Thomas Jefferson Papers

Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) to Thomas Jefferson, 12 December 1821

From Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge)

Washington Dec. 12th 1821

My dear Grandpapa

After a great many inquiries I have at length discovered two copies of Cardelli’s busts of Mr Madison and Mr Monroe which I think I shall be able to obtain for you, as the lady in whose possession they are, seems not averse to the idea of parting with them—upon a second examination I am by no means so well pleased with these busts, as when I saw them at Montpellier; I think now that they are both caricature likenesses, but if you wish it I can obtain them for you, I believe, for ten dollars each—the bust which Cardelli took of you, might also be had for the same price, but this, I think is decidedly bad and unlike the original which we saw at Monticello under the hands of the artist—

The city has been uncommonly dull since my arrival, there have been but few private parties, and there are no places of public amusement—Mrs Monroe’s unsociable temper closes the President’s House against females except on the drawing-room nights, and these will not commence this year, until after the first of January.—Mrs Adams does not seem popular here, I imagine in consequence of her insisting upon receiving the first visit. M. & Mde de Neuville are universal favorites, indeed I am told that no foreigners have ever been as generally beloved, they entertain a great deal of company, and their parties are considered the most pleasant that are given in the city—they have a numerous train of attendants, no less than eight young men attached in some way to the mission, and going by the general name of “attachès.” french is becoming almost as much a language of society as english, the foreign ministers and their attendants all speak it; the senators & representatives of Louisiana, some of them amongst the most fashionable people here, make use of the two languages indifferently, it is really becoming entirely necessary to understand and speak them both.—In Congress they are as yet, I believe, employed in making preparations for what is to come, organizing committees, receiving petitions &c; it is thought that it will be late in the Session before the debates become at all interesting—Gen. Jackson’s affair whenever that is brought upon the carpet will probably excite some commotion; I heard a young member say in a jesting way, “we intend to make a Warren Hastings business of it.” I am sure I do not know where they would find a Sheridan; I fear we shall have a great many talkers and few reasoners, according to custom. the re-election of Mr Pinkney to the Senate gives an Orator there, but in the lower house I do not know what distinguished men they have except Mr Lowndes. South Carolina sends a youth of high promise, a Mr McDuffee, but he is quite young, not more than six or seven and twenty, and untried, with the disadvantage of having been announced. It was Mde Geoffrin—who said the whole world might be divided into “trompeurs, trompès, & trompettes” the friends of Mr McDuffee have been literally the third, they may find themselves the second in their own persons, and the first as far as regards others.—the election of a Chaplain for the house of representatives, has made some noise, and the preference given to a Unitarian, Mr Sparks of Baltimore, (whom you will recollect the author of an able work in explanation of the Unitarian principles) will be a “stumbling block and rock of offence” for all the worshippers of the three Gods, by whatever names they may chuse to call themselves—the progress of Unitarianism is too evident to be disavowed; I have met with several persons openly professing themselves of that sect, and it’s concealed strength cannot be estimated except by the circumstance of a church which we see rising boldly from the ground, bearing the name of Unitarian, and which I have little doubt will be well filled, as soon as it is in a situation to receive those who will flock to it’s banners.—

Adieu my dear Grandpapa, I will wait to hear from you before I conclude the bargain for the busts, I believe I can have them whenever I please, and as I am the only applicant, there is no danger of their being appropriated by another. Aunt Randolph desires me to offer her respects to you, and I hope you need no assurance of the entire and devoted attachment of your most affectionate grand daughter.

Ellen W. Randolph—

RC (Edward Churchill, Haddonfield, N.J., 1991); endorsed by TJ as received 22 Dec. 1821 and so recorded in SJL; with later notation at foot of text by Randolph (Coolidge)’s daughter Ellen Randolph Coolidge Dwight: “Given to me at Edgehill E.R.D.”

After he resigned as governor of Florida in 1821, members of Congress attempted to bring Andrew Jackson upon the carpet by investigating his actions in that position. The executive branch agreed to print documents relating to “transactions in the Floridas under Governor Jackson,” and Congress tabled the matter (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 15:42–3, 108–9, 296–7 [11 Dec. 1821, 2 Jan., 28 Feb. 1822]; 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 Library of Congress Digital Collections website and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers.) description ends , 17th Cong., 1st sess., 2295–570; ASP, Miscellaneous, 2:799–913). warren hastings faced impeachment in 1787 for his conduct as British governor-general of Bengal. Although Richard Brinsley sheridan spoke against him at great length in Westminster Hall, in 1795 Parliament acquitted Hastings (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ).

