Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Elizabeth Trist, 28 February 1810

To Elizabeth Trist

Monticello. Feb. 28. 10.

Sincerely sympathising, my dear Madam, with yourself & friends on the apostacy of William Brown from every thing which had been believed of him. I have been for some time intending to express my condolance, but really was at a loss how much to believe of what the newspapers have said. your letter, just recieved, gives us the first details on which we can rely. it is certainly the most unaccountable of all human transactions which have come to my knolege. to have run away from family, fortune, friends, fame, & all his affections in order to carry off a smaller sum than he might have posessed honestly, is so much out of the course of human wisdom or wickedness, that there must be something in the case which is not as yet known. your letter gives us great relief however, inasmuch as we find there is still property of value for the family to hold by. I see a possibility too that it may be doubled. if the statement be true, in the National Intelligencer just recieved, that measures were taken so promptly to prevent paiment in England of the bills for which he gave his money, (100,000. D) in Jamaica, this money in the hands of the drawer will repay the US. and Brown’s moiety also of the sugar plantation will be left for his family. for this we all sincerely pray. I am happy to percieve that mrs Jones seems disposed to take an active part herself in saving the wreck of fortune remaining. I hope the interest she feels on this occasion, has caused her to misconstrue the acts of regular duty in mr Grymes, for voluntary injuries, of which his character heretofore would induce me to think him incapable. of one thing however you may rest assured, tho’ she seems to doubt it, that the government, faithful to it’s duty in saving for the US. what of right ought to be saved for them, will feel an equal duty and perhaps a more grateful one, in protecting also the rights of a distressed family. we send your letter to mr Divers for their comfort also. we have not seen them since winter set in, except meeting mr Divers at court. the state of the roads in winter insulate us as much as are the keepers of the Eddystone lighthouse , who are placed on a rock in the Channel, recieve all their stores in autumn, & then take leave of their friends till the return of Spring permits their rock to be again approached. mr Divers’s health is perfectly re-established. mrs Randolph has given me another grandson. she became well yesterday according to rule, and came down to enjoy the opening spring. you say nothing in your letter of your future plans. Henry? New Orleans? or what? in the former case we count on your alighting here on your passage, and resting your wings awhile with us. within 10. days Monticello will begin to enrobe itself in all it’s bloom. we are now all out in our gardens & fields. since Christmas I have taken my farms into my own hands, and am on horseback among them from breakfast to dinner, and lead a life truly laborious. I am sensibly strengthened by it. praying for yourself & your friends, & a happy issue out of all their afflictions, accept assurances of my constant and affectionate friendship.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); at foot of first page: “Mrs Trist”; endorsed by TJ.

Trist’s letter, just recieved, which was addressed to someone at Monticello other than TJ, has not been found (Trist to TJ, 7 Mar. 1810). The Washington National Intelligencer, 19 Feb. 1810, reported on the United States government’s efforts to stop payment on the bills in William Brown’s possession. Philip grymes, the district attorney for Orleans Territory, seized Brown’s assets and those of his sister and her husband, the recently deceased Philip Livingston Jones. In 1808–09 Jones had purchased land from his brother-in-law to which the government now laid claim. Jones’s widow, Mary Brown Trist Jones, began a lawsuit in the New Orleans superior court in May 1810 and eventually recovered her property (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:424–7, 467–8). Martha Jefferson Randolph gave birth to another grandson, Meriwether Lewis Randolph, at Monticello on 31 Jan. 1810 (Shackelford, Descendants description begins George Green Shackelford, ed., Collected Papers to Commemorate Fifty Years of the Monticello Association of the Descendants of Thomas Jefferson, 1965 description ends , 1:122). Trist often resided in henry County.

Index Entries

  • Brown, William; absconds with public funds search
  • Divers, George; health of search
  • Eddystone Rocks (English Channel); lighthouse at search
  • gardens; TJ spends time in his search
  • Grymes, Philip; and W. Brown case search
  • Jamaica; W. Brown’s flight to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; improved by retirement search
  • Jones, Philip Livingston search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); gardens search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); and W. Brown search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); bears son search
  • Randolph, Meriwether Lewis (TJ’s grandson); birth of search
  • Tournillon, Mary Louisa Brown Trist Jones (wife successively of Hore Browse Trist, Philip Livingston Jones, and Etienne St. Julien de Tournillon); assets of seized search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; and W. Brown search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; letters to search
  • women; letters to; E. Trist search