Martha Jefferson Randolph to Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge

Dearest Ellen

I wrote to Mrs Coolidge by the last mail, but really in a state of mind so unfit that if there had been any probability of it’s being more composed before the crisis of the 8th was passed I would certainly not have sent the letter. but it had been already too long though unavoidably delayed, and any thing was better than an appearance of neglect to those who have been so kindly attentive to you—

The immediate cause of distress at the time was the parting with Susan She was so bad a servant so negligent, so heartless, and of a family of such bad dispositions generally, that there was no probability of her mending; and yet we could not resolve to sell her from her friends; but when the proposal came from herself and with some urgency, I acknowledge that I was well pleased and considered it a most happy riddance. it would enable V— to get little Betty and by lightening the burthen to My dear Jefferson bring those that he had determined at any cost to retain from their attachment to the family, more within the compass of his means; [. . .] The arrangement pleased every body, particularly as she did entire justice to her Mistress to whom the professed her self much attached, said she knew she should often regret her, and if she had been going to a house of her own shortly nothing on earth would have induced her to part with her but She believed her life in danger from her father who appeared to have taken an aversion to her and beat her most unmercifully, and her relations were all ill tempered and unkind; she said she would not live another year on the same plantation with them for any earthly consideration she had, and had exercised, her veto upon several plans more advantageous to her mistress than the one adopted. Nicholas had refused 600$ but a week before because she objected to the purchaser. but after some conferences with Mr Cage, a Mississipi planter, she determined to go with him. under under those mitigating circumstances there appeared to be no cause for sorrow on our part, but V. was dreadfully distressed when it came to the point, as we all were—the distance however is really the only rational ground of for regret, but the fate of Sister R—s maid Sally has turned the head of every decent looking girl in the State they all look to New Orleans as a paradise where they have only to shew them selves to become at once ladies—that I really believe had much influence with Susan to whom however I have given a very undue portion of My letter—

I am surprised at the account you give of the Saratoga Springs. I thought that not only comfort, but elegance even, were to be found at all the watering places of fashionable resort north of the Patomack; ours though I really believe possessing more intrinsic virtue than any of them are so badly kept that the sick only who will submit to any thing for the recovery of health, and Gamblers whose every feeling is swallowed up in that absorbing passion for other people’s money, can alone consent to the horrible discomfort of such places. the papers say there were 900 persons at the Saratoga Springs this year (at one time) that certainly must have been the cause of the [. . .] in[. . .], for nothing less than a small town can accomodate that number of persons in comfort. You say nothing of Your Uncle Mann’s wife who has just had a son that must have been born just immediately before or while you were still in New York, where she was confined. Mrs Miller who has at last made good her entrance here, told me that Mrs Gouverneur is dead, that she died in May, leaving two children who are with her mother; is it possible that such an event could have taken place with-out our hearing of it? yet she insists upon the truth of her information and mentioned some particulars that give weight to it. Your Aunt Morris is delighted with Mr Coolidge and Your self, but I was very much Mortified to learn that D. B. Ogden had been served up to him with “satisfaction pieces” and the numberless wearying etcetera’s with which she dosed us seven years ago. there can never be any variety but in the names of those brought in collison with her, the subject must ever be the same. it is really a pity that the benevolent feelings natural to the youthful heart should be so completely [. . .] poisoned as they must be in Gouverneur, seeing human nature through the distord distorted medium of her prejudices—yet she has really some excellent qualities, when her passions sleep. she is kind hearted and liberal in the extreme to those with whom she has not intercourse enought to [. . .] hate. for that reason her friends are always literallyle plus loin le plus cher”. Mr Bonny castle’s brother is the mathematician employed to superintend the cutting the canal through the isthmus of Darien; the english are really a wonderfull people, it is impossible to contemplate their works in every quarter of the globe without admiration.

I leave to the girls to give you the news of the professor’s courting expedition how he got thrown from his horse at the very outset, and soiled his new cloaths &c the name of the lady is Tut; the result is not known. Septimia is in the predicament of Pasquin who was obliged to wear dirty linen because his wash woman had become a princess. Mr Xaupi who has always [. . .] had the reputation of being a gentleman, has the immediate prospect of recovering the fa[. . .] estates with a title. he is gone on to Washington to take measures [with?] the minister for to that effect. we have been literally overwhelmed with company this summer. from one monday to another we dined one day alone, the other days we had company every day to dinner, ladies 4 days of the 6, and the sunday 9 unexpected guests in addii addition to a party invited. to morrow we have Judge Carr’s family with Peyton and his wife—I presume they will stay some days—in ad besides all this, the Staunton meeting breaking up and people going to the Springs have kept us in the drawing room from 10 to 3, almost every day.

I have been obliged to get up at 5 o clock to write to you. Mr R returned from the meeting where as usual he took a very active part. he has obtained an injunction which will prevent the publick sale of the 8th, but which exactly brings matters to the p[. . .] J—n has been [. . .] anxious to obtain. he has empower’d F— Gilmer one of the trust[ees] to sell it at private sales. that will considerably [. . .] alleviate the most distressing circum[stances] of the case; the negroes may be disposed of to people that we know, in many instances friends and neighbours [. . .] My father no doubt being allowed time can also assist in the purchase. My mind is greatly relieved by this arrangement. The discomfort of slavery I have borne all my life, but it’s sorrows in all their bitterness I had never before conceived. The sale of Susan was only a prelude in my immagination imagination to the scenes which the 8th would exhibit in all these their horrors, for the country is over run with those trafickers in human blood the negro by buyers, and that advertisement would have been a the signal to have collected them from every part of the state it. how much trouble and distress y[ou] have been spared My beloved Ellen by your removal, for nothing can prosper under such a system of injustice. Your dear Grandfather is getting better again but he suffers still a great deal still. Your friend Mrs Brockenbrough whom I saw the other day, talks incessantly of you, she [. . .] says she is afraid to come to Monticello for fear of exposing herself by crying. every one sends their love to you and Mrs Dunglison with whom we have become acquainted lately, desired to be very particularly remembered to you. she regrets much not having had the means of becoming better acquainted with you but seems to understand our situation exactly. the doctor also gains very much upon acquaintance—I believe he is a very good domestic character as well as a great man in his profession. adieu dearest Ellen, I would not send such a scrawl if I had time to do better but not having finished my letter before the family were up, My interruption[s] have been incessant since. remember me most affectionately to Joseph and accept [. . .]self the assurance of the un[cha]ngeable love of your own Mother

V. says you may go as far as 250$ for a piano. [. . .] the thermometer has been 91 ½ here, 93 in Charlottesville and I think 94 at the university the air this morning has the [. . .] elasticity and bracing coolness of our first and finest Autumn weather

we hear nothing of the Marquis yet—

RC (ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence); first dateline at foot of body of letter; mutilated at seal; addressed: “To Mrs Joseph Coolidge Junior to the care of Joseph Coolidge Esqr Boston Massachusetts”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, Aug.; endorsed by Coolidge: “2 August. 1825”; with notes by Coolidge: "Sale of Slaves. My mother’s horror of the System of slavery. press of company at Monticello. Mrs. G. Morris."
Date Range
August 2, 1825