Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ann C. Morris
|Dear Sister||Poplar forest May 27th 1822|
I received Your last some weeks before I left Monticello, but I believe you are so much accustomed to my bad ways that you do not1 require a fresh apology for every letter—I have in vain tried to be punctual, but bad habits are not so easily conquered, particularly when the causes which first gave rise to them still exist, and strange to say we are as much interrupted by company here as at Monticello. the neighbourhood is really an excellent one, and it being known that my visits are short the neighbours all croud in to see us and entertain us before we return. the roads are so good and the country is so thickly setled around us that I can pay as many morning visits here as in town, and even drink tea with some of them and return without danger or difficulty.2 there are no less than three great establishments upon what was my land. so much for securityships, how we shall get through with them remains yet to be seen. the neighbours are very kind good people one of them told My father he had sewed a patch of early peas on purpose for him, in addition to what his own family would require, another gave him an asparagus bed in his garden, and fruits, fresh meats, and all the delicacies of the season they supply us with in profusion, knowing as they do, that this not being our principal home those things must be neglected in our absence. it is a beautiful and flourishing part of the country and their devotion to My dear father makes me very partial to it. you would be astonished to see the number of large brick housed houses many of them in a style of city refinement and luxury, the furniture equipages and grounds in a style uncommon in the country in this state. it is very agreable to see such appearances of prosperity and content in any part of our dear native state, which generaly speaking to my infinite sorrow I must acknowledge it, has been sinking in the scale of importance for many years back the deplorable state of education is I have no doubt the cause of it. it is impossible to get a boy educated in the plainest way in Virginia at present. if the University prospers, as the Proffessors will all be brought from Europe and none but men of high science employed it may produce a change, but the effects will not be perceptible in our time I am afraid. the ensuing generations will profit by it. but most of my boys George excepted, and perhaps Lewis (who is thought to be a boy of better parts than common, & may derive some benefit from it) are will be too old to go to school by the time it goes into operation the buildings would have been all finished this year but for the folly of the last assembly who actually stopped short at the last building the Library, and the workmen will be obliged to be discharged to be recalled after the next session, for there has been such a clamour about it that no doubt the next assembly will do every thing possible to repair as much as possible the mischief done by the folly and ignorance of the last. but reassembling workmen who must be brought from a distance; and in fact reorganising the whole business will occasion a great deal more loss of time than the year you can have no conception of the beauty of the village. the two ranges of buildings on each side of a lawn flanked by the 10 large pavillions with their intermediate dormitories comunicating from one end to the other by an arcade in front of the dormitories and passing through the portico’s of the pavillions with their gardens offices yds & back, extending to a street on which the boarding houses with their gardens & & are built making 4 rows of buildings in the finest style of Ancient architecture. the Lawn between the two middle rows will have a Rotunda at one end in which the Library will be commanding the whole and this last building alone in [. . .] and after spending so much, as the finishing hand was about to be pu[t to it?] stopped short and refused to permit the library to be built in which a[ll the?] large lecturing rooms and the library will be. however next year I hope we shall retrieve our character. looking over this hurried scrawl I would really throw it in the fire if I knew when I should have time to write another but we set off home tomorrow and after our arrival collecting the [. . .] family who are all dispersed, and as Papa terms it “opening shop” will ocupy my time pretty closely. adieu dear Nancy Ellen and Virginia who are with me join in love to you and dear Gouverneur, to whom Tim sends her [. . .] remembrances3 Yours sincerely and affectionately
Ann Cary Randolph Morris (1774–1837), daughter of Ann Cary and Thomas Mann Randolph (1741–93), and sister of Thomas Mann Randolph, TJ’s son-in-law. She was born at Tuckahoe Plantation in Goochland County, Virginia. Morris’s mother died in 1789 and shortly after her father married Gabrielle Harvie in 1790, she moved in with her sister, Judith, and her brother-in-law, Richard Randolph at their estate Bizarre in Cumberland County. Rumors began swirling about Morris having secretly given birth to an illegitimate child of Richard Randolph and that he committed infanticide shortly after the baby was born. Randolph was put on trial in 1793 and was acquitted of the crime. Morris told John Randolph (of Roanoke) in 1815 that the father of the child was Theodoric Randolph’s, who died seven months before the baby was born. Richard Randolph died in 1796 and Morris continued living at Bizarre with Judith until about 1805. Morris moved to Newport, Rhode Island and began corresponding with Gouverneur Morris. She was brought to Morrisania, Morris’s New York estate, to work as a housekeeper. The two married on Christmas day in 1809. Their son, Gouverneur Morris, was born in 1813 and Gouverneur Morris, Sr. died in 1816. Ann Cary Morris lived at Morrisania until her death (Jefferson Randolph Anderson, “Tuckahoe and the Tuckahoe Randolphs”, VMHB vol. 45 : 72; Virginia Gazette, 6 Apr. 1793; PTJ, 25: 621, 632, 26: 53; Melanie Randolph Miller and others, ed., The Diaries of Gouverneur Morris New York 1799–1816 [Charlottesville, 2018]: l–lviii, 549, 585, 594, and 768; Ann C. Morris to John Randolph, [18?] Jan. 1815 [Tr in ViW: Nancy Randolph Papers]; Cynthia A. Kierner, Scandal at Bizarre: Rumor and Reputation in Jefferson’s America [New York, 2004]; Alan Pell Crawford, Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Woman and the First Great Scandal of Eighteenth-Century America [New York, 2000]; New York Morning Herald, 30 May 1837).
***Note here Martha Jefferson Randolph to Nicholas P. Trist, with Postscript by Virginia J. Randolph (Trist), 21 May 1822: “our stay was to have been from a week to ten days it began to rain the day after we arrived and this is the 7th day during [. . .] time we have had but 2 clear days it been raining either steadily [. . .] morning till night or in showers the other 5”
***Note here: Elizabeth Trist to Nicholas P. Trist, 29 May 1822