Martha Jefferson Randolph to Septimia A. Randolph (Meikleham)

I have staid from church dear Septimia for the express purpose of answering your letter. I am not surprised at your predilection for the catholic faith; at your age I believed most religiously that it was the only road to heaven, and looked forward with fear and terror to the possibility of never again having it in my power to profess my self a member of that church which I beleived the true, and orriginial one: my affection for my father prevented my taking any step at so early an age without his approbation, he asked of me, what I ask of you, do nothing precipitately, if after your judgement is matured you find it necessary for your happiness to enter embrace the catholic church faith you will find no opposition from me. but at your age the immagination, and our fears, are all alive, and the judgement which depends upon experience, and reflection [. . .] is entirely unformed: listen to the arguments on both sides without fear, knowing as you do your own sincerity in the search of truth, wait a few years till you see what the result will be, and then decide according to your conscience—confession I do not object to because the self examination to which it obliges us [. . .] leads to a knowledge of our self the more rigid as we dare not admit vanity or pride to bias one the true and sincere statement exposision, which we must humble our selves to make, without indulgence, or partiality to our weaknesses. and that thorough examination and knowledge of self to which it leads, enables us to be upon our guard, to wach watch, & correct our faults besetting sin. but I must acknowledge that I see nothing of it in the bible, of course that is one of the additions to Christ’s orriginal doctrines. a beleif in the trinity which we think was no doctrine of his, but added by one of the councils 300 years after him, is essential to the most monstrous article of their creed, the transubstantiation. what a degrading idea of the almighty creator and ruler of the Universe, to suppose that he would transform himself into a little bit of wafer to be eaten, and digested by his creatures. and although there is but one god yet most assuredly according to their belief every communion day their there must be thousands, for all over the world where catholicks are taking it, each has his own god, father son and holy ghost, the body & blood of our saviour along with it, in his stomach at the same time. and of what use is such a miracle if it were possible? for those who do not believe in it are equally followers of Christ, and eat the bread in remembrance of the last supper which he took with his apostles. his miracles had all some definite purpose. he gave sight to the blind, restored the use of their limbs to the cripple, and raised the dead from the tomb, in presence of thousands, that seeing his supernatural powers they might know that his mission was a divine one they saw those miracles with their eyes, and their there was a reason for them; but when the catholick priest tells us that he has converted a chalice full of wafers in to so many gods we have only his word for it, for to our eyes they are still but wafers, and for what has he done this miracle,? that [. . .] like cannibals we might eat our God. the idea to me is not only absurd, and disgusting, but absolutely blasphemous. [. . .] and we can only receive it in our minds by a sacrafice of our reason & common sense. those that are brought up in that opinion from their infancy when impressions are deepest, and who are taught that it is impious to reason upon those the opinions subject, that every doubt is a temptation of Satan, are afraid to use the reason that God has given them [. . .] their purgatory is a rational modification of hell, where the punishment is said to be eternal, but still I am forced to admit that there is no authority for it in the new testament the catholicks say that theirs is the true faith to which christ made the promise “that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her” if we take the promise on a broader basis and suppose it to be made to the christian religion at large, of which the catholic is only a sect, it is much more conformable to reason, for certainly the catholicks have added so much to the simple doctrines of Christ that it bears very little resemblance to the d[. . .] orriginal system as we find in it in the new testament, which is the basis upon which every sect has built up a code according to the character of their reformer or other circumstances—a strait forward sincerity in our opinion, or if they are unsettled a sincere desire for truth is all that [is] required of us as to faith. strict morality, the controul of our passions, is equally a part of religion designated by the term “good works” Mr Greenwood said very justly there was no such thing as religion without morality. that “religion was virtue and virtue was religion.” if we are in error after having done every thing in our power to come at the truth we cannot in common sense believe that a just God will punish us for the weakness of an understanding which he himself gave us, and which we can only use make the best use of accou according to our powers. if we seek not to flatter or deceive ourselves he will never punish us for the want of that judgement which he alone could give us. I think it is a duty to cultivate the talents he has given us, and to improve them by reading and other means; but infalibility is not demanded of short sighted imperfect beings like us, let us feel that we have acted to the best of our judgement and rest assured that nothing more can be required of us—I have written you a hurried scrawl dear Septimia upon a very important subject; but it is better to send this than run the risk of losing the opportunity by copying it over and methodising what I have said. I write as I speak, but the repititions and incorrect modes of expression which do not strike us in [. . .] conversation make a bad appearance of on paper. however I write not for the critick but for my dear children, who will excuse in ellegancies of expression and carelessness of diction. I will still repeat what I said in the beginning of my letter if after a few years your still persevere I shall not oppose any step that your maturer judgement may approve, and no difference of opinion can diminish the love I shall always feel for you. and if as our saviour says “In My fathers house are many apartments” so must there be many roads leading to that house—now with regard to Mrs White, she has been uniformly kind and attentive to us, she may be deserve what the world says of her, but I would not be the one to “throw the first stone” I never would take the lead in [. . .] hunting a fellow creature out of society and making desperate one who may yet recover. I would certainly visit her, and very particularly Mr Hayne. I am bound to South Carolina in gratitude for every thing of comfort that we possess. if her political opinions are wrong I am sorry for it, but our concern is with her kind acts to us, not her defective politics. old Mrs Findlay also I think the girls should visit, Mrs Wayne they will of course and when they do visit any friends of mine particularly those I have mentioned I wish to be kindly and respectfully mentioned to them. if Mr Davis who is the bearer of this letter can take charge of it I should be glad to have My fur cape sent to me. it is too small for a cape but large enough for the present fashion of muffs into which shape I can for a trifle have it altered and I dont know a greater comfort in cold weather. if there are any small pieces too small for other purposes they might be sent to help out, but it is not necessary I once begged Cornelia to look in My little red wri morocco writing case for a quire of poetry in Ellens writing. I wish particularly that she would get it & send it by Mr Davis; it is a part of a collection that she means to have bound. the battle of hohenlinden is in it I do not recollect any other piece; I left the key with her. I will certainly write to John’s wife and am very glad that Mary suggested it to me, for I had not thought of it before and should have been very sorry for the omission. I am glad you see Louisa Lear again she is a sweet amiable girl and very well worth cultivating Ellen says I must tell you that at fifteen she too had strong notions of catholicism but that she had outgrown them all

with regard to Sally I should think Cornelia had better dispose of her in Washington to any body that will treat her well or send her to Virginia where she would at any rate hire for [. . .] some trifle but I would not keep her if I were she. adieu dear daughter give My love to Your dear sisters & brothers, in which George and Ellen join. Nell sends hers to Martha kiss the children all for me and remember me to our kind friends & Neighbours the Vails &Lears & Smiths and if Mrs Swift has returned remember me to her particularly she was very kind and attentive to me on our journey and waited upon me pretty much as one of you would have done her manners are rather blunt but I beleive her kind in fact adieu again dearest believe me ever and unalterably your affectionate Mother

this letter will be delivered by Mr Isaac P. Davis a friend of Nicholas’s he will of course visit him I hope Lewis also will call upon him & any attention to him will be very grateful to Ellen to whom he has been very attentive since Joseph’s absence

RC (ViU: Septimia Anne Randolph Meikleham Papers); damaged at folds; unsigned; in the hand of Martha Jefferson Randolph; dateline above postscript; addressed: “To [M]iss Septimia Randolph care of N P. Trist Washington D.C. Mr Davis

Poet Thomas Campbell’s hohenlinden (1803), was inspired by a decisive battle between the French Army and Bavarian and Austrian forces at Hohenlinden, or Linden, near Munich, Germany, in early December 1800.