I pray you to recieve & apply the within sum of one hundred dollars to the use of those among you afflicted with the present sickness, who may be in need of it. I further request that no acknolegement may be made of it in the public papers, nor otherwise in any manner. I offer my best wishes for the reestablishment of the health of Alexandria, & to yourself my respectful salutations.
To Samuel Snowden, September 29, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders CAN keep their thoughtful acts private.
Jefferson always fled the coast, the area he called the tidewater, for Monticello in August and September to escape the deadly yellow fever. Its cause was unknown but was believed to result from bad air that circulated in low-lying areas that time of year. In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia killed 5,000, more than 10% of the city’s population. It would be almost a century later, in 1900, before doctors determined that mosquitoes spread the deadly disease.
The President knew that not everyone could escape the tidewater and yellow fever. Thus, he made a $100 contribution to a newspaper publisher in tidewater-surrounded Alexandria, VA, for the relief of those ravaged by the disease, requesting his donation be kept anonymous.