Nicholas P. Trist to Virginia J. Randolph (Trist)

The happy prospect that my heart has been living in lately, dearest Virginia, has vanished; and left me again in painful darkness!—I almost begin to despair of being able to return to you; at least the prospect is such a distant one that my heart sickens at it.—The resource which I calculated on with so much certainty has failed me; and God knows where I shall find another.—Two of the letters that I received in company with your last were from Natchez. On the day which had been agreed upon for the conveyance of the property to Mr Dunbar, it was discovered that a proper one could not be made, owing to a defect in our title; to wit the want of the conveyance to my Grandfather, by the man whom he purchased of.—This conveyance has been lost, by some of the careful friends to whom it has been entrusted; and though our title is as equitable as can be, still it is not legal, and no one can purchase with safety until it is made so. Mr Dunbar was prevailed on however, by my friend in Natchez, to pay the stipulated sum, on receiving security for the completion of his title. The gentleman Lawyer, [. . .] had the management of the former suit [. . .] to another, in the court of Chancery, to compel the persons on whom [. . .] of this paper has thrown the legal title, to release their claim; but, that this may if possible be avoided, I have written to Mr Poindexter, requesting that as he professes so much interest in me, and regard for my father’s memory, he will assist me in a piece of business which it was his duty to attend to sixteen years ago. It appears from the evidence given by Mr Poindexter before the board of Land commissioners, that the conveyor to my Grandfather acknowledged to have made a deed, and offered to make another; and that this offer was not attended to, does not prove a very deep Solicitude in the breast of the honorable gentleman. I trust however, that he will be able to do what I have requested him; and if that be the case, all may yet go well: and I may have the happiness of embracing you, my best love, within the next Six months. why cannot I set out tomorrow? why am I not sure of seeing you even then?—My mind cannot be easy until this new difficulty is set at rest, for it may involve me in others with Mr D.— Indeed, my first impulse was to return him his money; but a man in debt is not his own master; and even if I had not been so situated, the idea of rejoining you, would have made me run the risk of keeping it.—The next money I get, will be my own; and as we have despatched letters to Ireland, to sell the property there for whatever it may bring, it will not be very long I hope, before we receive some from thence.—Another source of anxiety has lately sprung up, in the myriads of caterpillars, which the trees are covered with, and which bode no good to the cotton. If this crop is ruined, it will be a staggering blow, if not a mortal one.—Since my last letter to you, I have received proposals for the Baton-rouge land; which I now more than ever wish to find a purchaser for: for an opportunity offers for a more advantageous investment of our capital than would ever again perhaps, present itself. The manager of a Sugar estate in the neighbourhood, who is justly considered as one of the very best planters in the State, and is as sober, steady and œconomical as [he is] industrious and successful, casually mentioned to me so[me] time ago, [. . .] from his present situation, and establish a [planta]tion on his own acc[ou]nt, if he could find a partner who would furnish fifteen [or?] twenty hands: I immediately mentioned this to Browse, and we both think that it would be most advantageous to our interests, if we could dispose of the highlands in time to join him. The culture of the cane, although the same fortunes can no longer be made by it, that have been, is still the best application for such property as we hold, in the South, that I know of: and I wish that every cent I have in the world was already embarked in it. Then I should be able to fix a period for my return; for there is always some revenue made on a sugar plantation.

I dined the other day at Donaldsonville, with Colo Nicholas and a Mr Yancey, who came through the western country with Wilson; [. . .] I have not yet seen him, owing to multiplicity of business; and my being obliged to attend to the ‘incomings’ and ‘outgoings’ of the mail as strictly as old Girard himself, which does not accord with my determination to spend several days with them when I do go. Besides, all our horses except those belonging to the carriage, found purchasers at the auction, and I am reduced to one who would have proved a good antidote to Don Quixote’s chivalric phrenzy, and who therefore is honored with my weight, only when it is absolutely necessary:—however, this shall not deter me from going, the [first?] fair weather I have two or three days at my disposal.

I am was surprised to hear that the weather in Feb. had not been more remarkably severe with you: it has killed [all] the orange trees in the State, even those in N.O. which are surrounded with b[rick?] walls; and the fig trees, which live under our sky, are but now beginning to put forth a few straggling leaves from the lower branches, the topmost being entirely dead. such a winter it is said was never known, and it has considerably injured the cane of those who follow the Shallow mode of planting.

Say to Ellen that I never wish her to encrease, or run the risk of getting, a headache by writing to me: I will rest assured that She will write whenever the [la]borious part can be done without fatigue; and sha[ll] be careful not to impute her silenc[e to] motives that I shoud be sorry to believe in: embrace her affectionately for me, as well as [Cornel]ia and Mary, as Mo[ther] must have suffered a good deal from her week’s [. . .] letter brought a promise of reform, I will also withdraw my [. . .] her devoted head! You speak no more of your fath[er] than if he was not in the land of the living, or if I cared nothing about him. Browse again desires me to express his warm affection for you all he considers the period he spent among you as one of those a spot on memory’s waste which the brightest can never outshine, nor the most dimming damps ever obliterate. May fortune not refuse him the opportunity of cultivating it still more, at some future day. adieu! It is needless, but I take pleasure in [re]peating to you, my beloved Virginia, that time only Serves to confirm affections, which are Still as true, as warm and ardent as ever

Your own
RC (NcU: Southern Historical Collection, Nicholas Philip Trist Papers); mutilated at seal and folds; addressed: “Mrs M. Randolph of Monticello Near Charlottesville Albemarle County Virginia”; stamped.