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.
Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Snowden, September 29, 1803
In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders don’t need credit for their good deeds.
This post clarifies an earlier one drawn from Jefferson’s Memorandum Book for 1803. He did forward the $100 he had just received to Snowden as a charitable contribution for those suffering from the yellow fever outbreak in Alexandria, VA.
Snowden, a newspaper publisher, was also involved in the local relief effort. The President stipulated his contribution was to be kept anonymous, both in “public papers” and elsewhere. Snowden published the amount of the donation but not the source. A Founders Archives footnote to this letter indicates Jefferson was outed anyway, by a grateful local minister who also mentioned the amount in writing and speculated the source, “supposed to be the President.”