Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph, 28 April 1793

To Martha Jefferson Randolph

Philadelphia Apr. 28. 1793.

My Dear Martha

I am now very long without a letter from Monticello, which is always a circumstance of anxiety to me. I wish I could say that Maria was quite well. I think her better for this week past, having for that time been free from the little fevers which had harrassed her nightly.—A paper which I some time ago saw in the Richmond gazette1 under the signature of R.R. proved to me the existence of a rumor, which I had otherwise heard of with less certainty. It has given me great uneasiness because I know it must have made so many others unhappy, and among these Mr. Randolph and yourself. Whatever the case may be, the world is become too rational to extend to one person the acts of another. Every one at present stands on the merit or demerit of their own conduct. I am in hopes therefore that neither of you feel any uneasiness but for the pitiable victim,2 whether it be3 of error or of slander. In either case I see guilt but in one person, and not in her. For her it is the moment of trying the affection of her friends, when their commiseration and comfort become balm to her wounds. I hope you will deal them out to her in full measure, regardless of what the trifling or malignant may think or say. Never throw off the best4 affections of nature in the moment when they become most precious to their object; nor fear to extend your hand to save another, lest you should sink yourself. You are on firm ground: your kindnesses will help her and5 count in your own favor also. I shall be made very happy if you are the instruments not only of supporting the spirits of your6 afflicted friend7 under the weight bearing on them, but of preserving her in the peace and love of her friends. I hope you have already taken this resolution if it were necessary; and I have no doubt you have: yet I wished it too much to omit mentioning it to you. I am with sincere love to Mr. Randolph & yourself, my dear Martha your’s affectionately

Th: Jefferson

RC (NNP); at foot of first page: “Mrs. Randolph”; endorsed by Mrs. Randolph; accompanied by a separate sheet bearing the following notes by Nicholas P. Trist, the first two sentences of which are undated and were written at a different time: “Jefferson Thomas Apr. 28. ‘93 To his daughter Mrs. Randolph. This letter is a fair Specimen of the truly christian Spirit of charity and moral courage which ever actuated him. This letter was once shewn to me by Mrs. R, on the occasion of her making a search among her father’s letters to her, at my request, with a view to finding a suitable one to send to Mr. Aaron Vail at London. (He had been requested by Princess Victoria to procure for her an autograph of Mr. Jefferson). I was so much struck with this letter, as a specimen of her father’s character, that I asked it of her, and she gave it me. N.P.T. Phila. June 11. ’55. It has come under my hand today, in searching for an autograph for Dr. Dunglison.” Tr (ViFreJM); 19th-century copy; at foot of text in Trist’s hand: “Note by N. P. Trist. The original of the above was given to me, at my request, upon its being shown to me by Mrs. Randolph at Washington, on the occasion of a Search among her father’s letters for one to be sent to Mr. Aaron Vail (then Secretary of Legation at London) for Princess Victoria. I now place this in its place on the file. Phila. June 5. ’56.” Tr (Mrs. Thomas O. Gamble, Albany, New York, 1950); 19th-century copy.

The paper … under the signature of R.R. was a letter to the public from Richard Randolph, printed in several Virginia newspapers early in April 1793, in which he announced that he planned to appear before the Cumberland County Court to answer any charges anyone might think fit to bring against him. Randolph, the husband of Martha Jefferson Randolph’s sister-in-law, Judith Randolph, took this step to counteract widespread rumors that he had fathered a child by his wife’s sister, Ann Cary Randolph, the pitiable victim of these reports, and murdered it after birth. The court subsequently examined various witnesses, including Martha Jefferson Randolph, and on 29 Apr. exonerated Richard Randolph of any wrongdoing. For a detailed description of this episode—which suggests that Randolph’s younger brother Theodorick, who died soon after Ann Cary Randolph’s child was conceived, was the father and that the baby either miscarried or was stillborn—see Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, Chapel Hill, 1974–2006, 12 vols. description ends , ii, 161–78. See also John Wayles Eppes to TJ, 1 May 1793, and note, and Martha Jefferson Randolph to TJ, 16 May 1793.

1Word interlined in place of “papers.”

2TJ here canceled what appears to be “of this crime” or “of this rumor.”

3Preceding two words interlined.

4Word interlined.

5Preceding three words interlined.

6Word altered from “our.”

7Word interlined in place of what appears to be “guest.”

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