Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge), 16 January 1822

To Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge)

Monticello Jan. 16. 22.

I confess, my dearest Ellen, you have reason to think I have too long neglected the acknolegement of your letter of Dec. 12. which was 10 days on it’s passage. but negligence has not been the cause of this tardy1 answer. I have waited in daily expectation of remitting you at the same time the money for the busts of the President and of mr Madison, which I will gladly take. the fact is that from a short time after you left this in Nov. to this day the cold has been such as to have kept our river constantly blocked up with ice. I have at this time a load of flour, sent off 3. weeks ago, and still ice-bound in the river, and until I can replenish the hands of Colo Peyton, I have no right to draw on him even for small sums. the money however shall be remitted as soon as the river permits; and in the meantime I suppose there is no danger of losing the purchase.

I am glad to learn from your mother that you are pleased with your visit to Washington. in the single case of disrespect shewn you, if it were really intended, it was of a littleness of character which acts only in the rebound: if not intended, it should have been explained. perhaps it has been. in either case it imposes double caution against all expressions personal or national which might be misconstrued into a feeling derogatory of self-respect. I trust I have still some old friends there who, by their attentions to you will prove that the friendships of those who love us as well as the enmities of those who hate, can descend from the fathers to the children of the 3rd and 4th generation. the conversations in French of the societies you frequent, will I hope encourage you in endeavors to speak it also. no end2 can be attained without a beginning.

Were I to attempt, from our Eddystone to give you news at this season of it’s insulation by winter weather and winter roads, I could only say that the Mountain stands where it did, with the house still on the top of it, and all it’s appendages where you left them. there have been some marriages Etc. but your mother & Mary know more of them than I do. we have had very steadily the usual cold of this month, and even more than is usual. on the 5th our severest morning the thermometer was at 7.° above zero. what was it with you?   I do not know that I have a right to ask a continuation of your letters; because I could not promise a return of letter for letter. you know how cruelly I am burthened in that way. I had the curiosity, a few days ago, to count the letters I recieve in a year, taking one at random. it happened to be that of 1819. the number reciev[ed was] 1267; nearly all requiring answers, and a great part elaborate [ans]wers, and of much research. could I be relieved from this [constant?] oppression, life would still have some comforts, some amusements for me; but the eternal drudgery of letter-writing, the revolting sight of the mail packet every post day, & the heart-sinking reflection that all that is to be answered, embitters existence itself to me. if you do not think the sacrifice too unequal, nothing would be so grateful to me as the reciept of your letters.   present my friendly and respectful compliments to your good aunt, and recieve into your own bosom the glow of my warmest affections.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (Edward Churchill, Haddonfield, N.J., 1991); on reused address cover of Charles Willson Peale to TJ, 3 July 1820; damaged at seal; endorsed by TJ: “Randolph Eleanor W. Jan. 16. 22”; with later notation at foot of text by Randolph (Coolidge)’s daughter Ellen Randolph Coolidge Dwight: “Given to me at Edgehill E.R.D.”

In the biblical ten commandments, God forbids idol worship and warns of “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the 3rd and 4th generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20.5, Deuteronomy 5.9). TJ described the isolation of the lighthouse on eddystone Rocks in a letter to Elizabeth Trist, 28 Feb. 1810, and his Notes on Early Career (the so-called “Autobiography”), [6 Jan.–29 July 1821]. According to SJL, TJ received only 566 letters in 1819.

Reporting with pleasure on one change at Monticello, Martha Jefferson Randolph wrote to her daughter Virginia J. Randolph (Trist) on 10 Jan. 1822 that “I have at last succeeded in having My alcove turned into a closet and you have no idea how much it has added to My comfort I laid regular siege to Papa who bore it in dignified silence for some time, but I gave it to him for breakfast, dinner, and supper, and breakfast again till he gave up in dispair at last. and when it is painted it will not disfigure the room at all, and untill I can procure drawers for your room I will send the press up after having good locks put upon it. I think you will find a convenience in it” (RC in NcU: NPT).

1Manuscript: “tordy.”

2Reworked from “nothing.”

Index Entries

  • Bible; Deuteronomy referenced by TJ search
  • Bible; Exodus referenced by TJ search
  • Cardelli, Peter (Pietro); bust of J. Madison search
  • Cardelli, Peter (Pietro); bust of J. Monroe search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); and busts for TJ search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); as linguist search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); letters to search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Washington search
  • Eddystone Rocks (English Channel); lighthouse at search
  • flour; shipment of search
  • French language; spoken in Washington search
  • French language; TJ on study of search
  • furniture; presses search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; description of, in retirement search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; fatiguing or painful to search
  • locks; for presses search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); P. Cardelli’s bust of search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); P. Cardelli’s bust of search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); described search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); weather recorded at search
  • Peyton, Bernard; account with TJ search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); bedroom of at Monticello search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); correspondence of search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); mentioned search
  • Randolph, Mary (Thomas Mann Randolph’s sister; David Meade Randolph’s wife); greetings sent to search
  • Randolph, Mary Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); mentioned search
  • Rivanna River; ice on search
  • sculpture; P. Cardelli’s busts search
  • Trist, Virginia Jefferson Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); correspondence with M. J. Randolph search
  • weather; cold search
  • women; letters to; E. W. R. Coolidge search