Thomas Jefferson Papers

Hore Browse Trist to Nicholas P. Trist, [ca. 19 October 1819]

Hore Browse Trist to Nicholas P. Trist

[ca. 19 Oct. 1819]

Dearest Nic

I have walked this morning from monticello to Peter minor’s, grandmother’s residence at this present moment, I started immediately after breakfast, reached this in about an hour and a half, the morning was perfectly well adapted for a jaunt of that kind, & they say that there is no situation in which a man feels more independent and noble, than that of a pedestrian of a fine, cold, bracing day.—having nothing to employ me, I will condescend to dedicate a few moments of my precious time to you.

mr Jefferson was very ill yesterday, his life even was in some danger, but thank god he was better when I left the mountain. It seems that his digestive powers which in general are so regular and good, failed him, and for two or three days a passage had been denied him by nature, consequently the old gentleman was taken very ill, & you know, men of his age are not able, generally, to contend with a severe attack of any complaint. I hope however for the good of his country that providence will spare him for a score of years and another score for the sake of his family, and were it not asking too much 20 for his own sake, for he deserves to live half a dozen ages of men, and if longevity was bestowed in proportion to correct conduct he would never die. We performed a feat some time since, which displeased the old patriarch very much, about seven of us, among whom were Francis Eppes and Wayles Baker the one you know, the other is a young man with whom I am very much pleased, both under mr J’s care; but to return to our subject we collected about five or six bottles of wine, which were by the by, half whiskey. after making ourselves pretty merry1 we agreed to frighten our landlord, who had incurred our displeasure by giving us nothing that we could eat, a short description of him wont be amiss, a thin mean looking frenchman, one of those characters, who after Serving in the capacity of valet de chambre in france, & being obliged to transport himself to the U.S. for misdemeanour, has the insolence to affirm that he2 was formerly a man of rank, an officer of the same rank with buonaparte. ha, ha, ha.3 he has also the slight failing of never being perfectly sober, also the slight one of never telling the truth. in short he is a man of no principle whatsoever; he had however the good fortune to gain M Js good opinion by a few of his tales, who wishing to establis[h] the french regimen here together with the french language, pitched upon him as the very man to keep a boardinghouse, he has behaved in that capacity as well as could be expected that is to say very badly, and had the impudence to invite me as he termed it4 out of his house because I found a maggot among his dirty victuals, I think I should have kicked him on the spot, had it not been that Mr J. patronised him. I say after getting pretty toxy, we sallied out (after choosing a strapping fellow by the name of Preston for captain) with our coats turned wrongside out, marched around the town 2 or 3 times, through the5 tavern, then marched and stoned the house, which by the by was a cowardly trick. nothing was talked of the next day but our bad conduct. some swore that we were in our shirttails, others affirmed that one leg of our breeches was out—we were threatened with the terrors of the jail, & la Porte went flouncing up to monticello in his wrath, told fifty lies against me in particular told them that for my indecent conduct he had been forced to send me from his house fortunately no one beleived him except mr J. who wrote a note to, mr Trist mr Eppes and mr Baker desiring not to be honoured with our company until our conduct had been brought to its proper issue. we were all in the fidgets for two or three days, between the fear of being prosecuted & what was a thousand times worse mr Js anger, however he has written me a note since requesting that I wou[ld] continue my visits as usual, that he still felt the same friendship and esteem towar[d] me. I was very much flattered to hear that Mrs R. took my part and was very much incensed with mr La Porte.

Jam nox incubuit terram, & I have only time, my dear brother to tell you that there6 is no prospect of this university being ready in time, even for the next generation, I feel inclined to go to Cambridge which has the reputation of being the best, but I dont [know]7 what destiny the fates have decreed me, be assured in the mean time that whatever be my lot, I will always remain your devoted brother—

H B Trist

grandmother sends her love to you—

RC (DLC: NPT); undated, with dateline of “Oct. 19. 1819” added by Nicholas P. Trist, presumably based on postmark; edge trimmed; addressed: “N. P. Trist West Point New York”; stamped; postmarked Charlottesville, 19 Oct.; endorsed by Nicholas P. Trist.

