Thomas Mann Randolph to Joseph C. Cabell

Dear Sir,

I replied to your favor of the 1st ult. on the day I received it, the 5th but my answer having by accident remained on my table untill another day I destroyed it, from the great value I allways set upon your opinion, as I had indulged too much in invective against particular persons, by whom I have been so basely injured, in excusing myself to you for having made the declaration with regard to Watsons claim, against which resolution your strong and pure benevolence induced you to remonstrate. There is not a man living more capable of forgeting or more desirous of compounding and forgiving injuries than myself. As violent resentment is less injurious to health in my temperament than deep and permanent vexation of mind, I have never taken much pains to govern myself on such occasions, where no ties existed, and no sentiments of a soothing nature were in any way involved. My attachment to solitude and my never having destined myself for the World, no doubt, have had their influence in producing such a bad habit, but as it is at my time of life so it must continue, whatever may be the consequences. That caused the Bill filed against Watson, whom I am ready to forgive, allthough I cannot some others whose malignity was wholly unprovoked, and their [poison] Venom nevertheless more strongly concocted and more eagerly and artfully discharged.

My crop of Wheat, secured last Week, adjoining Watsons residence, and near to many manufacturing mills, is appropriated to the discharge of his claim, which from the number of field stacks, it will considerably exceed, even at 50 cts the bushel. I shall never cease to remember with gratitude and increased esteem, from public motives, your concern about this Matter. Immediately upon receiving your favor I chose proper iron and sent it down to my farm near this place, where my Blacksmith and ploughmaker were, with orders to have one of the horizontal ploughs, which I have used since 1808, constructed for you, in the best manner they could. I fear it has not been completed, for an addition to my Barn, and repair of threshing machine, which they had to perform before the harvest came on, in order to secure the crop, caused a delay in the execution of my orders. Having been twice with my family since June came in, and for ten days once, I have not been at Varina for some time. If the plough has not been, and cannot be immediately done by my people, I will gladly instruct Watson. I assure you that this tardiness in having the implement made, and exhibited to the Public, has not proceeded from any doubt whatever about its utility or any defect which I have discovered in its operation. On the contrary I am more pleased with it than at first. It is the lightest plough, for first breaking, which I have ever used. It certainly does cut, 8 and 10 inches deep, with two horses, and I have completely buried a crop of Erigeron Canadense, 7 feet high, as thick as Wheat, at one ploughing with it, so that I had a thoroughly clean fallow where a horse was scarcely visible, and on a hill too steep for one to go up, when loose, without tacking about. A studied description of this plough is contained in an M.S. of many sheets written in 1813, (while I was waiting for my Wifes

an alarming dejection of mind during pregnancy, accompanied by a most unfavorable Prognosis. in all other respects.

health to improve so as to admit of my departure for the army in the summer of 1813,) upon the subject of horizontal ploughing, in reply to some remarks of Arator thereupon. The description is too long to copy here, but would have secured a trial of the instrument by the public if I had never returned; which I thought most likely to be the case. On the subject of horizontal ploughing, I cannot refrain from saying that the thought must have occurred to numbers, and only required a practical Farmer of industry and reflexion, occupying a gullied hillcountry farm, and possessing some little geometrical knowledge to put it into practice. Persons entirely destitute of geometry could not understand, allthough they might imitate, the new operations. Geometry, without a great deal of experience in ploughing, and observation and reflexion upon actual tillage, must ever have revolted at the suggestion [. . .] of curvilinear furrows. Lord Kaims takes pains to shew the inadmissibility of such an idea; and Mr Jefferson still rejected it in 1796; both, from prejudice in favor of rectilinear furrows. Mr J. made one experiment in 1794, but droped the practice entirely, and did not even mention to Liancourt, when he shewed him his farms in 1797, that it had occured to any pe[rson.] I commenced in 1793 with my Corn crop, extended the practice in 1794. and have adhered to it, except in 1799 when I made one experiment of the old mode, from 1793 to this day. Mr Slaughter of Culpeper commenced 16 years since. In 1801 I gave a lease of hilly land, with a promise from the tenant to plough allways as I did, which lease was immediately transferred to a Gentleman of the name of Slaughter; who visited Culpeper every year, I know.

Your goodness in lending me your Books makes the stronger impression on my mind from the great rareness of that favor now. The harvest prevented my sending my Servant to Edgewood with them during my last visit to my family; and I had neither him nor any other at command before. You shall receive them, at home, in a few days. ║ On the last subject of your friendly letter I have not left room to say any thing. There is no issue of the question which can make me unhappy. I appretiate well the censure or approbation of the World, and accordingly am not much affected by it. I cannot live apart from my family without the absolute and unlimited power to rejoin them whenever I deem it proper for their own and my happiness. To toil for their advancement, and obey the Law in every thing, are my first thoughts: to enjoy my life in a reasonable degree, and to Serve Society by all the means in my power are the next. I think as much as any man of the consequences of my actions to others, to my family, to myself. But I cannot waste time in conjecturing what malignant and distorted optics may be applied to view them. I deem it all important to keep [. . .] our ideas as unperplexed and simple as possible on the subject of morals. bonam deperdere famam, [. . .] patris oblimare rem, malum est ubicumque.

most sincerely and cordially yours
Th: M. Randolph
RC (NcD: Thomas Mann Randolph Papers); addressed: “Joseph C. Cabell Esqr Edgewood near Warminster”; stamped; postmarked Richmond, 22 July; endorsed by Cabell: “Governor Randolph July 20. 1820. Ansd verbally at Monticello on 6. Augt.”

bonam deperdere famam...ubicunque: “To throw away a good name, to squander a father’s estate, is at all times ruinous,” from Horace, Satires, 1.2.61–2 (H. Rushton Fairclough, trans., Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica, Loeb Classical Library [1926, repr. 2005]), 22–3.

Joseph C. Cabell
Date Range
July 20, 1820