Isaac A. Coles

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Isaac Coles (1780-1841)[1] was Thomas Jefferson's private secretary from 1805 to 1809. He was the fifth son of Col. John Coles II and Rebecca Elizabeth Tucker. Reportedly, the "A" in his name stood for Albemarle County and it was added to distinguish himself from an uncle and two cousins with the same name.[2] He attended the College of William and Mary and became a member of the Albemarle County bar. Coles was not only Jefferson's secretary, but Dolly Madison's cousin and served as James Madison's private secretary right at the beginning of his administration until Edward Coles could start.[3] During the War of 1812, Coles served as a major, then lieutenant colonel, and finally a full colonel in the regular army. Late in life, Coles served in the Virginia House of Delegates (1840-1841). He married twice, first in 1823 to Louisa Gertrude Nivison (1795-1824) and then in 1830 to Juliana Stricker Rankin (1796-1876), with whom he had two children, Julia Isaetta (1831-1907) and John Stricker (1832-1909).

Coles' relationship with Jefferson was considered close. While Jefferson's secretary during his second term, Coles handled important and confidential information as the president tried to steer a neutral course during the Napoleonic Wars. They were neighbors and their families knew one another. Also, they both were generous to one another and on occasions presented each other with gifts, including Jefferson's presentation of a Kosciuzko portrait of himself to Coles, and Coles' purchasing fur-lined gloves for Jefferson in Baltimore. The two exchanged agricultural items like fig plants after Coles returned to Albemarle County from his military service.

Coles lived at the family plantation, Enniscorthy, in the southern part of Albemarle County. He inherited the property after his father's death in 1808, but the house destroyed in a fire in 1839.

Contents

Primary Source References[4]

1804 December 3. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). Mr. Burwell being a member of the Virginia legislature has left us to attend it; and Mr. Isaac Coles remains with me during his absence...[5]

1807 March 6. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "I wrote to you on Monday evening, and then expected that a morning or two more would have produced a compleat intermission of Mr. Randolph's fever. But it did not...Dr. Jones and Capt. Lewis never quit him. Mr. Coles is much with him also..."[6]

1807 March 16. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "Mr. Randolph continues well...But the quantity of blood taken from him occasions him to recover strenght slowly...The remains of a bad cold hang on me, and for a day or two past some symptoms of periodical head-ace. Mr. Coles and Capt. Lewis are also indisposed, so that we are but a collection of invalids."[7]

1808 April 17. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "I think Congress will certainly rise on the 25th...; in that case I think I shall leave this within 10. days after; probably on the 5th, and breakfast with you on the 8th. Mr. Burwell and Mr. Coles will be with me."[8]

Jefferson-Coles Correspondence[9]

  • Jefferson to Isaac A. Coles. 20 September 1805. Polygraph Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 15 March 1808. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 26 February 1809. Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 15 March 1809. PTJ:RS, 1:53. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 26 July 1809. PTJ:RS, 1:370-377. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 12 November 1809. PTJ:RS, 1: 667-668. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Jefferson to Coles. 29 November 1809. PTJ:RS, 2:39. Polygraph Copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 29 December 1809. PTJ:RS, 2:106-107. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Jefferson to Coles. 8 January 1810. PTJ:RS, 2:127. Polygraph Copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 8 February 1810. PTJ:RS, 2:203. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 13 March 1811. PTJ:RS, 3:448. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Jefferson to Coles. 10 June 1811. PTJ"RS, 3:644-645. Polygraph Copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 10 June 1811. PTJ:RS, 3:645. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 2 March 1812. PTJ:RS, 4:528-529. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 24 October 1812. PTJ:RS, 5:410-411. Recipient Copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 30 December 1812. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 8 January 1813. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 4 April 1813. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 6 August 1813. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 21 March 1814. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 4 April 1813.Polygraph Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Jefferson to Coles. 27 August 1814. Polygraph Copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 11 October 1814. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 9 June 1815. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 26 July 1815. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Jefferson to Coles. 18 February 1816. Polygraph Copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 9 March 1916. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Jefferson to Coles. 7 May 1817. Polygraph Copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 8 May 1817. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 15 February 1821. Recipient Copy at the Library of Congress.
  • Coles to Jefferson. 29 December 1824. Recipient Copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • Jefferson to Coles. 9 January 1825. Polygraph Copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on Douglas Evans, Jefferson's Neighbors, Monticello Research Report, 1995.
  2. William B. Coles, http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=17512 The Coles Family of Virginia and its Numerous Connection]] (New York: 1931), 93.
  3. Irving Brant, James Madison], 5:115.
  4. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  5. Family Letters, 265.
  6. Ibid, 298.
  7. Ibid, 302.
  8. Ibid, 342.
  9. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.

Further Sources