Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Gilmer, 13 April 1781

From George Gilmer

13 April 1781 Charlottesville

Dear Sir

Revolutions indeed. Yesterday George Twyman, C. L. Lewis, James Marks, and Isaac Davis mounted the rostrum, the two latter were returned delegates for the once favored County of Albemarle, Colo. Joseph Cabell, Senator for this district. This day a change took place in our Military department. Colo. John Coles resigned, Capt. John Marks promoted. Colo. Nicholas Lewis resigned, Thos. Walker Junr. promoted, the first County Lieutenant, second Colonel. The courts failing to promote in the line will occasion numberless resignations. Reuben Lindsay, John Marks and James Minor Commissioners.

Happy the man who can feal himself adequate to the rapid changes in his sphere of life, this day moving in the Congregation of groans, the next wishing to become a Legislature. The two [who] had Confederated to blend their forces together had the In’t [Interest?]. Twyman and C. L. L. would have been returned but they could not hang together. Party business seems to be propagating very rapidly. I long to behold the period when you may with propriety retreat to Montchello, but for your Countrys sake I hope you’l persevere to labor for its Salvation in your present Station so long as your country shall have virtue enough to continue you. The envious only hate that excellence they can not reach. Heavens inspire every one with that Laudable ambition of serving their Country as you have done, [without] one self interested motive.

Do you ever see Rickman? Is he in office? My friend Mr. Harmer has at Mr. Gaits a Chest of books. Should your Waggon come up with a light load, at any time you’l oblige him and greatly serve me by permitting them to a place. Lucy unites in most sublime Compliments to Lady & famely with your most Obet. Humble Servant,

George Gilmer


For TJ’s action on this highly interesting letter, see his letter to David Jameson, 16 Apr. 1781 and references there.

Montchello: Gilmer’s spelling of this name is an early and important clue to its pronunciation by residents of Albemarle co. during TJ’s lifetime. It seems unquestionable that TJ himself, who chose the name (Italian: “little mountain”), who had some knowledge of the Italian language, and who had numerous Italian friends, intended and always used the Italian form of pronunciation: Montichel’lo. Partly from the fact that the name has been used elsewhere in the United States and—as is usual in place names taken from foreign sources—has been Anglicized or Americanized as Montisel’lo, usage is now thoroughly divided. (The 1949 U.S. Postal Guide lists Monticellos in seventeen states besides Virginia.) In the vicinity of Charlottesville informed persons adhere to the Italian form, and this is probably true throughout the United States when TJ’s home is mentioned rather than some other Monticello. In support of this “learned” form, Gilmer’s spelling in the present letter may be cited; also the form “Montichello” in James Monroe’s letters to TJ of 18 June and 1 Oct. 1781, qq.v. Twenty-four years later Meriwether Lewis (a native and resident of Albemarle) wrote TJ from Fort Mandan in the Dakota country, 7 Apr. 1805 (DLC): “You may therefore expect me to meet you at Montachello in September 1806.” Finally, at least for present purposes, may be cited the explicit statement by John Adams Kasson, a Vermonter who was then tutoring in an Albemarle family, in a letter written back home, 4 Feb. 1843: “I am working my way round, by the aid of Betty [White] and the rest of the family, into most of the families of this circle which contains, besides those I have before mentioned, a gentleman closely related to Jefferson and brought up at Monticello (President J’s seat), the c pronounced like ch in chair—Montichello” (original in Kasson MSS, ViU; reference kindly furnished by Francis L. Berkeley, Jr., to whom the editors are indebted for other information in this note).

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