Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Eliza House Trist, [ca. 8 December? 1783]

From Eliza House Trist

[ca. 8 December? 1783]

I am greatly indebted to worthy Mr. Jefferson for his polite and friendly letter. I wish I cou’d express my greatful feelings in language suitable to what my mind suggests. I can and will say that you are incapable of esteeming me more than I do you. I cou’d give as many reasons were I to enumerate your Virtues as wou’d fill a Volume folio. Your caracter was great in my estamation long before I had the pleasure of your acquaintance personally for I allways understood your Country was greatly benefited by your councels; and I value you now because I know you are good. The favor conferd on me by an assurance of your esteem shall be ever rememberd. Very little merit on my part has gain’d your good opinion and I will endeavour not to forfiet it. We were anxious to hear from you one and all and expected Mr. Madison wou’d have wrote a few lines but I believe he dont feel as much at Parting as we do. Indeed he has not the same reason. I cant help thinking he might have said a few words by way of comfort to his old friends. Mr. Mercer too not a line from him. I am determined to write only to those who first writes to me.

Mama pines exceedingly; she has sustaind a heavy loss. It is not likly she will ever have so agreeable a family again for I have not the most distant hope that Congress will ever return to this city. Mr. Harrison and Lady (he is a banished tory from N York) and old Smith who is grown intollarable are all that at present encircles our board. I realy am obliged to be silent and bite my tongue fear of Quarreling I wou’d rather live among Hornets then be obliged to live with Mr. Smith. His manners are very disagreeable to me. It reminds us of our former happiness. They must be exceeding clever who can be considerd tolarable after those Gentlemen that we have been accustomd to live with.

Tell Mr. Mercer I shall never abuse congress while I live. I even feel an affection for those I formerly disliked and I allways thought highly of my congressinal friend but now I think I did not so much as I ought. I was happier than I deserved

I prized every hour that went by

Beyond all that had pleased me before

But now they are gone and I sigh

And I grieve that I prized them no more.

I have been again disapointed in my Passage but am now determined to go by Pittsburg. A very good opportunity offers the first breaking up of the winter down to Orleans and Mr. Fowler a friend of mine is now in the city and intends setting out in a few days. I have sent off my baggage in a Waggon and have purchased a Horse for my self to ride and have equiped my self for the expedition. Unless something unforeseen happens I shall very soon proceed on my journey. It is a very great undertaking for me who never experiencd any hardships to ride over the Mountains this season of the year. I expect to suffer a little but this I am certain the fatigues of the Body can not be worse than that of the mind which I have experiencd in the extreem. I can not return so soon as you advise but I may venture to promise I will meet you here for it will be a long time before the Bob reaches this city. The needle dont Point this way. The kindness and attention of the inhabitants of Maryland so far exceeds that of Pennsylvania that I dont Expect your August Body will ever leave that State.

RC (MHi); without place, date, salutation, signature, or endorsement; it is possible that a final page or pages is missing, though the present text is very likely the whole. The date is conjectural. Mrs. Trist was replying to TJ’s letter of 5 Dec. 1783. He seems to have had that reply in hand when he wrote Madison on 11 Dec. and also when he wrote the “postscript” letter to Mrs. Trist which all evidence indicates could only have been written on the same date. Nevertheless, when he knew that she intended leaving Philadelphia about 18 Dec. (see TJ to Madison, 1 Jan. 1784), why did he wait until 22 Dec. to write her urging that she postpone her trip to Pittsburgh? This interval can best be explained by the supposition that, on Mrs. Trist’s receiving the “postscript” letter around 15 Dec., she wrote another (and missing) reply stating that she intended to depart about 18 Dec., to which TJ responded on 22 Dec. Another possibility is that TJ’s reference in his to Madison of 11 Dec. to the effect that “Our news from the good family we left is not agreeable” was based on a letter from someone else to him or to another member of the Virginia delegation; that the “postscript” letter had reference in part to this information from another source; and that, therefore, the present letter may have been written around 15–18 Dec., TJ’s letter of 22 Dec. being an immediate reply to it. The terms “Our news” and “We hear” in the letter to Madison, together with the statement that “the ladies … propose soon to depart,” may lend plausibility to this supposition. But the editors incline to the former interpretation—that Mrs. Trist wrote TJ twice between 5 and 22 Dec. and that, therefore, the present letter must have been written about 8 Dec.

The Bob: This was an allusion to a designation given by Francis Hopkinson to Congress in one of his satirical essays. Under the caption “Intelligence Extraordinary,” there appeared in the Penna. Gazette for 29 Oct. 1783 an announcement of a new discovery: “The Americans having observed the great irregularities to which the political systems of Europe are liable, have invented a method of regulating the affairs of their empire by actual mechanism. For this purpose an immense pendulum hath been constructed, of which the point of suspension is fixed somewhere in the orbit of the planet Mars, and the Bob is composed of certain heterogeneous matter of great specific gravity, called the American Congress. This miraculous pendulum is to vibrate between Annapolis, on the Chesapeak, and Trenton, on the Delaware; a range of about 180 miles” (quoted in Hastings, Hopkinson, p. 382).

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