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Lafayette's Visit to Monticello (1824)
The Marquis de Lafayette visited Thomas Jefferson at Monticello on November 4-15, 1824. The following selections are accounts of this visit.
Jane Blair Cary Smith1
The autumn of 1823 was made memorable by the arrival on our shores of General La Fayette. Since no account of his visit to Mr. Jefferson can be found in a distinct form, and as it illustrates the Virginia mode of living at that time, I will mention it, and as it must necessarily be told in the first person, I shall hope to escape the charge of egotism here, as in many other parts of this family history.
On a golden November day we watched for the coming guests on the south western terrace. At length, in an open space at the foot of the mountain we discerned a train of several carriages, followed by 40 or 50 men on horseback. Then all was hurry and expectation! A few favored guests were assembled — among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Madison, and about a dozen young lady relatives, some of whom were beautiful enough to grace any reception. All were assembled in the portico, a stone structure with massive doric columns on the N.W. front of the house, Mr. Jefferson, Mrs. Randolph, Mr. and Mrs. Madison being the centre of the group. We lost sight of the cortege; as it wound around the base of the mountain, but at length through the pendant branches of the willows, we saw them with all the military show of gay scarfs and prancing horses, whose glittering accoutrements flashed in the sunshine as they formed in line on the edge of the lawn. Who can tell the excitement of that hour to a country rustic, who had seen nothing! Emotions so intense cd. not be experienced in our day, when girls of 14 or 15 are veterans and can stand the charge in a battle of sensations unmoved — At length, the first carriage reached the lawn and drew up; a crowd of gentlemen dismounted in eager haste and the Guest of the Nation was handed out: simultaneously Mr. Jefferson had walked to the edge of the lawn hurriedly and bareheaded to meet his guest. They embraced and kissed each other on the cheek in European fashion: — all was so still that we heard the words distinctly — "My dear Jefferson! — My dear Lafayette!"
The whole was a scene for an artist — a grand historic picture should have commemorated this meeting — on this mountaintop — the long chain of wavy outline, where the Blue Ridge met the horizon — the expanse of level country stretching away — away — until it seemed an ocean in the distance, — a high rugged peak in the front view — all beautified by the soft golden veil of Indian summer — the mystery and glory of our Autumn! At this moment few, if any had leisure to do aught but feel these influences; for all eyes were rivetted upon the principal figures of the [pair] — the distinguished soldier and the great statesman. The General was led up the steps by Mr. Jefferson, and introduced to Mrs. Randolph, whom he remembered as a school-girl at the Convent of St. Cyr, and then as the mistress of her father's house in Paris: he kissed her hands repeatedly and spoke many kind words as she received him with a grace peculiarly her own — a stately, elegant woman she was on all occasions, always self[-]possessed, though shrinking with painful timidity from notoriety. She then introduced her daughters and nieces, and among those white robed girls were some of the fairest the General had seen in all his long wanderings: — they crowded eagerly to touch the hand that had wielded a sword in our great Revolution. I had been accustomed to see MR. JEFFERSON — MR. MADISON — and MR. MONROE, but this French hero was a [spell?] to my inexperience: after various and long sittings in the parlor I discovered that a great soldier is not always a great man in the broadest sense. Fayette was good and noble natured and possessed excellent sense and tact, but intellectually he did not rise above mediocrity; and Mr. George La Fayette was a very commonplace sort of Frenchman.
