Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Sumter, 23 July 1821

To Thomas Sumter

Monticello. July 23. 21.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 4th of July loitered long on the road, which has delayed till now it’s acknolegement. I sincerely congratulate you on your safe return to your own country, and that you have escaped the dangers to health which great changes of climate sometimes produc[e.] I think it possible too that dangers of another character may threaten Rio Janeiro for awhile: for I suppose the departure of the king may become the signal for those scenes of violence which constitute the commencement and course of revolution in countries not prepared [for] self-government.   I thank you for the box of the minerals of that country, which I accept for our University. the buildings of this institution will be compleated in the course of this summer and winter; and it will be opened as soon after as the liberality of our legislature shall authorize. with the box of specimens I will transfer to that institution the duty of a return in kind, to which mr Olfers is justly entitled. if mr Adams will have the goodness to have the box delivered to my friend John Barnes of George town, he will forward it to me.

By a gentleman from S. Carolina I lately learned with great [. . .] that your father’s health and activity continue wonderfully firm for his age.1 be so good as to assure him of my constant and affectionate friendship and continued sense of the valued services, in peace as in war which he has rendered to our country, and my prayers that his life may be prolonged in health to as late a term as he shall wish.   I should have been happy to have recieved yourself and family at Monticello. but I have travelled too much myself not to know the inconvenience of deviations on a long journey, and the exchange of a level for a hilly road. I pray you to be assured of my great esteem and high consideration.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of Joel Yancey to TJ, 31 May 1821; portions faint; at foot of text: “Thomas Sumpter esq.”; endorsed by TJ.

Thomas Sumter (1768–1840), planter and public official, was the son of TJ’s acquaintance, the Revolutionary War militia general Thomas Sumter (1734–1832). Born in Stateburg, South Carolina, he served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1794–95. In 1801 TJ appointed Sumter secretary to the United States legation in Paris, a position he held until resigning the following year. He then worked as James Monroe’s secretary in London in the latter part of 1803 before returning home to South Carolina. Sumter was lieutenant governor of that state for one two-year term starting late in 1804. TJ appointed him a lieutenant colonel of light artillery early in 1809, and later that year President James Madison named Sumter the United States minister plenipotentiary to the Portuguese court, then based in Rio de Janeiro. He remained in that position until 1819, after which he retired from public life. In 1840 Sumter owned seventy-six slaves. He died in Stateburg (BDSCHR description begins Walter B. Edgar and others, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1974– , 5 vols. description ends , 4:546–7; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 44 vols. description ends , 33:440–1, 624–5; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:401, 405, 2:93, 94, 119 [6 Jan., 1 Feb. 1802, 7, 9 Jan., 6, 7 Mar. 1809]; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 3:228–9, 590–3, 5:231, 564; Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 2:66–7; DNA: RG 29, CS, S.C., Sumter Co., 1830, 1840; Robert L. Meriwether, W. Edwin Hemphill, Clyde N. Wilson, and others, eds., The Papers of John C. Calhoun [1959–2003], 12:169, 183–5, 188; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 23 June 1840; Sumter Co. Will Book, D2:7–8; gravestone inscription in Thomas Sumter Memorial Park, Sumter Co.).

Sumter’s favor of 4 July 1821 is recorded in SJL as received 14 July from Washington, D.C. While the letter is otherwise unlocated, its address cover (addressed: “To Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello State of Virginia”; franked; postmarked Washington, 10 July) was reused for the PoC of TJ to Thomas Eston Randolph, 26 Sept. 1822, which is on verso.

The departure of John VI and his court from Rio de Janeiro to Portugal in 1821 marked the end of thirteen years that they were based in Brazil (Kirsten Schultz, Tropical Versailles: Empire, Monarchy, and the Portuguese Royal Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1821 [2001]). Ignaz von olfers became the secretary of legation and physician at the Prussian mission in Rio de Janeiro in 1818 (Walther Killy and Rudolf Vierhaus, eds., Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie [1995–2003], 7:487).

1Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John Quincy; sends goods to TJ search
  • Barnes, John; ships goods to TJ search
  • Brazil; minerals from search
  • Brazil; monarchy in search
  • John VI, king of Portugal and Brazil; court in Brazil search
  • mineralogy; collections of minerals search
  • Olfers, Ignaz von; and minerals for University of Virginia search
  • Sumter, Thomas (1768–1840); and minerals for TJ search
  • Sumter, Thomas (1768–1840); identified search
  • Sumter, Thomas (1768–1840); letter from accounted for search
  • Sumter, Thomas (1768–1840); letter to search
  • Sumter (Sumpter), Thomas (1734–1832); TJ sends greetings to search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; mineral specimens for search