What was Thomas Jefferson’s family life at Monticello?

A Library of Congress rare book records for posterity the eye-witness account of an illustrious couple from Washington, D.C. visiting Monticello in 1809:
They are 12 in family, and as Mr. Jefferson sat in the midst of his children and grand-children, I looked on him with emotions of tenderness and respect. The table was plainly, but genteely and plentifully spread…During the four days I spent there these were the most social hours…As I passed the terrace, Mr. Jefferson came out and joined us. The children ran to him and immediately proposed a race; we seated ourselves on the steps of the Portico, and he, after placing the children according to their size one before the other, gave the word for starting, and away they flew; the course round this back lawn was a quarter of a mile, the little girls were much tired by the time they returned to the spot from which they started and came panting and out of breath to throw themselves into their grandfather’s arms, which were opened to receive them; he pressed them to his bosom and rewarded them with a kiss; he was sitting on the grass and they sat down by him until they were rested; then they again wished to set off, he thought it too long a course for little Mary and proposed running on the terrace. Thither we went, and seating ourselves at one end, they ran from us to the pavilion and back again; ‘What an amusement,’ said I, ‘do these little creatures afford us.’ ‘Yes,’ replied he, ‘it is only with them that a grave man can play the fool.’ They now called on him to run with them, he did not long resist and seemed delighted in delighting them. Oh ye whose envenomed calumny has painted him as the slave of the vilest passions, come here and contemplate this scene! The simplicity, the gaiety, the modesty and gentleness of a child, united to all that is great and venerable in the human character. His life is the best refutation of the calumnies that have been heaped upon him and it seems to me impossible, for anyone personally to know him and remain his enemy…Wednesday morning, Mrs. Randolph (Martha Jefferson Randolph, Jefferson’s daughter) came down to spend the last minutes with us. As I stood for a moment in the Hall, Mr. Jefferson approached and in a most cordial manner urged me to make another visit the ensuing summer. I told him, with a voice almost choked with tears, ‘that I had no hope of such a pleasure – this,’ said I, ‘is the last time I fear in this world at least, that I shall ever see you – But there is another world.’ I felt so affected by the idea of this last sight of this good and great man, that I turned away and hastily repeating my farewell to the family, gave him my hand. He pressed it affectionately as he put me in the carriage saying, ‘God bless you, dear madam. God bless you.’ ‘And God bless you,’ said I, from the very bottom of my heart.

Yes, he is truly a good man, and eminently a great one. Then there is a tranquility about him, which an inward peace could alone bestow…His actions, not his words, preach the emptiness and dissatisfaction attendant on a great office…his manners, how gentle, how humble, how kind…” 1

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Bibliography:

1

Smith, Samuel Harrison (Mrs.). The First Forty Years of Washington Society. C. Scribner’s Sons, 1906. Rare Book Collection, Library of Congress.

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