Let us return to the distinguished group we have left standing in the portico. Who that had seen it as now — thronged with persons of historic fame, grey hairs and honors set off and relieved by a group of handsome young men and women of the first rank in society, gay, graceful and fascinating — could forget that grand old house — the lofty hall of entrance with its Indian trophies — its gallery decorated with enormous antlers — its walls covered with relics from all lands and climes, was today relieved of its sombre aspect: a sleeping statue of Ariadne on the rocks of Naxos had been removed to another part of the hall: a fire place had been revealed in which burned a cheery wood-fire, produced a somewhat incongruous effect, for projecting over the mantel piece was a model of the Pyramid of Cheops, the base so contrived as to contain a portion of the sand and pebbles of the desert! What a spot this was for a tete-a-tete of a moment — the more valued because sure to be interrupted — many were the brief snatches of talk in front of this blazing fire, for this was a corner of the hall between a door opening to Mr. Jefferson's suite, and the door leading to the suite occupied by the family. Through the hall we followed to the drawing room as it was called in those stately days: a spacious lofty apartment hung with pictures from floor to ceiling — many fine ones and many inferior — old French mirrors on either side of the door reflected the lawn, the many tinted grove skirting the mountain that rose immediately from the level of Monticello and seemed almost overhanging from its proximity. While the guests disappear for the toilet, it is necessary to describe them. Mr. George La Fayette has been mentioned: at this time he was middle aged and slightly bald, quiet, the most courteous of Frenchmen — a man who did his devoir gallantly, by always coming to the rescue in parlor distresses: he had grown daughters and had a fatherly feeling for a shy girl, there present, who was more intent on observing, than on playing a part: — she in turn requited his kindness by leaving the parlor frequently and thus sparing him the trouble of talking to a person who had not even been to Washington! There was also the French Secretary of Genl. La Fayette Mr. LeVasseur, who spoke no English and sat with admirable good nature silent and alone — for his friends were always engaged with others, and not one of the Virginians spoke French.
By and by, a day or two after the arrival, came the bluestocking Miss Wright and her sister: the elder, Fanny, was in the zenith of her fame as the authoress of a "Few days in Athens." Mr. George told me that these ladies had come to his father's notice by Fannys authorship of a book on America, which had been sent to the General, who in the fullness of his love for the country which she eulogised in a fulsome manner, invited the lady and her sister to La Grange, where they became a fixture for months, perhaps a year. Miss Wright was quiet enough at Monticello: to ladies she never spoke, except to Mrs. Randolph as her hostess, and to the youngest girl of the party, whom she noticed favorably as a mere child. But the Frenchmen told many instances of her masculine proclivities — on occasions she wd. harrangue the men in the public room of a hotel and the like. She had likewise written a poor tragedy called "Altorf" — all her books are out of print; but except Talfourd's "Ion," there is no work more exquisitely classic than the "Few days in Athens." De Quincey has compared Talfourd, in the handling of his classic subject, to an old Greek working in the classic marble. Some have doubted that Miss Wright wrote this book, but such must be the fact, since no proof to the contrary appeared, and those who heard her lecture in New York were convinced of her ability to produce an elegant work of fiction. The "Few Days &c" is a delineation of two Schools of Philosophy, those of Zeno and Epicurus — Miss Camilla was a sort of neutral tint and relieved the strong outlines of her sister in character and person — After wandering over the country in the wake of La Fayette, and obliging the first persons in society to receive them so long as they found it convenient to be domiciled, they went to New Harmony and became for the time followers of Robert Owen: Fanny married, but not till after the death of Camilla (whom she passionately mourned) a Mr. D'Arusement. The trammels of the matrimonial tie did not comport with her strong minded love of liberty it seemed, since after a few years, she left her husband, taking with her the only daughter. In person she was masculine, measuring at least 5 feet 11 inches, and wearing her hair a la Ninon in close curls, her large blue eyes and blonde aspect were thoroughly English, and she always seemed to wear the wrong attire.
In these days Mrs. Madison was very fair and blooming, — she was so, indeed, 18 or 20 years later, and she was always the most charming person in society, — her tact, her kindness, her patience and suavity were invariable, and could not but have been part of her nature. She was frequently at Monticello as a valued friend, and no one cd. fail to love and admire her. What a contrast, that couple, in personal appearance! — Mr. Madison, so slight and diminutive — she, so grand and beautiful, so formed to conciliate all around her. She had a charming way of saying every thing. With what spirit and effect she related some of the disasters of the late war — their hurried transit from the Federal City, and their triumphal levee, when the captured British flags were brought to the President and herself! Tact was her crowning attribute; she was, in her position, as great a diplomatist as our present distinguished Premier [Bless us and defend us, can she mean Seward?!!! W.M.C. jr.] or as Lord Palmerston himself; for no one ever saw, at a disadvantage [none but the Yankee-est eyes ever saw Seward at anything but disadvantage], or heard her say the wrong word. Mr. Madison was remarkable for social qualities, as all the world knows: he had, in common with La Fayette, the ability to recognise instantly persons whom he knew slightly, and the tact, which suggested some word of appropriate kindness and recollection to each one.
