The bearer hereof, mr Smith, is the son of Gen. Smith of Baltimore … who wishes to qualify himself to be useful to his country hereafter, will visit Paris, and will wish to derive from the visit, all the useful information he can acquire … my own desire to aid the laudable views of our young men … & knowing your particular sense of the importance of a right direction in youth … I take the liberty of presenting him to you … he will prove himself not unworthy of your attentions.
To Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, July 29, 1809
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise old leaders continue to mentor potential young ones.
Du Pont (1739-1817) was a French intellectual who became Jefferson’s friend during his diplomatic service in Paris. Du Pont emigrated to America in 1800 to escape the guillotine.
Both men recognized the importance of educating gifted young men whose place in life positioned them for “the care of the liberties & interests of their country.” The son of Jefferson’s old friend, Gen. Smith, was such a prodigy, and Jefferson wrote a reference letter, asking Du Pont to introduce him as widely as possible.
The editor’s footnotes to this letter, found in the link above, translate two Latin sentences Jefferson used to conclude this letter: “You and your family and your possessions are all the objects of my closest care, and shall be while I live. Good-bye” and “take care that you fare well, and love me as you are loved”. I’ve edited thousands of Jefferson’s letters in the five years of this blog. I don’t recall ever seeing so personal a benediction.
One of Du Pont’s sons, trained as a chemist, founded a gunpowder manufacturing company in Delaware in 1802. We know the resulting multinational conglomerate today as DuPont.