F. K. UNlVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
The father's house was at Shadwell, named after a parish in London on the north bank of the Thames, where his wife had been born. Here Thomas Jefferson lived when at home, and here the earlier accumulation of his own papers was kept. In February, 1770, this house suffered the fate of so many of the Virginian houses, burning to the ground, with little salvage either of house or contents. Jefferson wrote of his loss to his friend John Page, believing that it had involved "every paper I had in the world, and almost every book. On a reasonable estimate I calculate the cost of the books burned to have been £200 sterling.... Of papers too of every kind I am utterly destitute. All of these, whether public or private, of business or of amusement, have perished in the flames." Note: p3f2 The loss was irreparable, and while a mere handful of records was recovered, largely by the recall of the original letters, the great mass of books and documents for the years before 1770 could never be replaced, and the want of them has given a fragmentary and quite unsatisfactory tone to what is known of Jefferson during his formative years. Fortunately that was the only serious inroad into the life-long accumulation of written material which Jefferson left at his death.
Jefferson executed a will, March 16, 1826, providing generally for the descent of his property. On the following day he added a codicil, in which among other specific bequests he wrote: "My papers of business going of course to him [his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph], as my executor, all others of a literary or other character I give to him as of his own property." Note: p4f1 He passed over his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, knowing that any bequest or provision in his favor would be futile and for the benefit of his creditors. Thomas J. Randolph was at the time of Jefferson's death thirtyfour years of age. Born at Monticello, September 12, 1792, he had been educated at Philadelphia and the University of Virginia, and married into the Nicholas family. Receiving the papers of his grandfather, he prepared and issued four volumes of a Memoir, Correspondence and Miscellanies from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville, 1829) . This was also printed in London in the same year in a manner much superior to the Virginia edition. A second edition of the American issue appeared in 1830 with a Boston imprint. Three years later a selection in two volumes was made by L. P. Conseil, and published in Paris. We get a glimpse of the manner of preparing Randolph's edition from a letter written by a daughter of Jefferson to her son Joseph Coolidge, Jr.: "The originals themselves are in many places so faded as to be almost entirely obliterated. For pages together the girls have to take advantage of the broad light of a noonday sun, frequently unable to read them but with the assistance of a looking-glass applied to the back, where alone the impression shows. A few lines will sometimes cost as many days. This is not the state of the " whole , but of a very considerable portion Note: p4f2 . . . We are, the girls and myself, very closely employed from five to eight hours a day with them, after which they go through a second examination by the editor, whose trouble is much lessened by our pioneering the way before him." Note: p4f3
The publication of this portion of the Jefferson papers revived political animosities and discussion. Henry Lee, much concerned over some references to his father, wrote in 1832 a somewhat acrid reply, Observations on the Writings of Thomas Jefferson, which advanced neither the cause he advocated nor his own interests. Recognizing that something more than the Writings would be opportune, Randolph gave St. George Tucker, long a friend of Jefferson, access to "all the letters written " by Jefferson. Tucker also mentions using a "selection of such letters and papers, never before published, as were thought to throw light on Mr. Jefferson's character," a selection made by Nicholas P. Trist. Note: p4f4 This is the first suggestion of a possible division of the papers within the family, for Trist married Virginia Jefferson Randolph, a daughter of Thomas Mann Randolph. Tucker's Life appeared in 1837. From that time on no one, except Henry S. Randall, Note: p5f1 is recorded as using the manuscripts,and the collection long remained apparently as intact as Jefferson left it.
The proper possessor of such a collection was the United States Government. The Library of Congress, limited by its very name, made no effort, for more than half a century, to obtain manuscript material. The few pieces obtained with the Jefferson Library in 1815, and by purchase at auction of a part of his second private library in 1829, were not appreciated, and did not awaken an ambition to use them as the foundation of a great national collectlon of hlstorical manuscripts, an idea which would have appealed strongly to Jeffierson himself. The Washington papers, obtained in 1834, constituted the first important purchase by the nation and were placed in the Department of State as the most fitting depository; for the records of the Federal Convention of 1787 and those of the Continental Congress, in which were a large number of Washington letters, had come naturally to that Department on the institution of the government under the Constitution. A later purchase obtained a part of the Madison papers in 1837, and the Department of State also received them, thus coming to be recognized as the most fitting custodian of such records.
The appropriation act of August 12, 1848, providing for the civil and diolomatic expenses of government for the fiscal year 1849. contained the following item: "For paying to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, executor of Thomas Jefferson, deceased, the sum of twenty thousand dollars, for all the papers and manuscripts of the said Thomas Jefferson: PROVIDED, That said T. J. Randolph shall deposit all the said papers and manuscripts of a public nature in the State Department, and execute a conveyance thereof to the United States."