The President, Mr. Monroe, came frequently during La Fayette's visit, to Monticello: his country place was a few miles distant, and he came on horseback, attended by a colored servant. The ladies of the President's family must have been in Washington, and, as the season there had commenced, it wd. appear that the Chief Magistrate came for a short time only to see La Fayette in this easy and unconstrained manner and I am sure the party made an informal call at "Montpelier" and were not entertained there. I remember hearing Mr. Jefferson say to his daughter Mrs. Randolph, that the President had mentioned the manner in which he intended to receive La Fayette — which was, to advance some steps from his position in the hall of reception at Washington: — asking where Mr. Jefferson designed to receive the General, and how far he should advance to meet him. Mr. Jefferson smiled as he related this, and said that he replied, "I shall probably leave the house, as he leaves the carriage, and walk till I meet him." — which he did, exactly as I have related.
As I am writing of things as they seemed to me then, I can only say of this distinguished man, President Monroe, there is no trace on my memory, except the form and aspect as they are conveyed in the grim pictures familiar to every one. That he was President of the U.S. might seem an earnest of greatness: but as our chief magistrates have been too often chosen for qualities, or rather accidental circumstances, in no sense allying them with ability or high moral attributes, I have been under the impression that Mr. Monroe was a mere political partizan. At the time of Genl. La Fayette's visit to Monticello (abt. the middle of November 1824) John Quincy Adams was President Elect.
This festive occasion was graced by the presence of two lovers: — the lady, a member of Mr. Jefferson's family: — the gentleman, young, handsome, well educated, and recently returned from foreign travel — then a distinction —. She was preeminently endowed — with talent of the highest order, — culture, such as few women have the opportunity to attain, — the beauty which belongs to statuesque features, and eyes which the soul speaks from. She possessed as a crowning attraction the most varied power as a converser, — an attraction which, I have before mentioned, was greatly prized in those good old times. To lookers-on the byplay of this love affair between two handsome young people, made an interesting episode amid all the novel and exciting material which each day brought.
Let us return to the subject in hand. A brief toilette brought the guests to the drawing room again, and in a few moments more to the dining room: A party of 20 ladies and gentlemen sat down to dinner; Mr. Jefferson sat at one side with Mr. Madison and Genl. LaFayette on either hand: Mr. Geo. LaFayette was at the head of the table between Miss Randolph and her mother. As usual there were fewer gentlemen than ladies, and one side of the table showed an almost unbroken line of beautiful young girls. I remember the enthusiastic admiration of the Frenchmen, expressed in undertones of their own language, partly at the animate beauty on one hand, and the landscape on the other. We sat in a lofty vaulted apartment, hung on all sides with large paintings, the light of closing day came down softly from the window of the vaulted roof, and in a moment the glory of the setting sun shone from the many tinted mountain behind which it was sinking. All eyes turned to watch that sun setting: the foreigners reiterating words of admiration and delight at every new aspect. The picture rises vividly before me, not a touch is lost — not a hue faded, for the tablet of memory held then but few records: forty two years have passed — .... Among other observations of a more exalted nature, I could not help noticing that the French hero ate fish not only with his fingers, but with his whole hand dipped into the mess Arab fashion.
