Joseph Coolidge to Nicholas P. Trist

dear Nicholas—

I owe you many apologies, but my delay in writing has been unavoidable;—much occupation, and not a little perplexity, is the lot of every man in business during times like these. The last year has been one of universal embarassment; those who made fortunes 30 years ago may congratulate their rich old age; for few, I apprehend, will rapidly amass wealth hereafter. it is something beyond my comprehension, this competition—wh: pervades all classes, in a country so young, & so thinly peopled, as ours! our luxurious habits, too, have outstripped our fortunes; and while you at the South are railing at us here for being shrewd & selfish and money-getting, we, at the north, are living more expensively, in proportion to our estates, than any people in the world.—Do not fear, from the strain in which I have indulged, that matters have gone awry with me. they have not;—tho. every man in business is liable to be made bankrupt at a moment’s warning—without fault of his own; (but this from me may the Gods avert!) I mean now, however, in compliance with a request in a former letter of yours to lift up the curtain, and give you a moment’s glance at the results of last years business—. Our commissions and profits, without making any deduction for expences and losses were $ 6000. in addition to my half is the interest upon money put into the concern—say $ 1200. or perhaps more. from this 6000. deduct nearly 3000. for expenses—viz, store rent, & clerk hire, & the other indispensables such as light and fire &c. &c.—then come bad debts which diminished by amo. paid us for guarranteing debts wh. have not proved bad, are equal to $ 1000.—leaving my partner and myself—1000 ea. for our business and on my interest besides—: if the suit which I once spoke to you about at Monticello goes in our favour it will enable us to add $1000 more to our profits—but of this there is little chance.—Thus you see the chances of trade have been sorely against us—: but we began at an unhappy moment; and had we not bought the succession of S. R. Miller we might, and probably should, have lost 5 times as much, at lea[st] this, in short hand, is the statement of matters at the beginning of 1827. and we hope better things for the beginning of 1828. Only one word more, My part[ner] has proved all and more than I could have found in any other: besides his great merit as a man of business, he is gentlemanly, educated, modest, and of incorruptible honesty!—An[d] now for the subject of yr. last letter, but before entering upon it, I give copy of bill for Dr Dunglison—viz.

1827—Jany 30.To 1 Qc. Cask Sicily madeira wine—29 gls c.125— 36.25
carting .25

it was shipped in Schr President, for Richmond, and is safely before this I trust deposited; in a [. . .] in the Dr’s cellar.

In yrs of Jany 21. you gave me an acct. of the sale, and the purchases ma[de] for my acct—: let me thank you for all the trouble you have had, and for your anxiety to whatever you supposed would be gratifying to me—; and then; let me as frankly, confess that my first Emotions were those of disappointment, at finding that the several articles, upon which, to use an old phrase, I had set my heart, had gone into the possession of others.—Respect[ing] the clock; you did right—! I should have been sorry to have paid so much as was [paid] for it by the Dr. and am glad that, as he manifested so great a desire to have it, it has come into his possession; gratis: The Washington & the Paul-Jones—I am now g[lad] to have, tho. I should not, I think, have bought them had I have present: the first, I shall let[. . .] and have often wondered that it never occurred to me before the sale, as to be desired: the Paul Jones—too—I shall be very glad to add to the valuable collection of busts [of] the Boston Atheneum: let them be carefully packed, I entreat you, by Johnny, hims[elf.] as for the Earl of Buchan wh. comes next in yr. list, I am indifferent about him, let him go to NewYork—: The full length Lafayette I myself gave to Him, and do not wish again. about the Bonaparte I am uncertain—: having an original drawing from th[e] original picture, by David, & the beautiful [. . .] Sévres porcelain bust, and the medallion profile I am willing that this, too, should go with the Buchan: so, too, about the Moncada, and the Belisarius: it is not the prices to wh. I object—they will bring these I doubt not; but [I] do not particularly care to possess them, as for Voltaire & Turgot—they are hardly worth s[uo] [. . .] being so dirty; [. . .] but they went for nothing.—I am glad you did not buy the B[. . .] as for the thermometers—those by the bed-side,—I should have been very glad to have had them: indeed, I wanted them very much; but your reasons are sufficient; and I have since bought one a Fahreinheit, for $ 200 and sent to France to import one of Breguet’s Spirals.

As respects the octagon table. I did not know that the desk on the top formed a necessary part of it; it was Ellen’s wish that I should write for it; she meant to have kept it as a depository for her own letters—but we cannot object to or regret its intended destination in the absence of the octagon, however, she is very glad that you have secured the square table! and now for the sword—You tell me it is Jefferson’s—: perhaps, as he has the watch and the gun, he would consent to part with it. if so, I would very gladly get it: but mind, dear N. that I do not mean to beg it; to ask it as a favor—; let all be aboveboard—say to him directly what I have said to you—and ask him if he will part with it; and receive in return—either its value in money, or in furniture, or whatever can be procured here better than with you. The violins I would have purchased, and wish you to let me know if they go North, and where?and now for the Zenobia—find out who has it, and buy it for us—there are peculiar associations connected it with it, and we wish much to have it: also, if you can, get the Humboldt!—The monticello house, (in his own room) remains I pres[ume] unsold; and am glad you did not buy the other. There is one other which I [. . .] much: you speak of several of the medallions being sold; but say nothing of that [. . .] miniature of Cromwell, which hung near the Belisarius: that, I want, if it is sold buy it from me, and if it is to be sold, secure it:—I had written what precedes some days since, and Ellen now desires me to say that if you can procure the Campeachy chair, with his initials, she wishes you to do so, at any price—. Mother, too, wishes that the Lafayette, (engraving) should be procured for her, and gives you a commission to this effect: and I wish to ask who bought the small stove, in the niche of the tea-room, and for how much it sold, and if it can be obtained?—in yours there has is something said about the books; has any thing been done about them?—

On looking over the foregoing I change my mind and wish the Bonaparte & Belisarius & Moncada retained, and sent me. they will enable me to give some little remembrance of him to those friends here who knew & valued him.And now dear N—about yrself—several letters of late have spoken of yr. intention to come to Washington and Settle: in some accts the plan seems to me to be good; but my partner and his Bro. have lived many years in Washington, and one of them as a lawyer and can of course give you full and accurate information respecting the place: I will ask them to do so. My friend Mr Sparks tells me that he wrote to Jefferson about a visit to Albemarle and to ask if he could be permitted to see the papers: I believe he has recd [. . .]answer; tell me how matters stand, respecting them: and tell m[e] also, if you cannot come on for Mother in the Spring? I wish it very much: I have much to shew you; and yr. health would be improved and much information gained respecting the true state of the North.

there is one request more—. I wish you to get from Leschot, a description of a watch, such as he considers the best—: I mean to send for one for Ellen one of these days—: without repetition but of the most perfect principle, as respects escapement, jewelling, &c—: In fact a sufficie[nt] description to send abroad—I want his opinion of the best, most simple, and accurate and beautiful contrivance for making time—whether Breguet, Leroy-Berthoud, [. . .] Cylindrical, patent lever, dumb beat: or what not—:

toujours—votre ami
J: C J[r]
RC (DLC: NPT); torn at seal; edge trimmed; addressed: “To N: P: Trist. Charlottesville Albemarle Cy Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Boston, 13 Mar.; endorsed by Trist: “Coolidge (Joseph) recd March 19. ’27.”