Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Short to Thomas Jefferson, 21 October 1819

From William Short

Philada Oct: 21. 1819

Dear Sir

I had last the pleasure of writing to you on the 14th of August, from Ballston Spa, my usual summer residence. The cause of my troubling you at present, you will find inclosed—a letter from our old & worthy friend de la Motte, which he sent to me with a request that I would forward it to you. I had remained several years without hearing from him; & I learn now with real pain, that the cause of his silence was the derangement of his affairs. He speaks of general ruin among all commercial men in his quarter, & I very much fear from his letter that his is complete. He tells me he has two sons & a daughter all now entering on life, & that he finds himself in his old age, now reduced to begin the world again with them. I feel for him really more than I can express—I suppose his letter to you will give a more full detail of his losses.

The newspapers have again informed us of your recent indisposition—it has given your friends here, & to none more than myself, a great deal of uneasiness. But Mr Correa has just informed me that he has seen a letter from you of the 15th of this month, written in very good spirits, & we suppose therefore with a return of good health. We both put our hope & trust in this. He purposes going to visit you in November—And I envy him this gratification, without being able to indulge myself in it—There is no circumstance in which I feel the effects of advancing age so much as in my faculties of locomotion—From habitual indulgence I have come to consider repose as the summum bonum, so that when driven out of this heated brick kiln in the summer, my first aim is to reach that place of repose which can be the soonest & the easiest attained—this is of course Ballston as it requires only fifty miles of land carriage, the rest being performed in steamboats, & a great part of it during sleep. This growing indolence (which I know I am wrong to indulge & yet continue to do so—“video meliora, pejora sequor”) has made me give up by degrees my daily exercise on horseback—I have so far adopted the principles of Epicurus, (who, after all I am inclined to believe was the wisest of all the ancient Philosophers, as he is certainly the least understood & the most calumniated among them) as to consult my ease towards the attainment of happiness in this poor world, poor even in making the best of it.

Apropos of Philosophers; You recollect without doubt the marble bust of Condorcet which stood on a marble table in the salon of the Hotel de la Rochefoucauld—When it was determined no longer to recieve him in that house, it was thought inconvenant to keep the bust there—The grandchildren, who never liked him, availed themselves of this to have the bust transported to the garde meuble without consulting the old Lady, whose leave was generally asked on every occasion—She passed this over in silence however & never made a remark or enquiry as to the disappearance of the bust—It had cost her a great effort to signify to the original, that his presence had become disagreeable; she had really a parental affection for him, & had given a remarkable proof of this at the time of his marriage. On her death I asked this bust of the grandaughter who gave it to me with great pleasure—it has been on its way here ever since I left France & has passed through as many casus & discrimina rerum as Eneas himself (or perhaps it was Ulysses)1 on its way—It has finally arrived & is at present placed in the Philosophical hall in the most suitable company, the busts of Franklin, yourself, Turgot—

I have not for a long time heard any thing of the University—& I am sorry for this, as I take a very sincere interest in its prosperity—I never could discover from Cooper whether it gave him pleasure to be spoken to about it—Dr Browne who is one of the Professors of the University at Lexington has just left us for that place—He told me before his departure that they were endeavoring to prevail on Cooper to go & give a course of lectures there during the winter previously to his entering on his duties with you in April—But since Browne’s departure I have observed by the papers that they have appointed a Professor of Chymistry; so that I suppose the idea of Cooper is abandoned. If you should succeed in finding your other professors of the same stamp with Cooper no institution certainly could boast of more able men. I speak particularly of his acquirements which seem to be great on every subject. I shall always look with great anxiety & great interest to what so much concerns my native State in general & yourself more especially. Accept my best wishes for its prosperity & for your health & happiness—

Ever & affectionately, dear sir, Your friend & servant

W: Short

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 29 Oct. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Delamotte to TJ, 7 July 1819.

The letter from you of the 15th of this month may have been TJ and John H. Cocke to Thomas Cooper, 15 Oct. 1819. video meliora, pejora sequor paraphrases Ovid, Metamorphoses, 7.20–1: “video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor” (“I see the better and approve it, but I follow the worse”) (Ovid, trans. Grant Showerman, J. H. Mozley, and Frank Justus Miller, Loeb Classical Library [1914–29; rev. George P. Goold, 1977–79], 3:342–3).

The marble bust of condorcet once adorned the Paris salon of the La Rochefoucauld family frequented by Condorcet. Until 1791, when political differences rendered their relationship inconvenient (inconvenant) and relegated this sculpture to a furniture warehouse (garde meuble), Condorcet enjoyed a close friendship with Louis Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld, duc d’Enville, and with his mother (the old lady), Marie Louise Elizabeth Nicole de La Rochefoucauld, duchesse d’Enville. After her death in 1797, her grandaughter Alexandrine Charlotte Sophie de Rohan-Chabot, duchesse de La Rochefoucauld, gave it to Short. Presumably this is the bust of Condorcet that has been owned by the American Philosophical Society since Short donated it on 19 Mar. 1830, and which is inscribed as sculpted by Jean Antoine Houdon in 1785 (George Green Shackelford, “William Short: Diplomat in Revolutionary France, 1785–1793,” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings 102 [1958]: 596–612, esp. 605; Elisabeth Badinter and Robert Badinter, Condorcet (1743–1794). Un intellectuel en politique [1988], 364–5; Émile Rousse, La Roche-Guyon. Chatelains Chateau et Bourg [1892], 489–90; Marco Beretta, Imaging a Career in Science: The Iconography of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier [2001], 17–23; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes [MS in PPAmP]).

casus & discrimina rerum paraphrases Aeneas’s comment about his long journey from Troy to Italy in Virgil, Aeneid, 1.204: “per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum” (“Through varied fortunes, through countless hazards”) (Fairclough, Virgil description begins Virgil, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, Loeb Classical Library, 1916–18, rev. by G. P. Goold, 1999–2000, repr. 2002–06, 2 vols. description ends , 1:276–7). The university at lexington was Transylvania University.

1Parenthetical phrase interlined.

Index Entries

  • Aeneid (Virgil) search
  • American Philosophical Society; collections of search
  • boats; steamboats search
  • Brown, Samuel; as professor search
  • Castellane, Alexandrine Charlotte Sophie de Rohan-Chabot, marquise de; and W. Short search
  • Condorcet, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de; bust of search
  • Cooper, Thomas; University of Virginia professorship proposed for search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; and TJ’s health search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; proposed visit of search
  • Delamotte, François Claude Adam; financial situation of search
  • Enville, Louis Alexandre de la Rochefoucauld, duc d’ search
  • Enville, Louise Elisabeth de La Rochefoucauld, duchesse d’ search
  • Epicurus (Greek philosopher); W. Short on search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; busts of search
  • horses; riding of search
  • Houdon, Jean Antoine; bust of Condorcet search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Portraits; J. A. Houdon’s bust search
  • Metamorphoses (Ovid); quoted search
  • Odysseus search
  • Ovid; Metamorphoses search
  • Ovid; quoted search
  • schools and colleges; Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.) search
  • Short, William; and bust of Condorcet search
  • Short, William; and Epicurus search
  • Short, William; and F. C. A. Delamotte search
  • Short, William; and TJ’s health search
  • Short, William; and University of Virginia search
  • Short, William; health of search
  • Short, William; letters from search
  • Short, William; travels of search
  • steamboats; for U.S. river navigation search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); professors at search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); professorship for T. Cooper proposed at search
  • Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques; busts of search
  • Virgil; Aeneid search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; T. Cooper as proposed professor search