Tag Archives: Charity
I recieved … [your letter that] you had … 90.D. [$90] recieved for me as rent for the salt-petre cave at the Natural bridge, and asking it as a donation for the female academy of that neighborhood. I have ever believed that the duty of contribution to charitable institutions would produce the greatest sum of good by every one’s devoting what they can spare to the institutions of their neighborhood, or in the vicinity of their property; because under the eye of their patrons they would be more faithfully conducted than at a distance from them … the applications to me from every part of the union being more than any income but that of the union, could supply. on this principle I am persuaded you will think twenty five Dollars a donation fully proportioned to my property in that quarter, giving this sum therefore to the institution there, I will thank you to remit the balance …
To William Carothers, September 7, 1809
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Charitable leaders give to charities wisely.
Caruthers, Jefferson’s agent in a western Virginia county where he owned property, held $90 rent owed to him. Caruthers asked if Jefferson would like to donate it to support a local school for girls. Jefferson’s reply:
1. Everyone had a duty to support charitable institutions to produce the greatest good for all.
2. Donations were best made to charities where donors lived or owned property, so they could carefully monitor its use.
3. He received more requests for donations than he could ever honor.
4. He would donate $25 to the school and wanted the remaining $65 sent to him.
He might have used his reasoning in #2 to decline any donation, because he lived 100 miles away, beyond any possible oversight. Yet he did own real estate in the vicinity, though he visited it rarely. He thought it more important to give than decline.
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I had the honor of transmiting to you (in June last,) a plan of the Female Humane Charity School of this City; and likewise, a list of Doners and Annual subscribers to the same. I now inclose a note of Bishop Carrolls, for your perusal—, Which you will please to return by the next Mail, with the list above mentioned.
Kezia Norris, Trustee, to Thomas Jefferson, October 19, 1801, Baltimore
I have duly recieved your favor covering a Note of Bishop Carroll’s which I now return according to your desire … [as President] I recieved applications from different parts of the Union for contributions to churches, colleges, schools, bridges, & other useful institutions. I yielded to them until they became so numerous… [that I must limit] myself to the one with which I was associated by situation. beyond this, all had their equal claims … [Giving to all was beyond] the means of any individual, I was obliged to adopt the latter as the only remaining rule of my conduct.
To Kezia Norris, October 20, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders limit the causes they support and compliment the rest.
Four months earlier, Mrs. Norris had solicited a contribution for her cause from the President with a sincere but almost manipulative appeal. She included a list of donors and wanted to put his name, as President, at the top of her list. Apparently, Jefferson had not responded. She now sent him a second request, upping the ante with an appeal from the Bishop who would head the school’s board of trustees.
Often generous, Jefferson declined her request, explaining he had been inundated with appeals. There were so many worthwhile causes that they were beyond any individual’s means to support. Thus, he had to limit himself to the causes he knew personally. He didn’t say so, but he was also leery of people, well-intentioned or otherwise, who might try to benefit from their association with him as President.
Practically always gracious, Jefferson complimented her cause, her zeal and the “wealth & public spirit of the city of Baltimore” which would support the school. He wished her every success.