Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Flower’s Account of a Visit to Monticello, 12–16 [December 1816]

George Flower’s Account of a Visit to Monticello

Thursday 12 [Dec. 1816]

Morning Showery1—Rode to Monticello 14 miles.2 Met Mr Jefferson—Miss Randolphs & Mrs Randolph.—  

Friday 13—

Morn’g fine3—Read papers containing copious extracts from English Journals—

The Nottingham petition & the southwark speeches4 given at full length.5

Rode to Mr Randolphs Farm.6 dined at Monticello In the Evening after tea Mr J. gave us many amusing anecdotes relating to attempts in the early days of the American constitution to introduce the ettiquette & forms of an European Court.7

So strongly were a certain party attached to Royalty at N York a Throne was made &8 they placed Gen Washington & Mrs Washington9 upon it.

Two members from Massetuchets,10 waited upon Gen Washington in their official capacity.   As they entered his house, they espied Mrs Washington crossing the Hall.

with most respectful hommage they enquired of her “if his Majesty was at home.”   After this question was twice repeated with profound respect Martha Washington said, the Gen’l is up Stairs.11

Mr J always opposed every thing like the12 mimickry of European Courts.

During his own presidency it was expected that the old levees wd be kept up—he tho’t the most easey way to get rid of them w’d be to ride out13 on levee mornng & stay out till a late hour.

Upon his return to dinner a cluster of persons near the house were waiting in full dress.   He dismounted and civily14 shaking them by the hand he invited15 them to walk in to dinner. So ended the last of the levees.   He broke up in like manner all formal announcements to dinner according to Rank by sitting promiscuously amongst the company & often at the lower end of the Table—16


Saturday 14

Rode to Charlotsville in the morning and visited Mr Randolphs Farm.

Good farming pays ten or twelve pr Cent for money invested in land and stock After the expences of a large family are deducted.17

In the course of conversation in the evening I was sorry to hear three disgraceful anecdotes of Lord Cornwallis when he commanded the British troops during the revolutionary war.

When admiring a silver18 flat candlestick very much, the [host?]19 appologised to him for not being able to present it to him as it was an old favourite family piece of plate. but his lordship put it in his pocket without much cerimony His lordship20 distroyed a county seat of Mr Jefferson’s—broke the furniture, destroyed the library & committed every act of wanton distruction Admiral Cockburn by his activity in stealing pigs and poultry he has acquired for himself the title of “Admiral Henroost”


Sunday 15th

Wrote to Mr Davies of Montreal


Monday 16—

Left Monticello at Noon

MS (ICHi: Flower Diary, vol. 3); in Flower’s hand; partially dated. MS (ICHi: Flower Diary, vol. 2); in Flower’s hand; partially dated.

The nottingham petition of September 1816 called on the British prince regent George (later George IV) and parliament to support policies aimed at “reducing the army, abolishing all sinecures, pensions, grants, and emoluments, not merited by actual public services; of bringing the charges of the civil list, within such moderate bounds as the circumstances of the country will enable it to meet; and restoring to the people their undoubted rights, a full, fair, and equal representation in the commons house of parliament” (Richmond Enquirer, 23 Nov. 1816). A large, public meeting held in mid-October in southwark, England, authorized the presentation of a similar petition to the prince regent (Alexandria Herald, 29 Nov., 2 Dec. 1816).

TJ’s country seat (county seat) was Elk Hill in Goochland County. For TJ’s description of the devastation of its crops and livestock and the carrying off of its slaves in June 1781 by British troops commanded by Charles, 2d Earl Cornwallis, see PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 39 vols. description ends , 13:363–4.

Although Flower left monticello on 16 Dec. 1816, later that month he returned to TJ’s mountaintop home for a week, and he spent most of February 1817 there as well. However, his diary covering these later visits (the vol. 3 MS) adds nothing of consequence about the ex-president and his life at Monticello. In a later account Flower recalled that “The greater part of the winter I passed at Monticello the permanent residence of Mr Jefferson, in Charlotte Co [Albemarle County]—The chief charm of the visit was in the evening conversations with Mr Jefferson, who gave me the inner history of events, before only known to me, as to the world generally, in the published record or outside history, which is all that the public is generally allowed to see” (MS in ICHi: Flower Family Papers, in an unindentified hand, with corrections and emendations by Flower; printed in Flower, History of the English Settlement in Edwards County Illinois, Founded in 1817 and 1818, by Morris Birkbeck and George Flower [1882], 44–5).

1Preceding two words not in vol. 2 MS.

2Vol. 2 MS: “12. Miles.”

3Preceding two words not in vol. 2 MS.

4Vol. 2 MS: “petition.”

5Flower here inserted a page, not in vol. 2 MS, containing information about a 1,000-acre farm owned by the Maupin family of Albemarle County. A repeated “Friday 13,” editorially omitted, appears at the start of the next paragraph.

6Vol. 2 MS: “Rode to Edge hill farm with Col. Randolph.”

7Sentence in vol. 2 MS reads “Mr J. gave us many amusing anecdotes of the early days of American freedom.” Following sentence not in vol. 2 MS.

8Preceding eight words interlined in place of “that.”

9Manuscript: “Washngton.”

10Vol. 2 MS: “one of the northern states.”

11Sentence in vol. 2 MS reads “Martha Washington replied, the Gen’ls up stairs if you mean him.”

12Flower here canceled “mockery.”

13Sentence to this point in vol. 2 MS reads “During his presidency—he wished to get rid of a leve—he rode out.”

14Vol. 2 MS: “familliarly.”

15Vol. 2 MS: “politely asked.”

16Sentence in vol. 2 MS reads “Formal arrangements at dinner according to rank were broken thro’—by—paying no attention to them and sitting promiscuously.”

17Sentence in vol. 2 MS reads “A farm well managed pays 12–pr Ct after deducting the expences of a family.” Vol. 2 MS ends here.

18Word interlined.

19Omitted word editorially conjectured.

20Flower here canceled “burn’t and.”

Index Entries

  • agriculture; annual income from search
  • Cockburn, George; as British admiral search
  • Cornwallis, Charles, 2d Earl Cornwallis; steals candlestick search
  • Cornwallis, Charles, 2d Earl Cornwallis; Va. invasion by search
  • Davies, Mr. (of Montreal) search
  • Edgehill (T. M. Randolph’s Albemarle Co. estate); visitors to search
  • Elk Hill (TJ’s Goochland Co. estate) search
  • Flower, George; Account of a Visit to Monticello search
  • Flower, George; visits Monticello search
  • George, Prince Regent (later George IV, king of Great Britain); and political reform search
  • Great Britain; parliament of search
  • Great Britain; political reform in search
  • household articles; candlesticks search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; presidential levees and dinners search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; royal etiquette search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; as president search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Flower, George search
  • Nottingham, England; petition from search
  • pigs; stolen 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); mentioned search
  • Revolutionary War; British depredations during search
  • Southwark, England; public meeting at search
  • Virginia; British attacks on search
  • Washington, George; as president search
  • Washington, Martha Dandridge Custis (George Washington’s wife) search
  • weather; rain search