Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History

By Fawn M. Brodie | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVII

Death, Hatred, and the
Uses of Silence

When you and I look back on the country over which we have passed, what a field of slaughter does it exhibit! Where are all the friends who entered it with us.... As if pursued by the havoc of war, they are strewed by the way, some earlier, some later, and scarce a few stragglers remain to count the numbers fallen.

Jefferson to John Page, June 24, 1804 1

Jefferson's presidency was punctuated by deaths. Callender's could have brought only relief, though his disclosures continued to cause trouble. But old friends like Sam Adams, Edmund Pendleton, Stephens T. Mason, and Mann Page died, and Jefferson now began to keep track with a kind of morbid fascination of the deaths of the signers of his Declaration of Independence. Several months before his election his slave Jupiter, exactly his own age, who had attended him like a shadow at William and Mary, and who had for years served as his coachman, died after nine days of suffering. Martha blamed it on medicine prescribed by a black doctor; Jefferson, however, wrote his son-in-law that he feared it came from Jupiter's insistence on accompanying him part way to Philadelphia. Knowing he was ailing, Jefferson said, he had "engaged Davy Bowles," but "Jupiter was so much disturbed at this that I yielded." His death, Jefferson continued sadly, "leaves a void in my administration which I cannot fill up." James Hemings died in 1801. All we know is that Jefferson wrote to Thomas Mann Randolph of his "tragical end." 2

-376-

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