Martha Jefferson Randolph

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Martha Randolph
Portrait of Martha Jefferson Randolph.jpg
Portrait by Thomas Sully
Personal details
Born(1772-09-27)September 27, 1772
Monticello, Province of Virginia
DiedOctober 10, 1836(1836-10-10) (aged 64)
Albemarle County, Virginia, U.S.A.
Spouse(s)Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr.
RelationsThomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
Children12 total
OccupationFirst Lady of Virginia
ReligionChristianity
Signature
 
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Martha Randolph
Portrait of Martha Jefferson Randolph.jpg
Portrait by Thomas Sully
Personal details
Born(1772-09-27)September 27, 1772
Monticello, Province of Virginia
DiedOctober 10, 1836(1836-10-10) (aged 64)
Albemarle County, Virginia, U.S.A.
Spouse(s)Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr.
RelationsThomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
Children12 total
OccupationFirst Lady of Virginia
ReligionChristianity
Signature

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 she was named for her mother and Martha Washington, wife of George Washington. 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 children to survive past age 25.

Early life[edit]

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 Abbaye Royale de Panthemont, 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. Martha was not punished though(hopefully). She of course was very close to her father.

Marriage and family[edit]

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.[1]

The couple had twelve children, eleven of whom survived to adulthood:

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.[8][9] 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."[10]

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.[11] Increasing financial difficulties obligated her to sell Monticello to James T. Barclay in 1831.[12] 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.

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