The papers were deposited by Mr. Randolph in the Department of State for examination, in order that the private records might be separated from the public, and returned to the family. This process of selection was performed in a leisurely manner, by whom is not known. The "librarian" of the Department would have been the natural agent for making this division of material, and the librarian at that time was Henry A. Washington, who prepared the quite inadequate congressional edition of Jefferson's Writings (1853-54). Doubtless the preparation of this edition entailed upon him a more or less careful examination of this material, for his volumes contained more than did the Randolph volumes. Neither he nor his successors gave serious attention to the separation of the private from the public papers, and eighteen years after the appearance of the first volume of the Writings Sarah Nicholas Randolph, daughter of Thomas Jefferson Randolph, wrote (June, 1871) that, "Jefferson's executor having a few months ago recovered from the United States Government his family letters and private papers, which had been exempted from the sale of his public manuscripts," she was enabled to print letters never before published. Note: p6f1 Thomas Jefferson Randolph died at Edgehill, October 8, 1875, and what papers were in his possession passed to his daughter, Sarah Nicholas Randolph, apparently under a general bequest. Note: p6f2
The great mass of the Jefferson papers properly fell under the description of public papers and formed the original collection in the Department of State, bound in 172 volumes, now by transfer in the Library of Congress. The selection made by the Government's representative was neither thorough nor consistent. So methodical a man asJefferson, writing his own letters and endorsing and filing his correspondence, saved everything he received and retained copies of his own letters. Not only did a good planter in Virginia usually do this, the commercial connection with Great Britain alone making it advisable, but Jefferson's experience and natural aptitude led him carefully to cultivate such regularity. Few public men of his day suffered so much by partial pub lication or deliberate garbling of his letters. The filing and arrangement by himself must have been disturbed by the examination necessary for Randolph's compilation, possibly for Trist's selection, and for Tucker's "Life." The examination could hardly have beens restricted to Jeffierson's own letters, for he often filed his letter-press or polygraphic reply with the letter received, and the two, folded once for convenient handling, but carefully endorsed by Jefferson himself, would oblige at least a superficial study of the entire collection, to determine where the most interesting material was to be found. In Mr. Bixby's Jefferson collection, obtained as recently as 1908, letters and replies were still folded together, probably just as they came from the original files. Yet this disturbance cannot be held responsible for the confusion by which the collection came to be separated into diffierent parts. That must have been due to the official charged with selecting the "public " papers under the purchase by the Government. Many public papers were turned back to Mr. Randolph, and what the Government secured was in part arranged and bound in a manner defying every rule governing due historical treatment. More than that: many years after the purchase had been effected, and in December, 1897, the Librarian of Congress, Mr. Spofford, turned over to the Department of State a number of additional Jefferson papers, which had been in his office since the so-called private papers were returned to Miss Randolph, twenty-six years before. In making the transfer he stated: "These Jefferson papers were sent to the Joint Committee of the Library, with others, upon an application of the heirs to have returned to them the papers of a private nature, which had been in the possession of the Government pending the selection of material to be published. An examination of all the papers resulted in the return by the committee of a selection of the papers which were unquestionably private, to Miss Sarah N. Randolph, representing the heirs, leaving all which were of a public nature, or partly public and partly private, in the hands of the committee." Note: p6f3
Thus at some time after the purchase of the Jefferson papers by the Government a first selection was made, comprising that portion which the Department of State held from the time of selection until 1905, when it transferred the volumes to the Library of Congress. A second portion, what was set aside after this first selection, was again scrutinized about 1870 under the direction of the Joint Committee of the Library, and presumably by Mr. Spofford. The private papers were returned to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, who was then alive, and the public papers remained with the Joint Committee until 1897, when they were turned over to the Department of State. Here the story should have ended, so far as the Government's collection of Jefferson papers was concerned; but an even more curious development followed. In 1906, or 1907, and some years after the removal of the Library to its new building, there was found in the office of Mr. Spofford, then assistant librarian of Congress, a box containing a large quantity of Jefferson manuscript material, upwards of two thousand pieces, doubtless once a part of that set apart as public by the Joint Committee, but in some manner overlooked in the transfer of 1897. The original portion of the Department of State's Jefferson collection and the additional manuscripts were transferred to the Library of Congress in 1905, and the Library then held what had been found in Mr. Spofford's keeping. Thus more than sixty years passed before all the papers obtained from the Jefferson heirs by purchase came under one roof and direction. The Government had preserved all that had come to it, but lack of interest, of enterprise, and of the collecting spirit, and the want of a proper place of deposit, produced this confusion and apparent neglect. The Library of Congress has now made good the defects of system, and is steadily increasing its holdings of Jefferson manuscripts. In 1907 it secured from Mrs. Wilson Cary Nicholas Randolph one hundred and seventy-eight drafts of letters by Jefferson on the University of Virginia. Note: p7f1 Five years later one hundred and thirty-one "inedited letters" were purchased by the Library at a sale in Philadelphia. Note: p7f2
It remains to trace the experience of the private papers returned to Miss Randolph. In 1889, she desired to sell them to the Government, and a classified list of what was offered manuscripts, books, correspondence, etc. was prepared and printed as a congressional document. Note: p7f3 Congress did not grant the necessary appropriation, and the manuscripts remained with Miss Randolph, and on her death in 1892 passed into the possession of an elder sister, Carolina Ramsay Randolph. Fortunately they attracted the notice of kinsman, Hon. Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, of Boston, who purchased a part supposed to be that part offered by Miss Sarah Randolph to the United States Government. This portion Mr. Coolidge presented to the Massachusetts Historical Society in June, 1898, and a selection made from it and other sources constituted the volume in the "Collections " of that Society (Seventh Series, I) Note: p8f1 published in 1900.
