Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge to Martha Jefferson Randolph and Nicholas P. Trist, with Postscript by Joseph Coolidge

My dearest mother

A little miscellaneous work is about to appear in New York which will contain among other things a notice of old President Adams furnished by one of the literati of New England. a gentleman of New York, a man of Talents & a republican, has been applied to by the publisher of the work in question to supply a corresponding article on the subject of my dear grandfather. this gentleman spoke to Joseph in our passage through N. Y. & asked information on the private life & manners of one whom whilst he held him in the highest veneration he had had but little personal acquaintance with. above all he wished to know exactly the causes of the embarrassment of his pecuniary affairs. many persons, he said, where asking how it came that having received from his father a large property, getting marrying an heiress & receiving for many years a regular salary from the public Treasury, he should have in his latter years fallen into the distress which induced him to apply for permission to sell his estate by lottery. the gentleman having undertaken to write a notice of his life desires to state briefly succinctly & clearly but delicately the principal causes of this downfall of fortune; Joseph & myself thought it very important to be able to supply the desired information, & I determined to write to you for such facts as might throw most light upon the subject. I know generally but vaguely that Grandpapa lost much during the revolutionary war, by the depreciation of paper money especially, that he was also injured by through his father-in-law, that his estate suffered by his long absences on public duties & consequent neglect of his private affairs, that during his Presidency he was at the mercy of his servants having no time to attend to the details of his household affairs, & that finally the enormous establishment at Monticello was far beyond his means of supporting in the delapidated state of his fortunes. still my knowledge is not accurate enough to for me to venture to supply the facts for upon which may be founded the such positive assertions which after all will be a as may satisfy the public. the book in question will probably have great circulation & much good may be done by a proper mention of the subject in question. will you as speedily as you can give me the necessary facts. you need feel no uneasiness—your name will not be mentioned nor your letter seen. any one any anecdote which whilst it may throw a strong light upon the extraordinary perfection of his private character it would not be violating it’s sacredness to make known to the public, might perhaps find a good place in this the notice I speak of, but of this you are the best judge, as well as of the strength of your own nerves for the task, do nothing dearest dearest mother which will shake them but take care of yourself for all our sakes. adieu for a short time until we meet again.

E. W. C.

After writing what I have done my dear Nicholas the thought that perhaps mama may not be well, & that I have imposed a task too severe for her strength, determined me to address my letter to you, & leave it to your judgement whether you will shew it to her, or save her the pain of answering it by doing it yourself, as I presume she could mention speak with more composure than she could write on such a subject. a simple statement of facts is all I want & that as soon as convenient because the book will soon be in the press. if any thing is to be published it had surely better be truth than mere surmises & conjectures.

fare well my dear brother

The work referred to is part of a series of annual publications—to be called the “Annual Register”, or “Annual Review”: it was started by the two Everetts about a year since, but Alexander H. Everett having been appointed to Spain, and Edward sent to Congress, the design was abandoned: the plan is the same as that of Barke’s annual Register, or the present Edinbro. register; and the individual who made the application to me wh. Ellen has alluded to was Beach Lawrence, on behalf of Blunt of New York, the present editor of the work.

Since I wrote you Cummings & Hilliard have dissolved, and the present firm is Hilliard, Gray Co. this Gray is a very smart, and managing fellow, and the Concern will be put upon a new footing immediately.—Carter whom I mentioned to you goes out, but Wilkins remains a partner, and if necessary you can apply to him with the certainty of being attended to.

J. C Jr

love to Virginia & Baby. dont let Mother delay her journey longer than is absolutely necessary.

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); initially intended for Martha Jefferson Randolph; addressed: “To Nicholas P: Trist Monticello, Charlottesville; Albemarle Cy Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Boston, 29 Sept.