George McDuffie (mcduffee) was thirty-one years old when he entered the United States House of Representatives in 1821 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ). The aphorism by which Marie Thérèse Rodet geoffrin divided the world into trompeurs, trompès, & trompettes (literally, “liars, dupes, and trumpets” [noisemakers]; figuratively, “those who lead, those who are led, and those who only make noise” [Dictionnaire de l’Académie Françoise, 5th ed. (Paris, 1798), 2:698]) has also been attributed to the marquise du Deffand (Pierre Marc Gaston de Lévis, Souvenirs et Portraits. 1780–1789 [Paris, 1813], 53). Variations of the biblical allusion to a stumbling block and rock of offence are found in Isaiah 8.14, Romans 9.33, and 1 Peter 2.8.

Randolph (Coolidge) reported from Washington in a 13 Jan. 1822 letter to her mother, Martha Jefferson Randolph, that she had “been to a good many parties lately and received my full share of attention … you should hear the fulsome compliments poured into my ears by Charles Fenton Mercer, see Harrison G. Otis bow until his toupee brushes the floor, and old Rufus King bending to the ground to tye my shoe string, whilst my cousin John [i.e., John Randolph] asserts in a loud voice the claims which country name and blood give him to a portion not only of my attention, but to being considered in the light of a friend, and called upon whenever I require any service that he can render—in the midst of all this flattery & attention, vain weak woman as I am, I acknowledge the potent effects of the nostrum, and press the intoxicating cup to lips as hot & thirsty, as if I had not been educated for better things, as if this high enjoyment of a vain & frivolous & idle & extravagant mode of life, was not unworthy of the grand daughter & pupil of the wise & great Jefferson, of your daughter, my dearest mother” (RC in ViU: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence).

Index Entries

  • Adams, Louisa Catherine Johnson (John Quincy Adams’s wife); popularity of search
  • Bible; 1 Peter referenced search
  • Bible; Isaiah referenced search
  • Bible; Romans referenced search
  • Cardelli, Peter (Pietro); bust of J. Madison search
  • Cardelli, Peter (Pietro); bust of J. Monroe search
  • Cardelli, Peter (Pietro); bust of TJ search
  • Congress, U.S.; and investigation of A. Jackson search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); and busts for TJ search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); letters from search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); letters from, to M. J. Randolph search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); on Unitarianism search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Washington search
  • Deffand, Marie de Vichy-Chamrond, marquise du; maxim attributed to search
  • French language; spoken in Washington search
  • Geoffrin, Marie Thérèse Rodet; maxims of search
  • Hastings, Warren; impeachment of search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; chaplains to search
  • Hyde de Neuville, Anne Marguerite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny (Jean Guillaume Hyde de Neuville’s wife) search
  • Hyde de Neuville, Jean Guillaume; E. W. R. Coolidge on search
  • Jackson, Andrew; as governor of Fla. search
  • King, Rufus; and E. W. R. Coolidge search
  • Letters on the Ministry, Ritual, and Doctrines of the Protestant Episcopal Church (J. Sparks) search
  • Louisiana (state); congressional delegation from search
  • Lowndes, William; as member of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • McDuffie, George; as member of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • McDuffie, George; E. W. R. Coolidge on search
  • Mercer, Charles Fenton; compliments E. W. R. Coolidge search
  • Monroe, Elizabeth Kortright (James Monroe’s wife); popular opinion of search
  • Otis, Harrison Gray; compliments E. W. R. Coolidge search
  • Pinkney, William; as U.S. senator search
  • Randolph, John (of Roanoke); compliments E. W. R. Coolidge search
  • Randolph, Mary (Thomas Mann Randolph’s sister; David Meade Randolph’s wife); sends greetings to TJ search
  • Sheridan, Richard Brinsley search
  • Sparks, Jared; as chaplain of U.S. House of Representatives search
  • Sparks, Jared; Letters on the Ministry, Ritual, and Doctrines of the Protestant Episcopal Church search
  • Unitarianism; spread of search
  • Washington, D.C.; society of search
  • women; letters from; E. W. R. Coolidge search