Tag Archives: Children
Great and Good Friend,
I have lately received the letter of your Majesty … announcing that contracts of marriage … between your much beloved son … and the Infanta of Naples Donna Maria Antonia; and between your very dear daughter … and the hereditary Prince of that Kingdom Don Francis Genaro … we pray your Majesty to receive our cordial congratulations on these occasions which we fervently hope may promote both the happiness of your Majesty and of your August family … we pray God to have you great and good Friend always in his holy keeping.
To Carlos IV, King of Spain, October 15, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders stuff their personal views for the greater good.
Jefferson congratulated the King of Spain, whom he called his “Great and Good Friend,” on the engagements of both his son and daughter. Beyond that, he offered a benediction that the King would always be in God’s “holy keeping.”
Flowery rhetoric for a man who despised the concept of royalty as contrary to nature’s law! Both of the King’s children were marrying people also of royal status, further cementing hereditary control.
Not only that, Carlos had restricted America’s right of duty free shipping through New Orleans, dismissed American entreaties to remain in possession of Louisiana, transferred Louisiana to France, and set up the very real possibility of war between the U.S. and France over traffic on the Mississippi River.
Nonetheless, Jefferson, the consummate diplomat, always looked for common ground. He had two married daughters and multiple grandchildren. He could set aside political considerations to congratulate the King on this new joy in his family. There could be diplomatic advantages in making nice, too.
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my health being always so firm as to leave you without doubt on that subject, but it is not so with yourself & little one. I shall not be easy therefore if either yourself or mr Eppes do not once a week or fortnight write the three words ‘all are well.’ that you may be so now, & so continue is the subject of my perpetual anxiety, as my affections are constantly brooding over you. heaven bless you my dear daughter.
To Mary Jefferson Eppes, December 14, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders with adult children never cease worrying about their kids.
Jefferson’s 2nd daughter had recently delivered her 2nd child, a son Francis. She was of frail health, like her mother who died after childbirth 20 years before, and her father worried greatly about her. He also worried about the baby, as Mary’s first child died just three days after birth. (Four of Jefferson’s six children died by the age of five.)
He had high expectations of his daughters, and one of those was that they write to him regularly. Mary was a particularly poor correspondent, and her father brooded over the silences. He beseeched her often to write more frequently.
Here, he said his health was so good there was no cause for them to worry about him. So that he would not worry about them, he pleaded that at least every two weeks, she or her husband write to him, if only to convey, “All are well.”
This baby Francis would live a long, productive life. He was the only one of Mary’s three children who survived infancy. Mary herself would die three years later, months after her third delivery, a daughter who lived only a few weeks.