Thomas Jefferson Papers

Elizabeth Trist to Thomas Jefferson, 17 November 1814

From Elizabeth Trist

Henry Cty Nov 17th 1814

My Worthy and Dear friend

I have long wish’d to address you but have been deter’d, from a fear of being troublesome, I want to know what you think of the state of our Country at present, The disasters at Washington has been a mortifying and distressing event, but when I had Reason to think that it woud be productive of good in1 the end, by rousing the people from the torpid State which they were beguiled into, by the expectation of peace, and that party cabals wou’d give place to resentment for the injury and insult which had been perpetrated by a set of barbarians on our Country2 but I fear the worst has not yet happend the yankies seem determined on making a Seperate peace with England and if we do not make such concessions as they may think fit to impose, such as turning out the President &a the Union will be destroy’d a civil war will ensue and God only knows where or when it will end. poor Mr Madison with all his caution and conciliatory disposition can not Steer clear of abuse Good Heavens! who wou’d ever wish to fill that Office, can happiness ever attend it? I have often rejoiced that you had quited the Helm before the storm got to its height—our finances Seem desperate, the Taxes contemplated, will I fear produce discontent, but that I dont mind if we were only united we cou’d repel our foes with ease and insure to our Country an honorable peace I never suffer myself to despair nor shall I ever do so, while our army and Navy perform such noble achievements as have occurd on the Niagra, at plattsburg on Champlain and Mobile, it is a great sourse of exultation to every true American if only in disappointing the English in their expectation of humbling us, the Goverment of England will find that every campaign will obscure the Glory of their veteran Troops, our little Navy on the Ocean have lately done their best to humble the pride of that insolent nation, the action which took place between the Reindeer and wasp, has terminated to the honor of our flag I feel more perhaps, from my Nephew being a partaker in the Glory which they have achieved he was a midshipman on board the wasp and in the list of the kill’d and wounded his name is not inserted—I have also to be glad and truly thankful for the success of our arms against that Band of pirates on Barataria the Safety of Orleans will be Secure at least for a time I heard that Colonel Randolph had again enterd on a Military career for the preservation of his native State I am under no apprehension of our Troops being in danger from the enemy, for they seldom go where they are prepared to receive them, but those Station’d below Richmond suffer much from sickness the mortality which has taken place at Norfolk Since the war has exceeded Six thousand beside those who die in consiquence of the sickness they generate in that low country after they leave it—I wish some other plan coud be3 fallen upon than drawing men from this upper Country to dig their own Graves I dont believe there exists more patriotism than among the people of this District, but I am told they begin to murmur at being sent to Norfolk any where else where they cou’d have a chance of meeting an honorable death—I observe that you have disposed of your Library hope they have given you the full value I seldom have a chance of hearing from Albemarle my friends are not interested enough in my happiness to induce them to write to me but I shall never cease to love and respect them I hope My Dear Patsy enjoys good health and spirits her children all well and happy and that your own health is in perfect repair, this tenement of Clay that I inhabit will not stand many years longer every year makes me feel its decline but I am not dismay’d by the thoughts of quitting a situation that can afford little but mournful regrets

Mr Gilmer and my neice unite with me in love to the family and every good wish for yours and their happiness that God may bless and preserve you long is the constant prayer of your obliged and sincere friend

E. Trist

RC (MHi); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello Albemarle”; stamped; postmarked Martinsville, 22 Nov., and Charlottesville, 11 Dec.; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Dec. 1814 and so recorded in SJL.

Trist’s nephew William S. House seems to have survived the 28 June 1814 engagement in the English Channel with HMS Reindeer, but if so he perished when his sloop, the USS Wasp, went down with all hands in the North Atlantic that October (Malcomson, Historical Dictionary description begins Robert Malcomson, Historical Dictionary of the War of 1812, 2006 description ends , 598, 599; Callahan, U.S. Navy description begins Edward W. Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900, 1901, repr. 1969 description ends , 277). Although the United States military had recently dispersed the band of pirates on barataria Island near New Orleans, Governor William C. C. Claiborne invited them to join in the defense of the city in December. President James Madison later pardoned them as a reward for their role in repelling the British invasion (Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816 [1917; repr. 1972], 6:291, 324, 338; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. (All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers) description ends , 13th Cong., 3d sess., 1829–30 [6 Feb. 1815]). patsy: Martha Jefferson Randolph. The English poet John Dryden included the phrase tenement of clay in his long allegorical poem Absalom and Achitophel (pt. 1, line 158). my neice: Mary House Gilmer.

1Manuscript: “in in.”

2Preceding three words interlined.

3Trist here canceled “addopted.”

Index Entries

  • Barataria Island, La.; pirates on search
  • children; health of search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; and War of1812 search
  • Dryden, John; quoted search
  • Gilmer, Mary House (Peachy R. Gilmer’s wife); sends greetings to TJ search
  • Gilmer, Peachy Ridgeway; sends greetings to TJ search
  • health; in Tidewater Va. search
  • health; mortality rates search
  • health; of TJ’s family search
  • House, William S.; midshipman search
  • Library of Congress; TJ sells personal library to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); criticized search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); pardons Barataria pirates search
  • Mobile, W. Fla. (later Ala.); seized by U.S. forces search
  • New England; politics in search
  • New Orleans; and War of1812 search
  • Norfolk, Va.; and War of1812 search
  • Plattsburgh, N.Y.; successful U.S. defense of search
  • political economy; and wartime finance search
  • politics; in New England search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); children of search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); health of search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); as colonel in U.S. Army search
  • Reindeer, HMS (brig-sloop) search
  • taxes; direct search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; friends and family of search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; health of search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; letters from search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; on War of1812 search
  • War of1812; British destruction in Washington search
  • War of1812; defense of New Orleans search
  • War of1812; E. Trist on search
  • War of1812; Niagara Campaign search
  • War of1812; opposition to search
  • War of1812; U.S. financing of search
  • War of1812; U.S. naval victories during search
  • Washington, D.C.; British destruction in search
  • Wasp, USS (sloop) search
  • women; letters from; E. Trist search