The next day an escort came of 40 gentlemen with blue sashes, and a fine show they made as their prancing horses were reined up around the front lawn: they escorted the General to the University. On the steps of the rotunda, the veteran — now more than ever he merited the name — received the "representative men" and those who asked — "who is it?" - (i.e. what is Lafayette) — the "great unwashed" — the sovereign people; these thronged the immense lawn for many consecutive hours, when he wd. no doubt gladly have said "farewell — a long farewell to all my greatness." Surely no human patience was ever put to a more protracted test, than the patience of this most excellent and courteous of men, during his long visit and progress through this huge country: poorer songs were never sung to refined ears; poorer speeches (I refer altogether to the rural districts) were never uttered than most of those addressed in country districts to the old soldier of our Revolution. And, if, as I doubt not, he still loved our land and people, it is a proof of the excellence of his nature, that it held its first faith after two years of receptions.
The days of the week passed in these scenes and in this distinguished company, are marked each with a white stone. All was bright. The sun shone every day — the Indian summer became every day softer: we walked on the roads that circled the mountain: in the mild delicious moonlit evenings we strolled on the terrace and watched the return of the General, who was for some days escorted by a company of horsemen.
Charlottesville's The Central Gazette2
At 12 o'clock, the Carriages provided by the Committee of Albemarle, were driven to the door for the General's departure. The Landau of Mr. Jefferson, drawn by four greys was allotted to the General. Two other carriages were in waiting for his family and suite, and a neat wagon for his baggage. The General ascended the landau, attended by Mr. Rives and Th. Jefferson Randolph, the Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements. As he drove from the door the troop from Fluvanna bid him a warm and heartfelt adieu. He was preceded in his route by a small detachment of cavalry and the deputation of the Committee of Arrangements; then followed the guards, and next, a large body of citizens who had assembled to do him honor, marshalled into order by the assistance of Major Clarke. In this manner they proceeded to Monticello.
Nothing could surpass in beauty and grandeur, the march of a long and animated procession, through a mountain's meanders — as it winded around the hill and descended the River below the little town of Milton, the General himself drew the attention of his immediate companions to the moving scenery around him and highly complimented the imposing appearance of the guards. To an indifferent spectator, if any could be indifferent, it seemed that thousands of Freemen had sprung up from the hills, and woods and mountains to Hail the arrival and to shout the welcome of their country's friend. A moment such as this, when a nation's gratitude bursts out into one wide, wild spread of enthusiasm, when the heart beams in every eye, and that heart La Fayette's — a moment such as this, is enough to repay all the perils and privations in a long life, devoted to the cause of Freedom.
At two o'clock the approach of the procession up the mountain was announced by the bugle, and when the echo of its note was heard, those persons who had assembled at an early hour to witness the General's arrival, formed themselves into a line on the northern margin of the circular yard, in front of the house. The cavalry, by a sudden and almost instantaneous movement, ranged themselves on the opposite side of the yard; a deep silence prevailed, while every eye turned with eagerness to the point where the General's appearance was expected. The next moment, the carriages drew up in front of the building. As soon as the General drove up, Mr. Jefferson advanced to meet him, with feeble steps; but as he approached, his feelings seemed to triumph over the infirmities of age, and as the General descended they hastened into each other's arms. They embraced, again and again; tears were shed by both, and the broken expressions of "God bless you General" "Bless you my dear Jefferson" was all that interrupted the impressive silence of the scene, except the audible sobs of many whose emotion could not be suppressed.
After having returned to Richmond to enjoy forty-eight hours of repose, we set out for Monticello, which is about eighty miles distant. The Volunteer Horsemen, and a deputation from the Committee of Arrangements of Richmond, accompanied us. We slept the first night at Milton, a small village about half way, where a great number of planters of the neighbourhood were assembled, to afford a patriotic repast to Gen. Lafayette. On the following morning, just as we were seating ourselves in the carriage, I was seized with a violent vomiting, so that I could not leave my room. It was believed, and I myself supposed for an instant, that I was threatened with bilious fever, a very common disease in Virginia at this season of the year, and which is often fatal. A cup of tea, however, and two hours of sleep, sufficiently restored my strength, to permit me to take my place in the coach, and continue the route. Notwithstanding my wishes Mr. G. Lafayette had left the company of his father, to remain with me. This proof of friendship and the tender care he bestowed on me, was a service to me which I can never forget, and greatly contributed, I believe, to my restoration. We travelled rapidly that we might not arrive at Monticello after the General. We found Mr. Jefferson still affected with the pleasure he had experienced in receiving his old friend to his arms. He received us amongst his numerous family with polished manners, which instantly dissipated the timidity of which I could not at first divest myself, on approaching one who has done so much for his fellow men.
