Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ann C. Morris

I have not written for a long time My dear Sister because in truth I had nothing but painful subjects to communicate.1 the unfortunate event of the sale I have long anticipated not altogether however to the extent it has gone. the property has fallen very far short of the payment of the debts. it is generally said, by the very injudicious division of the land. that R had made Jefferson a deed for a certain number of acres when he came of age but had not run the lines, leaving that to his own convenience at the time he should lay it off; and in the final division of the tract in lots which he thought would be more saleable than the whole he run Jefferson’s lines along the back of the plantation giving him a narrow slip about 2 miles long. this unfortunately took off so much of the wood lands from the other divisions that some of them I understand had not wood to enclose them, or for fuel. besides running down also in long narrow slips from the mountain to the road. every one predicted what happened that the land could not be sold at any thing like it’s value at those under those circumstances. it was cried 4 hours at 16, $ for a part only people got tired of waiting and were going off when Jefferson offered 17, for the whole it was knocked off to him at that. the negroes were most of them old and no young ones [. . .] amongst them and sold for little or nothing. Old Scylla Priscilla and Betsy with her children, Critty’s 3 little orphan girls and an Orphan child of Molly Warren’s making in all 3 women old and infirm and 8 little children all under Septimia’s age, all girls but one were settled upon me in fee simple, in consideration of My relinquishment of dower in 2 great estates. under existing circumstances the word dower would never have been mentioned by Me, but My dear Jefferson who is the support of his family, had intended bidding for them for me to spare me the sorrow of seeing these my house servants and their children sold out of the family I remembered that a 9th of the property had been settled upon Lucy in the same circumstances, and proposed this arrangement not from interested motives heaven knows for in point of value the consideration is nothing but to save Jefferson the first charge them without putting Jefferson to the expense of the purchase. they are in Justice though not in law his for 5000 $ of the deficiency of the property falls upon him—T. E. R —recovers his 8000, $ which will save him for the present. I do not know enough of his affairs to know any thing farther. but had the sale of Edgehill been postponed, the house from over his head would have gone and I believe every thing else besides. thank God so far they are safe. Mr R— can never want a home whilst my dear father possesses one, and although he is most unjustly too indignant against Jefferson to accept any thing from him, yet he will make arrangements with a common friend to assist him with what ever he may require and to look to him Jefferson for the reimbursement. he means to Join a man of the name of Warren (the son of your mother’s old housekeeper) who has a press, in a newspaper and magazine in hopes of beeing able to do something to retrieve his fortunes. but I am afraid of his health’s failing from excessive anxiety of mind. the idea of having a burthen of debt to consume his earnings is a dreadful one, and we have no bankrupt law in this state to protect a man in his first efforts to retrieve his losses. My dear father wrote most kindly and pressingly to him to live with us altogether, for of late years he has spent most of his time at his plantations, but his independence of spirit will not permit him to stay where he could be doing nothing for himself or his family, his spirits are gone and he is completely overwhelmed. I think however if he sees any prospect of success in his new career that he will be happier than he has been for years past apprehending and forseeing as he often did his approaching ruin—Ddid you hear of poor Ellen’s misfortune? the ship in which all her books, papers, a part of her cloaths and all the little keep sakes of her whole life, with some handsome recent presents from her friends was lost at sea and every thing went to the bottom except the crew, who were saved by being taken up by another ship from their boats to which they had trusted for safety; and from which they witnessed the foundering of the ship. In a land of strangers, though kind as heaven to her, she had looked with more than usual [. . .] affection to these only mementi of “dear home” and was dreadfully affected at the loss. knowing how she would value them, I had packed up some of the beautiful specimens of china that you My dear Sister have so kindly sent me from time to time also one of your Elegant curtains and a beautiful piece of plate that her poor father had giv[en her] with numberless other little treasures they were so [. . .] affect[. . .] heart. all, all were lost she has nothing with her that [. . .] own[ed bef]ore her marriage but a few trinkets. she was very much distressed at the loss not on account of their value, but from their associations with the idea of a loved home and the friends of her childhood—she expects to be confined sometime this spring and is [. . .] extremely anxious that Cornelia should be with her. but although her father had made an arrangement for the purpose yet I do not know whether we can accomplish it. My life of late years has been such a tissue of privations and disappointments that it is impossible for me to believe that any of my wishes will be gratified, or if they are, not to fear some hidden mischief flowing even from their success. adieu dear sister. I hear with infinite satisfaction of the success of the dearest wishes of your heart, in the daily improvement of Gouverneur. present me affectionately to him and I promise not to croak so much again. heaven knows it is not natural to me but I have suffered enough in silence to make amends for an occasinal moment of forgetfulness. Dear Ann has just had a son who as well as her self are doing well adieu if I had time to write another I would not send this disgracefull scrawl but any thing is better that [. . .] than such a longer silence

RC (PPAmP: Smith-Houston-Morris-Ogden Family Papers); torn at seal; addressed: “Mrs Gouverneur Morris Morissania Haarlem Post Office near New York”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 24 Jan.
1Manuscript: “commincate.”