Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ann C. Morris

Dear Nancy

I have so long ceased to be surprised at anything William does, or rather at any want of judgement in him, that even his singular letter to you excited no feeling of that sort. he does what logicians call “begging the question” that is he takes that for granted, which remains to be proved. it is customary to send boys to school to be educated, without therefore considering whether a boy may not be as well educated at home, or enquiring in to the competence of his teacher; as he was not sent to school he takes for granted that he has received no education. in like manner he knows that Mr Morris was very wealthy, & that the widow of one rich man, & the mother of another, should live in state. whether the payments of great debts [. . .] may not render the most rigid economy necessary is perhaps a step beyond our reasoner. being as he says the eldest member of the family he has the priviledge of advising the younger ones, the competence there also must be “taken for granted”. I never hear from William, & see so little of him that I have no idea of the source from which he draws his information, but of I can see that1 that any no one in a visit of a few hours could form any idea of one so modest & unobtrusive as Gouverneur appeared to me his advise however in one thing I think is good. the finishing of his education at some of the Universities. I should my self perhaps rather incline to Philadelphia, or our own, not that a boy with competent teachers may not learn as much, or even more at home, but the happiness, perhaps even the success of their his after life seems to require that they should be brought early in to colision with men with whom their life is to be spent and with whom they will often have to contend, to resist, and even controul. it certainly requires a boldness of character that perhaps can nowhere not be acquired but to by mixing early with them. a private education is too apt to foster habits of extreme sensitiveness and diffidence which are allways painful, and often form a bar some times an insuperable one to a man’s success in life. so far my dear friend I think our brother’s advice good though I would by no means vouch that for the train of reasoning which led to his conclusions. I have some where in my disultory reading seen the characters of men compared to different animals; how many two legged wolves & foxes, to say nothing of an occasional tiger or hyena one meets in our intercourse with our own species few who have reached our years but must well know; although I am no misanthrope, and have always believed there was more good than bad & more weakness than either. but it is necessary in early life to mix with them to know them, and it is only in youth that those habits can be formed which enable us to cope with them. after laughing at William for his forwardness unasked to give advice, I am follo[w]ing his example. I too can plead superior age if not superior abili[ty] but the circumstance of his letter has drawn forth my opinions upon the subject, and the interest I take in Gouverneur would prevent my with holding any hint that might be serviceable to him & you my dear Nancy as his mother. after all it is but a speculative opinion and rather calculated to excite your own reflections upon the subject than to direct your conduct which of course will be governed by your own opinion.

Mann has got a lieutenantcy on board one of the revenue cutters with a pay of 54 $ a month and I beleive some thing like a promise of someth[ing] better should it turn up. the girls correspond with Jane’s daughters. Harriet & Lucy are keeping a boarding school at home, how long it [may?] be necessary will probably depend upon Mr R—s management. the co[. . .] is abundant and luxury has been able to gain but little footing [. . .] people who live in log houses with but little furniture of the [. . .]

adieu my dear Sister I have written in haste & amidst such a clatter of tongues as would confuse a better head than mine excuse & burn it if you please give my love to Gouverneur & beleive me ever yours

M Randolph
RC (PPAmP: Smith-Houston-Morris-Ogden Family Papers); dateline beneath signature; mutilated at fold and seal; addressed: “Mrs Gouverneur Morris Morrisania Haarlem Post office New York”; stamped; postmarked City of Washington, 3 Apr.
1Above the preceding four words Randolph interlined and then deleted “this I am of one thing.”