Thomas Jefferson Randolph to Charles Wirtenbaker

Copy of a letter of T. J. Randolph to Mr Charles Wirtenbaker. Charlottesville

Dear Sir.

Your note inclosing that of Gov. Wise is before me. I most fully appreciate his Excellency’s feelings and views, but as the nearest relative and sole Executor of Mr Jefferson I cannot disregard what I know to have been his cherished domestic feeling, fostered while he lived with a warmth and intensity never cooled by the cares and struggles of a life devoted to the public service.

On the death of his youngest daughter, Mrs Eppes, in 1804, he reserved a space for his own body between his wife and his daughter. On his own death his wishes were attended to—he lies between them.

I who knew the fervour of his domestic feelings unsullied by collision with the world, cannot doubt that the removal of his remains from proximity to these cherished objects of his affections would have been painful to him—and to my mother who reposes across the heads of her father, mother and sister. I am by will the sole representative of my mother and owner of this spot sacred to our feelings, and solely responsible for action in this matter. Can there be any monument more imperishable than the mountain itself in whose bosom he is entombed? I think not, and none so acceptable to himself. My fellow citizens of the County of Albemarle have too some feelings on this subject which I would not offend.

It is true I have at considerable expence, placed a monument over the grave of Mr Jefferson, ascertained by some written memoranda left by himself as being what he himself wished, likewise tablets with inscriptions over his wife and daughters which have been desecrated and destroyed. They have been renewed and again destroyed. A high wall, iron gratings and locks have been no protection. The locks have been battered from their fastenings, and sledge hammers used to break the hard granite of the Monument. Individuals to gratify a desire to possess fragments of these memorials of the dead have disregarded the private rights and the most hallowed and cherished of the private feelings of Mr Jefferson’s family residing in the immediate vicinity and witnessing outrages which they cannot prevent. What would be the feelings of these individuals were they called on to witness almost daily the mutilation by stranger hands of memorials placed by their affections over the graves of loved and honored parents? Have they a right to suppose that our feelings are less sensitive than theirs?

Hopeless of preserving any monument I had seriously contemplated placing a cairn of loose stones over this group of graves as the only means of marking permanently the spot. These outrages have never however for a moment suggested the idea of their removal.

With great respect yours
Th. J. Randolph.
Tr (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence, Letterbook); in the hand of Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge.
Recipient
Charles Wirtenbaker
Date Range
Date
January 1, 1856 to December 31, 1860
Collection