Primary Resource

Will of Martha Jefferson Randolph (April 18, 1834)

In this one-page document, dictated in Washington, D.C., possibly to Virginia Randolph Trist, and dated April 18, 1834, Martha Jefferson Randolph states the terms of her will, which was later superseded. She asks that Sally Hemings be "given time," a method of informally freeing a slave while sidestepping an 1806 law that required manumitted slaves to leave the state within a year.

Transcription from Original

April 18th 2 o'clock in the morning Friday

To my five daughters I wish to bequeath my property in the funds. To Benjamin & Lewis the two negroes now in Benjamins possession my five remaining negroes Emily I wish liberated as soon as you break up housekeeping here; Martha Ann at the death of her old grandmother, in the meantime to live with her and take care of her. To Betsy Hemmings, Sally & Wormley I wish my children to give time. If liberated they would be obliged to leave the state of Virginia. To my dear George I have nothing but my love to leave, and in any division made of my books that he should have a share. In dividing the plate among you, I wish Jefferson to have the casseroles, & Mr. Coolidge the duck. To Nicholas I leave my fathers clock.

written by mama's request