Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Thomas Jefferson Autograph Letter Signed "Th: Jefferson" as President, one page, 8" x 9.75". Washington, April 25, 1803. Integral leaf addressed by him to his daughter, "Mrs. Maria Eppes/Bermuda Hundred." In full, "My dear Maria, A promise made to a friend some years ago, but executed only lately, has placed my religious creed on paper. I have thought it just that my family, by possessing this, should be enabled to estimate the libels published against me on this, as on every other possible subject. I have written to Philadelphia for Dr Priestley's history of the corruptions of Christianity, which I will send you, & recommend to an attentive perusal, because it establishes the groundwork of my view of this subject. In a letter from mr Eppes dated the [Bermuda] Hundred Apr. 14. he informed me Francis had got well through his measles; but he does not say what your movements are to be - my chief anxiety is that you should be back to Monticello by the end of June. I shall advise Martha to get back from here by the middle of July, because the sickly season really commences here by that time, altho' the members of the government venture to remain till the last week of that month. - mr & mrs P. Carr staid with me 5. or 6. days on their way to Baltimore. I think they propose to return in June. Nelly Carr continues in ill health. I believe they expect about the same time to get back to Dunlora. I wrote to mr Eppes yesterday - be assured of my most affectionate and tender love to yourself, and kiss Francis for me. my cordial salutations to the family of Eppington when you see them. Adieu." Dunlora was land along the Rivianna River granted to Major Thomas Carr in 1730; Carr's grandson was married to Thomas Jefferson's sister, Martha. The "Martha" mentioned in this letter was Jefferson's eldest child. Martha and Maria where the only two of his six children who survived to adulthood. Francis Wayles Eppes (1801-1881), son of Maria and John Wayles Eppes ("mr. Eppes"), was born at Monticello on September 20, 1801, so Thomas Jefferson's grandson was 19 months old when this letter was written. John Wayles Eppes had just entered Congress on March 4, 1803. On April 17, 1804, Maria died during childbirth; she was 25. The baby, named Maria, died in 1807.

    The "promise made to a friend" was to Dr. Benjamin Rush, a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence. On April 21, 1803, four days before writing this letter to Maria, Jefferson wrote to Rush. In part, "In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry & reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other...In the moment of my late departure from Monticello, I received from Doctr Priestley, his little treatise of 'Socrates & Jesus compared.' This being a section of the general view I had taken of the field, it became a subject of reflection while on the road, and unoccupied otherwise. The result was, to arrange in my mind a syllabus, or outline of such an estimate of the comparative merits of Christianity, as I wished to see executed by some one of more leisure and information for the task, than myself. This I now send you, as the only discharge of my promise I can probably ever execute..." He enclosed his "Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus, Compared With Those of Others," beginning, "In a comparative view of the Ethics of the enlightened nations of antiquity, of the Jews and of Jesus, no notice should be taken of the corruptions of reason among the ancients, to wit, the idolatry & superstition of the vulgar, nor of the corruptions of Christianity by the learned among its professors." Jefferson divided his "Syllabus" into three parts: "Philosophers," "Jews," and "Jesus."

    In a June 17, 1804, letter to Henry Fry of Madison County, Virginia, after sending him a copy of History of the Corruptions of Christianity by Joseph Priestley (London: 1793), Jefferson says, in part, "The work of D Priestly which I sent you has always been a favorite of mine. I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught but I hold in the most profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invented by priestcraft and established by kingcraft constituting a conspiracy of church and state against the civil and religious liberties of mankind..." The letter has horizontal and vertical folds and a small circular browning from the imprint of the wax used to seal this letter. The right part of one horizontal fold, between lines, is lightly browned. Two vertical folds at the left are heavy folds but do not materially affect the letter's appearance. There is a tear in the integral address leaf where Maria opened this letter from her father. In fine condition, this is a truly magnificent letter about religion by the man who 27 years earlier had alluded to his religious beliefs when he wrote that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 426

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold on Apr 16, 2007 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2022 February 11 Manuscripts Signature® Auction .

    Learn about consigning with us

    We had a wonderful time in New York during the October 2013 Historical Manuscripts auction that featured my mother’s papers collected during her tenure as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s secretary. In fact, the entire experience from beginning to end has been a pleasure.
    Howard Ballou,
    Brandon, MS
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search