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John Wayles Eppes (Physiognotrace)
Artist/Maker: Charles Févret de Saint-Mémin (1770-1852)
Dimensions: D: 5.7 (2 1/4 in.)
Location: South Square Room
Owner: Library of Congress
Historical Notes: Jefferson was delighted when John Wayles Eppes proposed marriage to his daughter Maria, and he wrote glowingly of his future son-in-law: "A long acquaintance with him has made his virtues familiar to me and convinced me that he possesses every quality necessary to make you happy and to make us all happy."1 John and Maria were married at Monticello in October 1797, after a lifelong courtship. When her mother died, the four-year-old Mary Jefferson (later called Maria) went to live with her aunt, Elizabeth Wayles Eppes, at Eppington in Chesterfield County, Virginia. There she met her cousin John, five years her elder. The two renewed their friendship after Maria's return from France, and both lived with Jefferson in Philadelphia when he was secretary of state.
Jefferson greatly influenced John's education by recommending that he attend his alma mater, the College of William and Mary, and later directed his study of law in Philadelphia. Eppes was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1794 and began his political career in 1800, when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. He served his first term in Congress in the fall of 1803 with his brother-in-law Thomas Mann Randolph, and returned to Monticello the next spring, just before his wife died at the age of twenty-five after the birth of their third child. Only one of their children, Francis, lived to adulthood. Jefferson remained close to his grandson and son-in-law.2
- Text from Stein, Worlds, 207
- Library of Congress. "John Wayles Eppes, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left." American Memory.
- 1. Jefferson to Mary Jefferson, [June 14, 1797], in PTJ, 29:429-30. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 2. Malone, Jefferson, 4:408-15. Saint-Mémin's original crayon drawing of Eppes, which descended through the family until acquired by a private collector, is on loan to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.