I well remember the visit of Gen. Lafayette to Monticello. The whole place was in gala array in his honor. He was met at Red Gate and escorted to Monticello by the Jefferson Guards and the Virginia Militia. The latter consisted of all the school boys in the county, who had been drilled for the occasion, armed with sharp pointed sticks tipped with pikes. The meeting between Jefferson and Lafayette was most affectionate. They fell into each other's arms with these words: "My dear Lafayette," "My dear Jefferson," and wept.
Mrs. Patsy Randolph, who had been Martha Ann Jefferson [sic], received Lafayette with grace and dignity befitting a queen, welcoming him to the hospitality of the home of her father. They all listened to the addresses that followed. Even the slaves wept. A youth of eighteen made the address on behalf of the juvenile soldiers, and, I think, Gen. Chestin Cox, in behalf of the citizens.
The next day occurred the visit to the University, which had just been finished except the dome. There was a grand procession that day and the slaves had a holiday. First came the Jefferson Guards, then the carriage bearing Mr. Jefferson, with Gen. Lafayette on his right, with ex-President Monroe and Mr. Madison sitting opposite them. In the second carriage was Gen. Chestin Cox, President of the University Faculty. On his right sat George Washington Lafayette, son of the General, and opposite them were Thomas Jefferson Randolph, the grandson of Mr. Jefferson, and Gen. Lavassor. Surrounding these two carriages were the Virginia Militia.
There was never such a time in Virginia as during the visit of Gen. Lafayette.
In those times I minded but little concerning the conversations which took place between Mr. Jefferson and his visitors. But I well recollect a conversation he had with the great and good Lafayette, when he visited this country in 1824 or 1825, as it was of personal interest to me and mine. General Lafayette and his son George Washington, remained with Mr. Jefferson six weeks, and almost every day I took them out to a drive.
On the occasion I am now about to speak of, Gen. Lafayette and George were seated in the carriage with him. The conversation turned upon the condition of the colored people — the slaves. Lafayette spoke indifferently; sometimes I could scarcely understand him. But on this occasion my ears were eagerly taking in every sound that proceeded from the venerable patriot's mouth.
Lafayette remarked that he thought that the slaves ought to be free; that no man could rightly hold ownership in his brother man; that he gave his best services to and spent his money in behalf of the Americans freely because he felt that they were fighting for a great and noble principle — the freedom of mankind; that instead of all being free a portion were held in bondage (which seemed to grieve his noble heart); that it would be mutually beneficial to masters and slaves if the latter were educated, and so on. Mr. Jefferson replied that he thought the time would come when the slaves would be free, but did not indicate when or in what manner they would get their freedom. He seemed to think that the time had not then arrived. To the latter proposition of Gen. Lafayette, Mr. Jefferson in part assented. He was in favor of teaching the slaves to learn to read print; that to teach them to write would enable them to forge papers, when they could no longer be kept in subjugation.
This conversation was very gratifying to me, and I treasured it up in my heart.
Thomas Jefferson Randolph6
The lawn on the eastern side of the house at Monticello contains not quite an acre. On this spot was the meeting of Jefferson and Lafayette, on the latter's visit to the United States. The barouche containing Lafayette stopped at the edge of this lawn. His escort — one hundred and twenty mounted men — formed on one side in a semicircle extending from the carriage to the house. A crowd of about two hundred men, who were drawn together by curiosity to witness the meeting of these two venerable men, formed themselves in a semicircle on the opposite side. As Lafayette descended from the carriage, Jefferson descended the steps of the portico. The scene which followed was touching. Jefferson was feeble and tottering with age — Lafayette permanently lamed and broken in health by his long confinement in the dungeon of Olmutz. As they approached each other, their uncertain gait quickened itself into a shuffling run, and exclaiming, "Ah, Jefferson!" "Ah, Lafayette!" they burst into tears as they fell into each other's arms. Among the four hundred men witnessing the scene there was not a dry eye — no sound save an occasional suppressed sob. The two old men entered the house as the crowd dispersed in profound silence.
