Tag Archives: Maria Jefferson

One daughter died. I fear the other will die, too.

… I have had the inexpressible misfortune to lose my younger daughter, who has left me two grandchildren, & my elder one has such poor health, that I have little confidence in her life. she has 6 children. determined as I am to retire at the end of 4 years, I know not if I shall have a family to retire to. I must learn philosophy from you, & seek in a family of plants, that occupation & delight which you have so fortunately found in them …
To Madam de Tesse′, March 10, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What private fears do our leaders labor under?
de Tesse′ was the aunt of the French hero of the American revolution, Marquis de Lafayette. She was an accomplished woman and became friends with Jefferson during his service in France in the mid-late 1780s. The two shared a strong interest in horticulture, exchanging plants and seeds for years. All the rest of this letter pertained to that subject. At the end came this surprisingly personal and unusual observation.

Jefferson’s daughter Maria died the year before, leaving his firstborn Martha as the only surviving child of the six born to him and his late wife. Martha was well-educated and capable. Her husband was not an emotionally stable man, and the responsibility for managing the family and estate (and some of her father’s estate, Monticello) fell on her. Everything I have read about Martha has given the impression that she inherited her father’s genes for good health and long life. Here, her already grieving father feared for her life, too. Jefferson confided that his love of plants might be the only the only family he had left when his Presidency ended four years hence.

His fears were unfounded. Martha outlived her father and presented him with 12 grandchildren, 11 who survived him.

“I just wanted to thank you again for the wonderful program …”
Daniel Boone Regional Library
A wonderfully inspiring presentation awaits your audience!
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Once a father, always a father.

I recieved yesterday mr Eppes’s [Maria’s husband] letter of the 12th. informing me you had got safely to Eppington, & would set out tomorrow at furthest for Monticello … I now write to mr Craven to furnish you all the supplies of the table which his farm affords … liquors have been forwarded & have arrived with some loss. I insist that you command & use every thing as if I were with you, & shall be very uneasy if you do not … in the mean time take what is wanting from any of the stores with which I deal, on my account … I shall join you between the 2d. & 7th. [of August] more probably not till the 7th … I am looking forward with great impatience to the moment when we can all be joined at Monticello, and hope we shall never again know so long a separation …
To Maria Jefferson Eppes, July 16, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Fatherhood occasionally trumps being a leader. And should!
Jefferson had been extremely anxious about his pregnant younger daughter. He received reports about her from her husband and had written to her but received no replies. He had been urging her for some time to get to Monticello, where her baby would be born. Finally, she was on the way there!

He asked a farmer to supply their food. He commanded (!) her to use whatever she wanted at Monticello and to buy whatever was lacking and charge it to him. His little girl would not go without!

Maria’s first child, a son born a year and a half earlier, lived only three days. This child, born two months after this letter, was named Francis Wayles Eppes and lived to be nearly 80. A girl born in 1804 would be their third, but she would live only a month. Maria, frail like her mother, would succumb two months later.

“Each year we have had a guest speaker,
and none has ever been so widely praised.”
Missouri Emergency Preparedness Association
Your audience will praise Mr. Jefferson, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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On the death of a child

I lament to learn that a like misfortune has enabled you to estimate the afflictions of a father on the loss of a beloved child. However terrible the possibility of such another accident, it is still a blessing for you of inestimable value that you would not even then descend childless to the grave. Three sons, and hopeful ones too, are a rich treasure. I rejoice when I hear of young men of virtue and talents, worthy to receive, and likely to preserve the splendid inheritance of self-government, which we have acquired and shaped for them.
To John Tyler, June 18, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
This leader desperately needed the good health of his only remaining child.
This excerpt to the father of a future President is also from the letter featured in the June 5 post, on freedom of the press. This one is on a sadder subject, for both men.
Tyler’s eldest child of eight, daughter Anne, had died the year before at age 25. Just two months before writing this letter, Jefferson’s younger daughter died, 26 year-old Maria. (Four other Jefferson children died very young, leaving only Martha and Maria surviving to adulthood.) The first sentence of this post staked out common ground shared by two grieving fathers.

The second sentence contemplates something worse, the death of another child. Tragic should that happen, John Tyler would still have six living children. Jefferson called that a blessing “of inestimable value.” Should that fate strike him and take his firstborn Martha, he would “descend childless to the grave.” It was something Jefferson feared.


That second sad fate struck neither man. Tyler’s seven remaining children and Jefferson’s Martha all outlived their fathers.


Interesting to note, too, is the “rich treasure” Tyler had in three sons. Jefferson’s only son died within days of birth. His name is unknown.

“…Jefferson was inspiring and was very appropriate for our audience of leaders …
You were a tremendous hit!”
Executive Director, Missouri School Boards Association

Invite Thomas Jefferson to inspire your leaders!
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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