Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 18 October 1819

To James Madison

Monto Oct. 18. 19.

Dear Sir

By this day’s mail I forward you ⅓ of a parcel of seeds of the Sea-Kale sent here by Genl Cock for you, mr Divers & myself. I feared to await a private conveyance because they lose their vegetative power if not planted soon.

The day after you left us I was taken with a cholic which attended with a stricture on the upper bowels brought me into great pain & immediate danger. the obstacle was at length overcome & I am recovering, but have not yet left my room. a salivation brought on by a dose of 8. or 9 grs of calomel with Jalap occasions my present confinement. I can swallow only fluids, which keep me very weak. I thought it due to your friendship to free it from the uncertainty of floating rumors and I salute you with affection & respect

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: Madison Papers, Rives Collection); endorsed by Madison.

Elizabeth Trist reported on TJ’s health in a 15 Oct. 1819 letter to Emma Walker Gilmer (Breckinridge) written from Ridgway: “I expected to have had the opportunity of writing to you by the Miss Randolphs who were to have accompanied their Grand Father to Poplar Forest about this time, but he was taken so ill with a violent pain in his bowels this day week that his life was despared off, two Doctors were call’d in to his assistance every thing was try’d to forse a passage but without effect at length the calomel stop’d the inflamation but renderd his mouth so sore and his body so weak that he cou’d not on Sunday get out of his bed, I have not heard since but hope he is better, but I fear that his days will not be many his constitution is greatly impair’d, tho it is as natural for old age to be frail, as for the stalk to bend under the ripend ear or for the autumnal leaf to change its hue, yet his death wou’d be so great a loss to the family his friends and Country that he woud be reluctantly resignd every one in this Neighbourhood that I have seen seem to take the deepest interest in his fate, he is an old friend of mine of forty years Standing and I have never experienced any change in his conduct towards me—and I shou’d have cause to mourn his loss” (RC in ViU: FWG). In a letter dated Ridgway, 1 Nov. 1819, Trist informed her grandson Nicholas P. Trist that “Mr Jefferson was attackd most violently with a pain in his Bowels Dr Watkins told me that he did not think it proceeded from bile but nothing wou’d pass through him they prevaild on him to take calomil and it had the good effect of saving him tho it occasiond him a saluvation which the Docters did not mean shou’d take place after keeping his bed three days from excessive debility he was enabled to set up, and I heard that he is able now to walk into the Dining Room in the middle of the day.” Still at Ridgway on 28 Nov. 1819, she advised Trist that “Mr Jefferson I hear takes his daily rides and some one told me that they saw him in Milton with a Gun on his shoulder in persuite of Partridges” (RCs in DLC: NPT).

Index Entries

  • birds; partridges search
  • Breckinridge, Emma Walker Gilmer search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell (1780–1866); sends sea kale to TJ search
  • Divers, George; seeds sent to search
  • firearms; TJ hunts with search
  • health; colic search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; friendship with E. Trist search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; colic search
  • kale; sea search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and seeds search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and TJ’s health search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); letters to search
  • medicine; calomel search
  • medicine; jalap search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); dining room (breakfast room) at search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); TJ’s bedroom search
  • partridges; TJ hunts search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ’s grandchildren visit search
  • seeds; kale, sea search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; and TJ’s health search
  • Trist, Nicholas Philip; correspondence with E. Trist search
  • Watkins, Thomas G.; as physician search