At a dinner given to Lafayette in Charlottesville, besides the "Nation's Guest," there were present Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. To the toast: "Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence — alike identified with the Cause of Liberty," Jefferson responded in a few written remarks, which were read by Mr. Southall. We find in the following extract from them a graceful and heartfelt tribute to his well-loved friend:
I joy, my friends, in your joy, inspired by the visit of this our ancient and distinguished leader and benefactor. His deeds in the war of independence you have heard and read. They are known to you, and embalmed in your memories and in the pages of faithful history. His deeds in the peace which followed that war, are perhaps not known to you; but I can attest them. When I was stationed in his country, for the purpose of cementing its friendship with ours and of advancing our mutual interests, this friend of both was my most powerful auxiliary and advocate. He made our cause his own, as in truth it was that of his native country also. His influence and connections there were great. All doors of all departments were open to him at all times; to me only formally and at appointed times. In truth I only held the nail, he drove it. Honor him, then, as your benefactor in peace as well as in war.7
I have received from an unknown hand, a copy of the Pike County Republican, Waverly O., dated Dec. 25 1873. On its fourth page is an article designed I presume by the sender for my inspection, headed "life among the lowly Israel Jefferson." I remember distinctly this person as a slave of Mr. Jefferson, who kept a record by families of the births deaths location &c. of his slaves. This record is now before me in Mr. Js hand writing. Israel is made to say that he recollects distinctly, the departure of Mr. J and family for Washington D.C. when he went to assume the duties of President. Mr. Jefferson left home alone, taking not even a servant with him Dec. 1st. 1800 to preside over the Senate as Vice President where he was March 3 1801. Israel, by the record was born Dec. 28 1800. He is thus made to recollect distinctly events occurring, a month before his birth. He is made to say that he commenced the duties of life as a waiter at Monticello and attendant on Mr. J's person at the commencement of his second term March 1805. He was then at the mature age of four year and his whole family on the list of slaves on the farm leased to Mr. Craven 1801 to 1809. The record Feb. 10, 1810 places him on the farm, not on the list of those at Monticello house. He is first, subsequently brought to my notice as a [scullion?]: the cook in chastising him having given him a scratch on the head and on complaining to his Master was turned over to me for examination. He is made to record a conversation occurring half a century before, lying dormant on his mind during that period never before having been known to relate it, between Jefferson and La Fayette. La Fayette according to Israels own admission speaking with an accent that rendered it difficult for him to understand him. This conversation so distinctly heard and remembered for fifty years occurred between these two feeble old men in a rapidly moving coach, Israel the postillion riding the near leader of a four horse team at the time that he is made to say he heard it.
The meeting of Jefferson and La Fayette at Monticello on La Fayettes last visit to America was so impressive as not easily to be forgotten by those who beheld it. La Fayette was escorted in triumph through each county by its citizens. An escort of 120 mounted men, with Mr. Jeffersons Landau and a grey team selected from the best horses in the county, awaited him near the county line. We had sent videts four miles down the road to warn us of his approach, that we might properly marshall our escort for his reception. Mr. Wm. C. Rives was to deliver the address of welcome. Fortunately we had drawn up our escort by way of drill, the superintendents in a group in front of the little road side inn, each urging his own views, when our videt came in at the top of his sped. La Fayette in Genl. Cockes coach, drawn by his [little?] blooded horses, four in hand fleet as the wind came flying upon his heels. In a moment the coach drew up before us and we were all brought suddenly to order; Mr. Rives promptly and hansomely collecting himself for the address of Welcome. The mountain of Monticello was leveled, the front lawn less than an acre a semicircle with the portico projecting beyond the centre: 7 carriages stopped at the middle of the periphery of the semicircle. On leaving the road passing throug[h] the gap of the mountains the escort filed off by a less used road and when La Fayette arrived were found drawn up in an arch extending from the carriage stand towards the house. Some one had marshalled several hundred persons attracte[d] by curiosity on the opposite side facing the mounted men. Thus all would see as La Fayette descended from the carriage. Jefferson descended the steps of the portico. La Fayette lame Jefferson feeble from age as they approached each got into a shuffling quickened gait until they threw themselves with tears into each others arms. Of the 3 or 400 persons present not a sound escaped except an occasional supprest sob, there was not a dry eye in the crowd. Altho invited in to the house none would enter but dispersed without the slightest noise. I never saw a crowd so deeply impressed.8
