Elizabeth Moore Denies Jefferson's Advances
Elizabeth Moore’s relationship with Thomas Jefferson was, well, it was weird to say the least.
Despite being married to one of his best friends, Betsy was pursued by Jefferson in a very aggressive way. This story paints a picture most Americans are uncomfortable with, especially for a former President.
You’ve been warned.
This article is difficult for me to write.
Of all the Founders, I am most attached to Thomas Jefferson (my son’s name is Jefferson, if that is any indication of where my sympathies lay).
Thomas wrote the Declaration of Independence, the first three paragraphs of which are (in my opinion) the most beautiful, inspiring definition of what it means to be an individual (and how government should bend to the will of the individual) ever written.
That being said, I have never been a fan of ‘great man history.’
Jefferson had flaws, of this there is no doubt. He was a slave owner and, if you’re a Hamilton fan, well, you can make yourself a substantial list of grievances.
Of all his embarrassing habits, none sticks out more than his inability to talk to girls.
Seriously, this dude did some real cringe-worthy things.
With that, I introduce to you Elizabeth Moore Walker.
Elizabeth Moore married John Walker in 1764.
Elizabeth, commonly called Betsy, did not come with the usual dowry given to a man of Walker’s ambitions. It was important for both fathers of the couple to note in letters that this decision was Betsy’s alone (and due to the lack of a dowry, based on John’s love).
The couple had one daughter, Milly, and settled into the comfortable life of wealthy planters.
Four years into their marriage, John agreed to travel to New York for six months in an effort to negotiate a treaty with the Iroquois Nation.
While he was away, he asked his best friend to look after his wife and child. This friend just happened to be a little-known lawyer by the name of Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson gladly accepted the request.
During some of these visits, Thomas betrayed Johns trusted and made advances on Betsy. She seems to have soundly rejected his moves and after John returned home things went back to normal.
As years passed, Thomas himself was married. However, This did not seem to stop his interest in Betsy and eventually he again began to flirt with her.
First, he passed her a letter which discussed “the innocence of promiscuous love.” Betsy, for her part, tour up the letter immediately.
Additionally, the Walkers had a closet which opened on two sides. One door was to their bedroom, the other to a guest room. One morning when Betsy went into the closet, Jefferson (who had stayed the night) was waiting for her “indecent in manner.”
Finally, during a visit where several men were gathered on the first floor, Jefferson faked an illness and went upstairs (he was always a sickly person, so this probably did not surprise his friends). While up there, he walked into Betsy’s room while she was changing.
The Pursuit Concludes
Fortunately, Betsy was able to get herself out of all of these situations.
Eventually, Jefferson’s attempts at seduction stopped, roughly around when he became Governor.
It was not until Thomas sailed as ambassador to France that Betsy told John about all that had transpired. This seems to be due to her fear that, to maintain his honor, Walker would have been forced to challenge Jefferson to a duel.
Again, this was the man he considered his best friend. He was the first name listed in Walker’s will.
Thomas was in France for five years and, upon his return, went to New York as Secretary of the Treasury.
The two men simply stopped speaking.
Fifteen years later, Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States.
James Callender, a journalist who once worked for Jefferson but was upset about not receiving an appointment as Port Collector, decided to dig up some dirt.
Callender was able to find out about the Walker affair and published it in his paper.
Jefferson was able to offer a quiet apology through some mutual friends. Fortunately, due to the amount of time that had passed, a duel was avoided. He also escaped much of the embarrassment suffered by Alexander Hamilton during the Reynolds Affair.
As for Betsy, she lived a long and happy life, passing away just two months before her husband in 1809.
Do you want to read about Founding Mothers who’s story was, well, more fun?
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Want to read more about Betsy Moore?
Much of the info in this article come from the great book ‘Mr. Jefferson’s Women.’
If focuses on all the women Jefferson ‘loved’ and Betsy has a whole chapter dedicated to her. Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).