Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ann C. Morris

I recieved your letter dear Sister just as I was preparing to leave Boston to spend a week or 10 days with My Cambridge friends, thinking that I should not return to Washington till the last of May or the first of June but to my great surprise and disappointment the day after My return My escort sent me word that he had engaged My seat in the Stage and that we must be off at 5 the next morning. the steamboats and stages are so arranged now that you step from one to the other barely passing through the great towns without stopping a moment, which reduces the journey to 2 days & 2 nights of course if I had had time to write to you, it would have been of no avail travelling as we did “in the eye of the blast” I could not have seen you—at My return, I found the family not long since moved in to a large house a purchase of Nicholas’s, in which though much had been done, yet there remained still so much to do to have anything like comfort, that I turned in with more spirit than strength or judgement in the exertion of that strength, and as the Irish would say fairly kilt myself. I took such a dreadfull cold that I was confined to my bed more than a week and at least three to the house, extremely weak and languid having been very much reduced previous to my leaving Boston by a most harassing cough thank heaven I am so much better now that I can take advantage of a sunday the only day in the week that I have time to write and although too unwell to go to church yet I must write to you. speaking of Nicholas’s purchase of a house, it was one of those bargains that no one can understand. the house was built by Mr Rush just after his return from Europe. it cost him $10,000 besides the ground which was $2000 more, perfectly new and in good repair at least all that it wants might be done for 3 or $400: [. . .] a large Garden with fruit trees, back buildings with Stables, Carriage house, a Smoke house, lumber or wood room, extensive stable yards servants rooms & &. the house is 2 story and would be a large one for a common sized family. we fill it from the garrett to the basement being 17 grown persons including servants, and 6 children black & white; but this house and lot he purchased for $6000. thinking very judiciously justly that if he could not pay for it, the interest would be a much lower rent than we could get one for that would hold our family, and he could at any time sell it for more than he gave. since that he has had the consulship of Cuba given him, said to be a very lucrative one. but his vice consul writes him that the profits have been extravagantly exaggerated, that it does not yield more upon an average than $6573 and that living is so high that it will barely support a family with economy, & pay a vice Consul. that there are many very heavy expenses in the beginning papers which ought properly to belong to government, but which every consul must have in entering upon his office, and being of no earthly use when he leaves it, sells to his successor for what it cost him. that and making preparations for going to house keeping will render it impossible for him to take his family the first year. he himself will go this October. to give you some idea of the expense a gentleman who had resided there as a merchant some years told him that his board cost him about $1000 a year, that you might board in a decent house drinking nothing but water for $2 a day but that if you were sick the price of a black woman (a nurse) was $6 a day. he thinks the climate with too a great temperance in diet, and care not to expose your self to the sun or night air, or very early in the morning, is not so fatal as is generally said to be. but a few miles in the country it is perfectly healthy, a mountainous country producing the fruits of the atlantick states. Virginia and her children will spend this summer at Edge hill George who is still with me & Cornelia will accompany her. Mary Page poor Janes youngest daughter, is with us. her health was so bad that they sent her here, hoping the change of air would restore her, and fearing another summer in Florida for her in her weak state. I think she has very much recruited in the short time she has been with us and if a summer amongst her native Mountains will no doubt completely restore her. Virginia Cary’s school is still flourishing and popular. her daughter Mary Fairfax has lost her only child, her husband is in wretched health fancying all sorts of things, I presume hypocondriack; the greatest curse that can light upon an unfortunate man or his wife. death is a very trifling evil compared to a life of such suffering to one self, and torment to all around one. Jane who married a presbiterian clergyman [. . .] has a fine little boy. her husband is a very sensible man, and they are I believe very happy together Francis and Elisabeth are dissatisfied with Florida, and mean to move again, probably to Louisiana. Mr Randolph cannot leave the state on account of his office which I believe is a profitable one. the girls Lucy and Mary Page will probably take it by turns to be with him & their Sister. Lewis (My Son) is engaged to be married. to Margaret Meade. as [. . .] of Philadelphia. he poor fellow has nothing, and she I presume is also poor, of course no time can be fixed under such circumstances, and probably no plans; I should feel uneasy but that I have learnt to expect nothing, nor anticipate evil. for there is such absolute uncertainty in the most plausible calculations, that I never look 3 months ahead in that land of misty futurity. much evil that I have anticipated has never happened, of or if it did proved a blessing, and many blessings that I never could have forseen have befalln me. at the same time that I have been disappointed where I had most reason to hope. I do not know my future daughter in law, but she is accomplished and said to be a warm hearted generous tempered girl, indeed her engagement to L proves that; my only objection is on the score of his want of fortune. however as I said before I am done with calculations, I will do what I concieve to be my duty and await the consequences hoping always for the best.

God bless you dear Sister I believe I have given you all the news of my own family, out of it I know even less than you do of our common acquaintance. love to Governeur, and to your self the cordial regard of your friend & sister the girls all join in love to you both

M Randolph
RC (PPAmP: Smith-Houston-Morris-Ogden Family Papers); dateline beneath signature; addressed: “To Mrs Gouverneur Morris Morrissania West Farms P. O. New York”; stamped; postmarked City of Washington, 3 July.