Hore Browse Trist (1802–56), planter, was a grandson of Elizabeth Trist and the younger brother of Nicholas P. Trist. A year after his birth in Washington, D.C., TJ appointed his father, also named Hore Browse Trist, to serve as customs collector for the district of Mississippi and revenue inspector for the port of Fort Adams. The family remained in New Orleans after the elder Trist died of yellow fever in 1804. Both boys studied at the College of Orleans in New Orleans before relocating late in 1817 to Monticello, where TJ assisted them in planning their further education. Trist attended Gerard E. Stack’s Charlottesville Academy and began studies late in 1820 at the University of Pennsylania. Toward the end of the following year Trist was in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. There he managed the Bowdon plantation and served as a local justice of the peace, administrator of the public schools, and clerk of court. In 1850 Trist owned at least 160 slaves and real estate valued at $200,000 (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , 36:419–20; Shackelford, Descendants description begins George Green Shackelford, ed., Collected Papers … of the Monticello Association of the Descendants of Thomas Jefferson, 1965–84, 2 vols. description ends , 1:101, 103, 105, 106; Marie Trist Jones Tournillon to Nicholas P. Trist, 4 Dec. 1817 [NcU: NPT]; TJ to Robert Patterson, 7 Nov. 1820; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1376, 1377; Virginia J. Randolph [Trist] to Nicholas P. Trist, with postscript by Martha Jefferson Randolph, 2 Dec. 1821 [DLC: NPT]; Hore Browse Trist to Nicholas P. Trist, 24 June 1824, 12 July 1827 [both in NcU: NPT]; DNA: RG 29, CS, La., Ascension Parish, 1850, and 1850 slave schedules; Martha [Pattie] Jefferson Trist to Nicholas P. Trist, 17 Nov. 1856 [NcU: NPT]).

our landlord: Peter Laporte. toxy is evidently a variant of “intoxicated.” TJ’s note refusing his hospitality to mr trist mr eppes and mr baker is not recorded in SJL and has not been found, nor has his note since then to Trist revoking this decree. mrs r.: Martha Jefferson Randolph.

jam nox incubuit terram: “Now night has fallen to the ground.” Trist reported to his brother the following spring that TJ and Stack were both “directly opposed to my going” to Harvard University (cambridge) and that “they both approve of Philadelphia” (the University of Pennsylvania) (Trist to Nicholas P. Trist, 30 May 1820 [DLC: NPT]).

1Word interlined in place of “sober.”

2Manuscript: “we.”

3Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

4Preceding four words interlined.

5Manuscript: “th.”

6Manuscript: “ther.”

7Omitted word editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • alcohol; whiskey search
  • Baker, John Wayles (TJ’s grandnephew); education of search
  • Charlottesville Academy; misbehavior of students search
  • clothing; breeches search
  • clothing; coats search
  • drunkenness; of Charlottesville Academy students search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, in Charlottesville search
  • French language; spoken in boardinghouses search
  • Harvard University; H. B. Trist plans to attend search
  • health; colic search
  • insects; maggots search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; colic search
  • Laporte, Peter; tavern of search
  • Laporte, Peter; visits Monticello search
  • Laporte’s boardinghouse (Charlottesville); French language spoken at search
  • Laporte’s boardinghouse (Charlottesville); misbehavior of boarders search
  • Minor, Peter; E. Trist visits search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Laporte, Peter search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; mentioned search
  • Pennsylvania, University of search
  • Preston, John Bowker; studies at Charlottesville Academy search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); defends Charlottesville Academy students search
  • schools and colleges; Harvard University search
  • schools and colleges; University of Pennsylvania search
  • Stack, Gerard E.; and Charlottesville Academy search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; and grandchildren’s education search
  • Trist, Hore Browse (1802–56); and Charlottesville Academy search
  • Trist, Hore Browse (1802–56); education of search
  • Trist, Hore Browse (1802–56); identified search
  • Trist, Hore Browse (1802–56); letter from, to N. P. Trist search
  • Trist, Hore Browse (1802–56); visits Monticello search
  • Trist, Nicholas Philip; letter to, from H. B. Trist search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opening of delayed search
  • whiskey; students consume search
  • wine; students consume search