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Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, 30 December 1809

To Thomas Jefferson Randolph

Monticello Dec. 30. 09.

Dear Jefferson

It may seem odd that while I was involved in so much business at Washington, I could yet find time to write to you sometimes, and that I have not been able to do it in my present situation. but the fact is that letter writing was there my trade. from sunrise to near dinner was to be of course devoted to it, & a letter more or less made little odds. but in our country economy, letter writing is a hors-d’oeuvre. it is no part of the regular routine of the day. from sunrise till breakfast only I allot for all my pen & ink work. from breakfast till dinner I am in my garden, shops, or on horse back in the farms, and after dinner I devote entirely to relaxation or light reading. hence I have not written to you. still I have wished to know what you have entered on, what progress you have made, and how your hours are distributed. for it is only by a methodical distribution of our hours, & a rigorous, inflexible observance of it that any steady progress can be made. from what I learn through the letter to your mother, I would advise you to make the Mathematics your principal & almost sole object. consider Natural philosophy as quite secondary, because the books will teach you that as well as any master can. whereas Mathematics require absolutely the assistance of a teacher. you should therefore avail yourself to the utmost of your present situation, because of the incertainty how long it may continue, & the certainty that you will have no chance for another when this fails. as you are entered with the class of Nat. philosophy, give to it the hours of lecture, but devote all your other time to Mathematics, avoiding company as the bane of all progress. mr Jefferson is desired to furnish you all necessaries & to pay your tuition & board. of the two last articles give him punctual notice at the end of every quarter that they may never be a day in arrear.

The family are all well, and late letters from Anne inform us that she & Mary are so. but I presume you have lately seen them as it was understood you meant to pass your Christmas with them. can you always, by the return of your father’s boatmen send us some oysters prepared as those you lately sent us. Robert Hemings would I think prepare them for us, & call on mr Jefferson by your directions for the cost. I shall be glad to hear from you from time to time, and be assured of my constant & affectionate attachment.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); endorsed by TJ.

Randolph spent Christmas 1809 in Port Royal, Caroline County, with his sisters Ann (anne) C. Bankhead and mary Jefferson Randolph (Bankhead to Martha Jefferson Randolph, 2 Feb. 1810 [NcU: NPT]).

robert hemings (1762–1819), the son of a slave, Betty Hemings, and TJ’s father-in-law John Wayles, came to TJ as a part of the Wayles estate in 1773. After serving for two decades as a traveling companion and personal attendant, he purchased his freedom from TJ in December 1794 with money advanced to him by his wife’s owner, George Frederick Stras, of Richmond. Hemings apparently paid off the debt by working for Stras for the next several years, and he thereafter operated a livery stable and hauling business in the state capital (James A. Bear Jr., “The Hemings Family of Monticello,” Virginia Cavalcade 29 [1979]: 80–1; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 28:222–3).

Index Entries

  • Bankhead, Ann (Anne) Cary Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter; Charles Lewis Bankhead’s wife); Christmas visitors of search
  • boats; transfer goods to and from Richmond search
  • Christmas; and TJ’s grandchildren search
  • food; oysters search
  • gardens; TJ spends time in his search
  • Gibson & Jefferson (Richmond firm); and education of T. J. Randolph search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; Richmond academy search
  • Hemmings, Robert (former TJ slave) search
  • Jefferson, George (TJ’s cousin); and T. J. Randolph search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; reading habits of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; TJ on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; relations with grandchildren search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; good use of time search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; mathematical study search
  • mathematics; TJ on search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); gardens search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); workshops at search
  • natural philosophy; study of search
  • oysters search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); correspondence of search
  • Randolph, Mary Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); spends Christmas season at Port Royal search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); and M. J. Randolph search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); education of search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); letters to search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); spends Christmas at Port Royal search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); boats of, transfer goods search
  • Richmond, Va.; boats transfer goods to and from search
  • Richmond, Va.; L. H. Girardin’s academy at search
  • schools and colleges; L. H. Girardin’s academy (Richmond) search