Martha Jefferson Randolph
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|First Lady of the United States
March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1809
|Preceded by||Abigail Adams|
|Succeeded by||Dolley Madison|
September 27, 1772|
Monticello, Virginia, British America
|Died||October 10, 1836
Albemarle County, Virginia, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Thomas Randolph (1790–1828)|
Martha Washington Jefferson Randolph (September 27, 1772 – October 10, 1836) was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, and his wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. Born at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia. Her nickname was Patsy.
She married Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., who served as a politician at the federal and state levels and was elected a governor of Virginia (1819–1822). They had twelve children together. Martha was very close to her father in his old age; she was the only one of his legitimate children to survive past age 25.
Tall and slim with angular features and red hair, Martha closely resembled her father. She became devoted to him. From age 12 to 17, after her mother's death, she lived in Paris with her father while he served as U.S. Minister to France. Jefferson enrolled her at the Pentemont Abbey, an exclusive convent school, after receiving assurances that Protestant students were exempt from religious instruction. After Patsy expressed a desire to convert to Catholicism and said she was considering religious orders, Jefferson quickly withdrew her and her younger sister Polly from the school.
Marriage and family
In 1790 at the age of 18, Martha married Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., a planter. Soon after their marriage, her father, Thomas Jefferson, deeded eight slaves from Monticello as a wedding gift, including Molly Hemings, the eldest daughter of Mary Hemings.
The couple had twelve children. In contrast to her parents and sister, each of whom had most of their children die in childhood, eleven of the Randolphs' children survived to adulthood:
- Anne Cary Randolph (1791–1826). Married Charles Lewis Bankhead (1788-1833).
- Thomas Jefferson Randolph (1792–1875). Married Jane Hollins Nicholas (1798-1871).
- Ellen Wayles Randolph (1794–1795).
- Ellen Wayles Randolph (1796–1876). Named after deceased sister. Married to Joseph Coolidge (1798-1879)
- Cornelia Jefferson Randolph (1799–1871).
- Virginia Jefferson Randolph (1801–1882). Married Nicholas Philip Trist (1800–1874).
- Mary Jefferson Randolph (1803–1876).
- James Madison Randolph (1806–1834). First child born in the White House.
- Benjamin Franklin Randolph (1808–1871). Married Sally Champe Carter.
- Meriwether Lewis Randolph (1810–1837). His widow Elizabeth Martin remarried to Andrew Jackson Donelson, a nephew of President Andrew Jackson.
- Septimia Anne Randolph (1814–1887). Married Dr. David Scott Meikleham (d. 1849).
- George Wythe Randolph (1818–1867), briefly in 1862, he was Secretary of War of the Confederate States of America. Married Mary Elizabeth Adams Pope.
Martha Randolph educated her children at home, likely with the help of private tutors, as most planters did. Being engrossed with the cares of her large family, she passed only a portion of her time in the White House when her father was president. She visited with her husband and children in 1802, with her sister Mary in 1803, and during the winter of 1805/1806.
After Thomas Jefferson's retirement, Martha devoted much of her life to his declining years. She had separated from her husband, said to suffer from alcoholism and mental instability. Jefferson describes her as the "cherished companion of his youth and the nurse of his old age". Shortly before his death, he said that the "last pang of life was parting with her."
She inherited Monticello from her father in 1826, as well as his many debts. Her eldest son Thomas Randolph acted as executor of the estate. Except for five slaves freed in her father's will, and "giving her time" to Sally Hemings, they sold the remainder of the 130 slaves at Monticello to try to settle the debts. Within a few years, they sold the plantation as well.
After business reverses and the death of her husband, Martha Randolph considered establishing a school. The state legislatures of South Carolina and Louisiana each donated $10,000 to her for her support. Increasing financial difficulties obliged her to sell Monticello. The property was finally sold to James T. Barclay in 1831. He sold it in 1834 to Uriah P. Levy, a wealthy United States naval officer (later the first Commodore of the Navy) and Jefferson admirer. Although Levy was then based in New York, his Sephardic Jewish ancestors had been resident in the South for five generations. Levy invested his own funds in renovating and preserving Monticello.
Martha was estranged from her husband until shortly before his death in 1828. She died at their Edgehill estate in Albemarle County, Virginia.
Martha Jefferson Randolph is the subject of the novel America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, published in March 2016. The novel draws heavily upon Jefferson's letters.
- Wead, Doug (2004). All the Presidents' Children: Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of America's First Families. Simon and Schuster. pp. 127–129.
- Gordon-Reed, Hemingses of Monticello, p. 424
- "Charles Lewis Bankhead," in The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Th. Jefferson's Monticello (website), accessed 16 November 2013
- "Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph," in The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Th. Jefferson's Monticello (website), accessed 16 November 2013
- "Nicholas Philip Trist," in The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Th. Jefferson's Monticello (website), accessed 16 November 2013
- "Benjamin Franklin Randolph," in The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Th. Jefferson's Monticello (website), accessed 16 November 2013
- "Septimia Ann Randolph Meikleham," in The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Th. Jefferson's Monticello (website), accessed 16 November 2013
- "George Wythe Randolph," in The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Th. Jefferson's Monticello (website), accessed 16 November 2013
- Priscilla Hart, "The Madhouse of Colonial Williamsburg: An Interview With Shomer Zwelling", History News Network, 5 October 2009, George Mason University, accessed 7 March 2011
- "Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson", National First Ladies Library, 2009, accessed 7 March 2011
- Jefferson by Albert Jay Nock
- Wayson, Billy L., Martha Jefferson Randolph: Republican Daughter and Plantation Mistress (2013)
- Dr. James Turner Barclay, Minister and Missionary - Capturing Our Heritage
- Cynthia A. Kerner, Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.
- Billy L. Wayson, Martha Jefferson Randolph: Republican Daughter & Plantation Mistress. Palmyra, VA: Shortwood Press, 2013.
- Billy L. Wayson, " 'Considerably different for her sex': A Plan of Reading for Martha Jefferson," The Libraries, Leadership, and Legacy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Robert C. Baron and Conrad Edick Wright, eds. (Fulcrum Publishing and Massachusetts Historical Society, 2010)
|First Lady of the United States