Mr. Coolidge was a great-grandson of Jefferson, being the son of Ellen Wayles Randolph, sister of Thomas Jefferson Randolph and wife of Joseph Coolidge, of Boston. He had a natural interest in Jefferson relics, for his father had received some remembrance in Jefferson's will. This interest also passed to his son Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, Jr. (1863-1912). Of bookish taste and entertaining a strong admiration for his ancestor, this younger Coolidge not only treasured whatever Jefferson material came to him from various sources, but conceived the idea of building a house for his own occupation on the plans of Monticello, known to have been constructed on designs made by Jefferson himself. Working on actual measurements of the house at Monticello, aided by a few sketch plans contemporary with Jefferson, and introducing such modifications as climate suggested, Mr. Coolidge produced a house at once a reproduction of the Virginia home, yet adapted to Massachusetts. The study of this construction only served to increase his enthusiasm, and with his wife he made a journey to Virginia in 1911, visiting Monticello and Charlottesville. Here he found, almost by accident, a number of architectural drawings, by far the larger part made by Jefferson, in the possession of Mrs. W. M. Randolph and Miss Cornelia J. Taylor. Note: p8f2 Preserved after a fashion since the days of Thomas Jefferson Randolph, the existence of these drawings had well-nigh been forgotten, and they bore evidence of having suffered from damp and mice. Recognizing their interest to his special purpose in the building at Manchester, and their value as architectural studies, Mr. Coolidge obtained the entire collection and bringing them to Boston, deposited them in the Massachusetts Historical Society building for repair and treatment necessary to their preservation. He intended to study the drawings, use such as might be of interest, and transmit them to his descendants as a precious record of a phase of Jefferson's activities as yet little understood. His death prevented the accomplishment of his wish, and the drawings were at the time still in the process of treatment.
I have anticipated in a measure the division of the Jefferson papers. On the death of Miss Sarah N. Randolph what she held passed to her sister Miss Carolina Ramsay Randolph, who died unmarried. She had disposed of a part of the papers to Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, Sr., and what remained letters, books, and relics was left to Cornelia Jefferson Taylor and Mrs. W. M. Randolph, who still hold family letters of their noted ancestor.
That the passage of the papers from generation to generation since the death of Carolina R. Randolph has not been unaccompanied by accident is shown by a recent sale of a collection of family papers of the President to Mr. William K. Bixby, of St. Louis. These were obtained from Mrs. Cary Randolph Ruffin, of Charlottesville, wife of a grandson of Cary Ann Nicholas Randolph, sister of Sarah and Carolina Randolph. This collection, numbering some two thousand five hundred pieces, Mr. Bixby has divided into two parts: one, of about five hundred documents, he retains for his own notable gathering of manuscripts; and the other he has given to the Missouri Historical Society.
From the four series of published Writings of Thomas Jefferson, edited in sequence by Randolph, Washington, Ford, and Lipscomb-Bergh, the public and much of the private life of the man may be learned. These more important publications have been supplemented by lesser compilations and studies devoted to a portion of his correspondence, a special incident in his career, or one side of his many-sided attainments. Mr. Kimball's study of his architectural drawings develops one of his activities hitherto but superficially studied.
WORTHINGTON CHAUNCEY FORD BOSTON, January 1916.