called the attention of Congress to an amendment to the Constitution similar to one proposed by yourself—I am a member of the committee in the Senate but I confess I feel considerable difficulty on the subject—In other countries Internal improvement has followed population and wealth—The idea here appears to be to make internal improvement one of the means of producing it—It is a subject of great importance and I have no wish1 but to pursue the course best calculated to promote the interest of the United States—

I have put Francis to school in George Town—I have engaged a Spanish Gentleman here to give him lessons in Spanish every Saturday Evening—His attention for the present will be occupied with the languages including French and Spanish, Arithmetic in which he is entirely deficient, & Geography—I understand that the Spanish gentleman I have mentioned is of good family & Education—That accident reduced him to difficulties—He has married a fine woman & is keeping here a school for small children which affords a scanty support—I think it probable he might easily be induced to come to charlottesville and his wife would undertake to instruct young ladies for which she has the reputation of being well qualified—

As I passed through Richmond I left 40 dollars with Mr Gibson subject to your order to pay the boot for Mrs Eppes’s watch.

If it will be of any advantage to you to receive the public Documents of a general character I shall feel great pleasure in sending them on—

My respects and friendly wishes to Mrs Randolph and the family.

Yours Sincerely

Jno: W: Eppes

RC (MHi); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello near Milton Virginia”; franked; postmarked Washington, 12 Dec.; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Dec. 1817 and so recorded in SJL.

barrel to occupy the whale: “That Sea-men have a Custom when they meet a Whale, to fling him out an empty Tub, by way of Amusement, to divert him from laying violent Hands upon the Ship” ([Jonathan Swift], A Tale of a Tub. Written for the Universal Improvement of Mankind [London, 1704], 14).

In his 2 Dec. 1817 annual message to the United States Congress, President James Monroe proposed an amendment to the constitution that would grant Congress the authority to fund internal improvements, including educational institutions. TJ made a similar proposal in his annual message to Congress of 2 Dec. 1806 (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 5:469, 11:15–6).

1Word interlined in place of “interest.”

Index Entries

  • A Tale of a Tub (J. Swift) search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; school proposed for search
  • Congress, U.S.; and public works search
  • Congress, U.S.; annual presidential messages to search
  • Constitution, U.S.; proposed amendments to search
  • education; female search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, in and around Washington, D.C. search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); as U.S. senator search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); letters from search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); relationship with son search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); sends greetings search
  • Eppes, Martha Burke Jones (John Wayles Eppes’s second wife); watch of search
  • French language; study of search
  • geography; study of search
  • Georgetown College (later Georgetown University) search
  • Gibson, Patrick; and payments to TJ search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; debates in search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; messages to Congress search
  • mathematics; study of search
  • Mississippi River; as geographical boundary search
  • Monroe, James; presidential messages of search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); greetings sent to search
  • schools and colleges; Georgetown College (later Georgetown University) search
  • Senate, U.S.; and public works search
  • South America; republics in search
  • Spain; and U.S. search
  • Spain; colonies of search
  • Spanish language; study of search
  • Swift, Jonathan; A Tale of a Tub search
  • Swift, Jonathan; quoted search
  • United States; and Spain search
  • United States; public works search
  • watches; M. B. Eppes’s search
  • women; education of search