Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge, with Notes by Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge Directed to Joseph Coolidge
|Edgehill. Sept. 15th 1833|
We have been such bad correspondents lately dear Ellen that I do not know whether any one but Virginia has written to you since George recieved his sailing orders, and she does not recollect whether she mentioned in it or not in her letter to you. poor fellow I parted with him the night before the last on his way to Norfolk where he had orders to report himself on the 15th. the notice was so short for the preparation which a cruise of one or two years requires that we have all been obligeded to exert our utmost speed to get him ready. I believe I wrote you word that Jefferson had sent him back to Washington for the girls & My self listening to no excuse about the size of the party. while making my preparations to come on here he reported the expiration of his leave of absence and recieved orders to join the Squadron at Norfolk on the 15th. they will probably not Sail till the first week in October, but he was obliged to be in place at the time appointed. I brought his things on with me, and every child that could hem a sheet helped, and so ably assisted I got all his work done in time. poor fellow it was with an aching heart that I parted with him, though he is only going to the West indies where I shall frequently hear from him. he is going in the flag ship the Vandalia, one of the finest ships in the service, but he objects very properly to her on account of her being the flag ship, of course remaining in port while the other vessels are on duty cruising, and offering less opportunity to a young semaman of improving his knowledge by active service. he said he would write to you from Norfolk. Virginia told me she had written to press you to come and spend the winter with us. do take it into consideration dear Ellen our house is large, & the family will be comparatively Speaking small, George, Julian, & Nicholas all having left us. our garden will afford a sheltered [. . .] play ground for the children, and two large piazzas above & below lying on the South side & the whole length of the house will give them exercise in the open air when it is too wet to go out. Jefferson has resolved to sell his plantation, pay the debt, and move to Missouri with the remains of his property. he has good reasons for quitting the state. the constant dread of insurrection which seems to be upper most in every one’s mind and which every sudden noise excites, is a state too painful to be borne. besides there is I think a hostile spirit towards him, and perhaps the family generally. that mean spirit of jealousy towards those whom the world considers [. . .] the superiors actuates many, political feelings others, and the presbiterian and methodistical predjudices against a man who estimated them at what they were worth and no more, with calvinistic malevolence, will visit the sins of the father upon his children. he was a rock against which their malice spent it’s fury in vain; his children may be borne down and against them a great deal of the dissapointed [. . .] malice to the father, will be exerted. I think with him Virginia is no longer a home for the family of Thomas Jefferson. the days of her glory are gone by, with Mr Madison (the last of her sons worthy the name)1 will have passed away; and deplorably little must be the race who have succeeded, when Watkins Leigh and General Scot can be spoken of as candidates for the Presidency—the monument is finished and the money for from the sale of the pictures came very seasonably to pay for it. Monticello is again in the market the yard is ploughed up to the door and planted in corn those glorious2 oaks & chessnut oaks in the grove are cut down. the place I am told is so totally changed that it is distressing to see it. the whole will soon be one mass of ruins so rapid has the work of destruction been—Jefferson’s tenderness for his negros has determined his choice of a slave state he says they are all good and attached to the family. if he permits them to choose other masters they will have no claims upon them, and will be liable to be sold again. they are anxious to follow him, and rather than sell them he has fixed upon Missouri where he can carry them with him, and yet from being surrounded with free states they will in time dissapear by degrees and without danger or violence as they have done to the north. he has a lovely family handsome and well disposed all of them, & daily improving in manners. they have a new governess an Irish lady who will I hope be an acquisition to them. she has very kindly offered Tim any assistance in her power with regard to her guitarr and singing. and the practice which she will [. . .] enforce will be of great service to her. her voice is sweet true & flexible but weak, and some of her little songs she really sings with taste. she plays quite agreably and is [imp]roving. adieu dearest Ellen kiss my own dear d[. . .] for me, and when you write, remember me most affectionately to dear Joseph, whose kind remembrance of me touches me to the hearts core. remember me also to your father & Mother. Mr & Mrs Storer Mrs Bullfinch and Mrs Swett. all here too many to mention join in love
God bless you My ever dear, and prosper you and yours is the daily and nightly prayer of your devoted mother. I have such an abomination of a pen that I can scarcely make a mark with it. ever and unchangeably yours
this letter, love, will interest & sadden you I think as it has done me—Monticello, a place where “the fox will soon look out of the window & the thistle wave it’s lonely head”—the family dispersed abroad—nothing remaining but the monument and the name of Thomas Jefferson.
With the fox will soon look out of the window. . . , Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge paraphrased Hugh Blair, describing the ruins of Balclutha, in “A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian,” included in Works of Ossian, Son of Fingal, by James MacPherson (London, 1765).