November 6, 1824. The South Western Mountains reared their alpine summits on my right. The lofty swell of Monticello was before me, also Carter's Mountain, contiguous to the former, and Monroe's Mountain to the south of them. The Blue Ridge, far beyond, ranged across the horizon. Forded Rivanna river and More's creek. A stone flour mill, owned by Mr. Jefferson, stood on the river which he rented, I was told, for $1,000 pr annum. Put up at Capt. Miller's hotel, in Charlottesville. Every man and boy had a cockade in his hat. The villagers were so intoxicated by the reception of Lafayette that they postponed their ball till to night. They even hinted that the presbyterian priest got a little high, and that Jefferson drank two glasses at one toast. This evening, hearing a tumult at the door, I went thither and understood a young man from Boston had insulted a lady in the ballroom and that they wanted to find him. I thought best to retire, but I was soon informed that Mr. C.... servant from Boston, had intruded in their dances and occasioned the disturbance. Mr. C.... was engaged to Miss Randolph.
November 8, 1824. At 10 o'clock in my buckle shoes I paced the road and through a plantation guided by a footpath, when I was lonely inumbrated by a dark and sloping forest, which continued till I reached the retirement of Thomas Jefferson on Monticello. The door was opened by Mr. Randolph who bade me walk in, and, upon asking for Ex-President Jefferson, pointed to a stately personage, who had just entered from an inner door and was coming towards me. The longing of my school hours and apprenticeship was consummated, I gazed upon that pile of wisdom wherein dignity and age were so happily blended. Two letters, the contents of which are transcribed, I delivered:
Quincy July 24th 1824.
Dear Sir — Benjamin Parker Richardson a grandson of a neighbour of mine, who has lived in harmony with me for almost eight-nine years, is very desirous of seeing the venerable Author of the Declaration of Independence and as this is a virtuous curiosity which I always applaud and encourage in our young men, I have ventured to give him a line of introduction to you, a freedom which I have taken too often, especially as the reciprocity has always been on my side — never having received, as I recollect in any one instance, a similar introduction from you. I still breathe, which will not be long, but while I do I shall breathe out wishes for the welfare of mankind hoping that they will daily become more deserving of it. You are quite a young gentleman in comparison with your old friend. John Adams
To Thomas Jefferson
Late President of the United States
Sir — this will introduce to you ........ Richardson of the city of Boston, about to take the tour of the U.S. and has expressed to me a strong desire to have a personal interview with the man, whose sole character receives his most exalted veneration, esteem and respect. With the greatest esteem and respect I am sir, your obedient servant,
P.S. I am unfortunate, I cannot swim with the current in Mass. on the pending Presidential question. Men change, Principles are the same.
Mr. Jefferson, after reviewing their purport, took me by the hand, saying "walk in here — I am pleased to see you" and led me into the next room where we sat alone before a fire. ... While this guileless Republican deigned to bestow such plain sociableness upon a Boston lad, a company of ladies with their bonnets and gentlemen appeared through the glassy barrier, in the next room, among whom, I looked for La Fayette, when Mr. Jefferson spoke. "We are about to make a visit to the University the General, Miss Wright and a large party. I shall be pleased to have you make one of them and take dinner. I would say a bed but the General's friends have rendered us quite full." I declined these civilities, observing they extended farther than I ought to have desired; that I was afraid I should intrude to ride down, but desirous of visiting the University, by his permission, I would walk there. As I passed the group to depart, Mr. Jefferson called La Fayette from the buzzing circle and introduced me to him. Bidding good day, I bowed and retired.
