Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waterhouse, 31 January 1819

To Benjamin Waterhouse

Monticello Jan. 31. 19.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 15th was recieved on the 27th and I am glad to find the name and character of Samuel Adams coming forward, and in so good hands as I suppose them to be. but I have to regret that I can add no facts to the stores possessed. I was the youngest man but one in the old Congress, and he the oldest but one, as I believe. his only senior, I suppose, was Stephen Hopkins, of and by whom the honorable mention made in your letter was richly merited. altho’ my high reverence for Samuel Adams was returned by habitual notices from him which highly flattered me, yet the disparity of age prevented intimate and confidential communications. I always considered him as more than any other member the fountain of our important measures; and altho’ he was neither an eloquent nor easy speaker, whatever he said was sound and commanded the profound attention of the House. in the discussions on the floor of Congress he reposed himself on our main pillar in debate, mr John Adams. these two gentlemen were verily a host in our councils. comparisons with their associates, Northern or Southern, would answer no profitable purpose, but they would suffer by comparison with none. I salute you with perfect esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (MBCo: Waterhouse Papers); at foot of text: “Dr Waterhouse.” PoC (DLC).

Edward Rutledge (1749–1800) was the youngest member of the Second Continental Congress in 1776. The oldest were Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) and stephen hopkins (1707–85), and several others were older than Samuel Adams (1722–1803) (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ). In two of the newspaper articles enclosed to TJ in his letter of 15 Jan. 1819, Waterhouse referenced Hopkins, stating first that “The character of Stephen Hopkins, who was many years governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, is but little known, beyond a circle of old men in that State. His ‘rights of the Colonies,’ and his correspondence with Samuel Adams, will constitute his portrait in history—It is a reflection on his native town that it has never appeared before.” Later, when describing a “paralytic shaking of the head and arms” that afflicted Adams, Waterhouse noted that “Stephen Hopkins, the Samuel Adams of Rhode-Island, experienced the same affection full 30 years before his powers of mind failed” (Boston Patriot and Daily Chronicle, 16, 29 Dec. 1818).

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; as member of Continental Congress search
  • Adams, Samuel (1722–1803); as member of Continental Congress search
  • American Revolution; reflections on search
  • Continental Congress, U.S.; TJ as member of search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; as member of Continental Congress search
  • Hopkins, Stephen; as member of Continental Congress search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; in Continental Congress search
  • Rutledge, Edward; as member of Continental Congress search
  • Waterhouse, Benjamin; and origin of American Revolution search
  • Waterhouse, Benjamin; and S. Adams search
  • Waterhouse, Benjamin; letters to search