Thomas Jefferson Papers

Elijah Griffiths to Thomas Jefferson, 7 April 1820

From Elijah Griffiths

Philadelphia April 7–1820

Dear Sir,

Through the medium of the public papers of last year, I heard with much concern of your severe indisposition, to which has since been added the pleasing information of an improvement in your health, which latter I hope is well founded. The viscissitudes we have experienced in extreme1 heat last summer, & extreme2 cold last January, have been very trying to aged and3 infirm persons here; your residence not being so far south as to be exempt from these changes, makes me fear you have also suffered from them.

If your health has permited you to notice the passing events, I should be pleased to hear your opinion of the state of the Nation at this time; there appears to have been much sensibility awakened in the national legislature by the question affecting Slavery; this dreadfull subject seems to have an Ominous something about it, which make me shudder in anticipation. It looks like a distant rock, whose head is hardly above the waves, on which we are in danger of suffering a sanguinary shipwreck at no very distant day. The subject is painful, we will leave it, “Sufficient to the day, is the evil thereoff”; It will be our wisdom to look to, and trust the benevolent author of all our mercies, to avert from us the calamities we fear, by increasing in us dispositions truely benevolent toward each other, which will make us forbearing and charitable.

The domestic state of the country is truely distressing; we have all the wants of better times, without the usual means of supplying them; we have all the domestic vices fostered by prosperity & a mild system of government, & those bred in foreign climes under the hand of tyranny & penury. Our present adversity will not as fully correct these vicious habits, as set their inginuity into operation, to obtain an unlawful subsistance. We have overtraded ourselves, our exports have ceased, while we are supplied to profusion by the industry of other nations; if this is not arested by the government, it will be by posterity deemed as indifferent to the prosperity of the nation, as the merchants are avaritious in importing, and the multitude stupid for encouraging them, by consuming their merchandize. The great scarcity of money ha[s] added to our embarrasments; this has been done by the U.S. Bank, condensing our circulating medium to a specie standard, which leaves debtors on the former footing, but enhances The value of mony from 50 to 100 per. Ct. diminishing the value of propirty in an equal ratio, & increasing in an equal ratio the difficulty of discharging former engagements; this has been fatal in its operation to many very correct men.

We have had a sivere frost & a considerable snowstorm which commenced on sunday morning the 2 Inst & continued till late at night from the N.E., it was damp but was several inches deep on the ground; there was plenty of ice produced that night & the following. On sunday evening we had a very alarming fire, it was the theatre in chesnut street; the building with its appendages were entirely consumed in a short time & some considerable injury done to other property adjoining it, but the considerable quantity of snow on the roofs of the neighbouring buildings saved them, with exertions of the fire men, it was the greatest body of flame & heat I ever witnessed in so compact a compass.

I see by the papers, that the Bankrupt bill was rejected by the Senate of the U.S. it is added in the Nation Intelr that it probably will be revived in some shape or other this Session. Whether this Law would do any good or not, I am unable to decide, but in difficult times people are always fond of changes in hopes of relief. If the bill had passed, it was my intention to petition the President of the United States to be appointed one of the commissions, and should the bill be revived & pass I still contemplate making the application. If it will not be trespassing too much on your time and friendship, I will ask you to add to the obligations I am already under, by addressing a line to President4 Monroe in my favour, if the Law passes.

My sincere wish is, that this letter may find you enjoying a comfortable degree of health at this time.

Pray accept the best wishes that friendship and respect can dictate from your

Humbl servt

Elijah Griffiths

RC (DLC); edge trimmed; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello Virginia”; stamp canceled; franked; inconsistently postmarked Philadelphia, 6 Apr.; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Apr. 1820 and so recorded (with mistaken 14 Apr. 1820 date of composition) in SJL.

sufficient to the day, is the evil thereoff is from the Bible, Matthew 6.34. On 2 Apr. 1820 fire destroyed the chesnut street Theatre, also known as the New Theatre, as well as an adjoining workshop and gashouse (Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 3, 5, 6, Apr. 1820). The United States Senate reported a bankrupt bill designed “to establish an uniform system of bankruptcy throughout the United States” on 12 Jan. 1820 but rejected it on 30 Mar. 1820 after much discussion (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 9:95, 274). The Washington Daily National Intelligencer (nation intelr) reported on 31 Mar. 1820 that the bill had been voted down, but it noted on 3 Apr. 1820 that a revival was being discussed. The topic was introduced again in the Senate early in the next session of Congress (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 10:86 [29 Dec. 1820]).

1Manuscript: “extereme.”

2Manuscript: “exteme.”

3Manuscript: “& and.”

4Manuscript: “Prisdent.”

Index Entries

  • Bank of the United States, Second; currency of search
  • bankruptcy; legislation on search
  • Bible; Matthew referenced search
  • Chestnut Street Theatre (Philadelphia); fire at search
  • Congress, U.S.; and slavery search
  • currency; amount of in circulation search
  • Griffiths, Elijah; letters from search
  • Griffiths, Elijah; seeks appointments search
  • Griffiths, Elijah; seeks TJ’s opinion search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; illness of search
  • Missouri question; TJ’s opinion on sought search
  • Monroe, James; and appointments search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); reports on bankruptcy legislation search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Philadelphia; Chestnut Street Theatre search
  • Senate, U.S.; and bankruptcy search
  • United States; economy of search
  • weather; extreme search
  • weather; snow search