- Excerpts compiled by RLB, 10/96
- Downing, Charles. "Reception of General Lafayette in Albemarle." The Magazine of Albemarle County History 24 (1965-66): 53-66.
- Malone. Jefferson. See 6:402-08.
- "Reception of Gen. La Fayette." Richmond Enquirer, November 16, 1824.
- Shields, W.S. "General Lafayette's Visit to Monticello and the University." The Virginia University Magazine IV no. 3 (1859): 113-25.
- Ward, Robert D. An Account of General La Fayette's Visit to Virginia, in the Years 1824-25. Richmond, VA: West, Johnston & Co., 1881.
- 1. Jane Blair Cary Smith, "The Carysbrook Memoir," The Carys of Virginia, ca. 1864, Accession number 1378, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, pp. 69-78. This memoir was written by Jane Blair Cary Smith (1808-1888), when she was a fifty-six-year-old woman recollecting an event that transpired when she was just sixteen. Perhaps this time gap explains her error in including the Madisons among the guests on the portico; we know from James Madison himself that he did not arrive until dessert was being served. See Madison to Dolley P. Madison, November 5, 1824, Gratz Collection. Transcription available at Founders Online. As the eldest daughter of Wilson Jefferson Cary of Carysbrook, Fluvanna County, and of Virginia Randolph Cary, the youngest daughter of Thomas Mann Randolph (1741-1793) of Tuckahoe, Jane Blair Cary was a cousin who apparently visited Monticello on a regular basis and even considered Monticello to be her mother's home. In 1831, she married Reverend Edward Dunlop Smith, a man who had been a student at the University of Virginia and who became the pastor of the Chelsea Presbyterian Church of New York. Although her original manuscript has been lost, her nephew Captain Wilson Miles Cary of Baltimore copied her manuscript at some time during the Civil War.
- 2. The Central Gazette, November 10, 1824. The article was reprinted in the Richmond Enquirer on November 16, 1824; in The Virginia University Magazine IV (1859): 113-25; and in Robert D. Ward, An Account of General La Fayette's Visit to Virginia, in the Years 1824-25 (Richmond: West, Johnston & Co., 1881), 90-91. The most recent reprint appears in The Magazine of Albemarle County History 24 (1965-1966): 53-66, and it includes information attributing the authorship of this famed account to Charles Downing, a lawyer from Florida who became a member of Congress.
- 3. Auguste Levasseur, Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825 (New York: White, Gallaher & White, 1829), 211-12. James Bennett Nolan records that Lafayette traveled from Richmond to Goochland to spend the night of the third in Wilmington, not Milton. See Nolan, Lafayette in America, Day by Day (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1934), 257.
- 4. Peter Fossett, "ONCE THE SLAVE OF THOMAS JEFFERSON — The Rev. Mr. Fossett, of Cincinnati, Recalls the Days When Men Came from the Ends of the Earth to Consult 'the Sage of Monticello' — Reminiscences of Jefferson, Lafayette, Madison, and Monroe," Special to the Sunday World, New York World, January 30, 1898. At the age of eighty-three, Peter Fossett (1815-1900) recollected events that occurred seventy-four years before, when he was just nine years old. Note that James Monroe was president until 1825 when John Quincy Adams was elected to the presidency in the House of Representatives on February 9.
- 5. Israel Jefferson, "Life Among the Lowly, No. III," Pike County (Ohio) Republican, December 25, 1873.
- 6. Thomas Jefferson Randolph's recollections of Lafayette's visit are recorded in two sources. The first except shown here comes from Sarah N. Randolph's Domestic Life of Thomas Jefferson. The second excerpt comes from Thomas Jefferson Randolph's own memoirs. See notes 7 and 8 below.
- 7. Randolph, Domestic Life, 390-91.
- 8. Thomas Jefferson Randolph's Memoirs, Randolph Family Papers, Accession number 8937, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library.
- 9. Benjamin Richardson, "The Travel Diary of Benjamin Richardson," unpublished manuscript owned by a descendant of Richardson.