Nicholas P. Trist to Lafayette

Dear Sir,

If, in the long years that have passed since we received your parting embrace, you have not had any earnest of my promise on that occasion, it is to be ascribed rather to the conviction that you already had more than a fair load of correspondence with our half of your double country, than to any other cause.—As long as Mr Jefferson was able to hold a pen, he was your rightful correspondent from Monticello. During his final illness, you could not but be frequently recalled to my mind: but I was much occupied as his nurse; and this, together with the uncertainty in regard to the issue, induced me to procrastinate during the two or three weeks that the suspense lasted. The announcement of the event, I then left to Jefferson Randolph as the head of the family, who expressed his intention of communicating it to you;—reserving to myself the privilege of writing some time after, & giving you details which I knew would be deeply interesting. But this, many circumstances contrariantes, together with the consideration above referred to, caused me to postpone from time to time till it was too late. I will only say now, qu’il est mort en philosophe. I was with him constantly, for throughout his confinement; and his latter moments were such as might have been expected from his delightful character, and sterling philosophy:—such, that you may be sure, que, s’il y en a, “the joys of Heaven” are added to, to him, by what he is now looking down upon.

Although silent until now, I cannot, however, suffer this unspeakably glorious epoch to pass by, without making you hear my voice among the many that are pouring forth the joy in which our hearts are drowned:—joy at the glorious promise to the Great Cause; joy at the glorious fruits borne to you, its best tried & most favored champion. In the sacred name of Liberty, we hail these noble developements of the spirit of the Age; and the name of Lafayette with which they are indissolubly connected, heightens the exultation with which our bosoms are swelled.

I have, moreover, a promise to fulfil, in relation to which I fear that your young friend de Syon will have thought strangely of me. While with you at Monticello, he expressed an earnest desire to obtain a piece of Mr Jefferson’s manuscript; and before embarking at New York, wrote to remind me of the promise I had made on the subject. Although I bore it constantly in mind, Mr J’s health & occupations from that moment to his death, were such that I postponed asking him to write till it was too late.—I did not however forget de Syon. Some time after, on making a search among some old law papers which had lain untouched for many years, I found the enclosed slip. I thought it would do to send to S.—With that view, I asked Mr Randolph for it, and brought it to Washington. In the removal, however, it got mislaid among my papers; and this has prevented its being sent long ago. On the present occasion, determining not to write without at the same time relieving my conscience in regard to this promise, I have made a new search, & now have the pleasure to send it. If I learn, which I do not doubt, that, in the late crisis, he has borne himself in a manner worthy of the spirit of the inscription, it will give him double pleasure, and me double gratification to have been the means of affording it.

It remains to say a few words of the family. You will have heard that Mrs Randolph’s resources are limited to the $20.000 voted by So Carolina & Louisiana; and that, with her three unmarried daughters she is living here: my family forming part of hers. Her income, together with my salary (1.400$) as a clerk in the Department of State, nous donne de quoi vivre; but of course, does not allow us to see company [. . .] chez nous. Things however, are on a very good footing here in that respect. People can go out as much as they please, without being expected to entertain, unless their means allow of it.—The estate was several thousands worse than nothing; & Jefferson R. responsible for the deficit. This, however, the manuscripts will enable him to meet, and also leave him something wherewith to make his own affairs square, to provide for his numerous family, and to give a helping hand to his brothers in the way of education &c.—Mrs R. is yet in Boston, where she went to pass the summer, & to assister aux couches at of Mrs Coolidge who presented her with two very fine twin grandsons. Five in five years! It is well that it is in this country, where we yet have room for them.

I have looked anxiously in the papers for news respecting Levasseur. From his not being mentioned in either in them or in your letters which are occasionally published, I take for granted the hope expressed in your first [. . .] has been realized; and that he is again well & able to enjoy what he assisted in acquiring.—Present us I beg you, to him, to your son & to those other friends whom we as yet know only through you, in the most cordial manner; and accept, dear sir, for yourself every thing that is affectionate

N. P. Trist

You, no doubt, hear directly from Mr Madison. He had a very severe indisposition in the Summer; and Mrs M. a serious one since. My latest news is through Mrs Cutts, who represents them both as recovered.—

I will send you for Levasseur some Nos of the Intelligencer with some articles in which I attempted to do what I thought Walsh’s tone about the French news, (that is to say, his first tone; for he has a many variety) required to be done by some one.—Should any circumstances exist to render the delivery of the enclosed inexpedient, you must of course be the judge; and act as you may think best.

RC (NIC: Arthur H. and Mary Marden Dean Lafayette Collection, MS 4611); at foot of text: “Genl Lafayette Paris.” Enclosure: John Bradshaw’s “Epitaph,” [before 14 Dec. 1775] (MS in NIC: Arthur H. and Mary Marden Dean Lafayette Collection, MS 4611; entirely in TJ’s hand; see PTJ, 1:677–9).

qu’il est mort en philosophe: “that he died as a philosopher.” glorious epoch was a reference to the French Revolution of 1830, which occurred in the latter part of July. nous donne de quoi vivre: “gives us something to live [on].” assister aux couches: in this case, to assist in childbirth.

Date Range
November 5, 1830