Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Course of Reading for William G. Munford, [5 December 1798]

Course of Reading for William G. Munford

[5 Dec. 1798]

Mathematics, Natl Philosophy Natural history till VIII. aclock in the morning Law from VIII. to XII. the first [2 hours] or 3 ½ […] the [longer works] in the 1st. column and the [residue] reading […] in the 2d column.
large works tracts.
Pike’s arithmetic Coke’s four institutes Perkins
Mussenbroeck, or Martin’s Phil. Brit. or Nicholson. Coke’s repr Doctor & Student
Vaughan Lambard’s L’eirenarchia
Astronomy. Ferguson. Salkeld Dalrymple’s feudal tenures
Anatomy. Cheselden. Ld. Raymond Hale’s history of the common law
Nat. history. Buffon. Strange
Chemistry. Lavoisier or Fourcroy Burrow. Gilbert’s Law of Devises
Geograph. Guthrie
such other later reporters as may be pointed out by gentlemen better acquainted with them. Uses.
Kirwan on soils Manures. Kaim’s Principles of Equity
Hale’s vegetable statics. Vernon’s reports
Home’s Gentleman farmer. Peere Williams Buller’s Nisi prius.
Tracey Atkyns. Sayer’s Law of costs.
Vezey. Cuningham’s Law of bills.
Abridgment of cases in equity Hinde’s Practice in Chancery
Wythe’s reports. Schomberg’s hist. of [Civ. 1.]
Washington’s reports. Molloy de Jure [Mar.]
[Fine Arts] from [XII.] to II. Moral Philosophy [from?] […]& [night?]
Lowthe’s grammar Condorcet’s Progress of the humn. mind
Blair’s lectures
Mason on Poetic [& prosaic] [num]bers Locke’s essays.
Ld Kaim’s natural religion
Sheridan on elocution Hume’s essays.
Kaim’s elements of [crit]icism [Helveti]us’s works
Cicero’s orations. Middleton’s works.
Bolingbroke all his works as the […] Epictetus
Cicero’s Philosophics.
Poe[try ad] libi[tum] Seneca. &c. ad libitum
Politicks Millot’s antient history
Lockes [government] [Anach]arsis
Sydney. Li[vy]
Montesquieu Pol[ybius]
Beccaria [Sallust]
The Federalist [Caesar]
Chipman [Tacitus]
Burgh’s disquisitions Suetonius. here fill up the chasm to
  Gibbons, from Eu[…] [to] […]
Callender’s P[olitical Prog.]
Turgot’s distribn [of riches]. Gibbons.
Sm[ith’s wealth nat.]
Ha[tsel’s Prec. in H. Comm.] [Ma]llet’s Northern antiquities
Millot’s [Modern] history
[Robertson] […] V
[Watson on? Ph]ilips.
[Millot’s hist of] France
[Vertot’s hist of] [Spain]
[Hist]ory of England […]
Tacitus Germania [Agricola]
Hume [to the] end of H[enry VI]
[E.] IV by Habington.
[E.V] } Sr Thomas More
[R. III.]
[H. VII. Ld Bacon]
[H. VIII. Ld. Herbert Cherbury] [the 1st. column?]
5th. column continued.
E.VI. } by Godwin Bp. of Hereford.
Eliz. by Cambden
the Stuarts [by] Mc.Caulay & Ludlow
Wm. } by Burnet & Belsham
G. I. II. & III. by Belsham
Baxter’s general hist. of [Engld]
Buchanan’s hist. of Scotld
Robertson’s [Mary]
Wynne’s hist. of Ireland
Robertson’s America.
Douglass[’s] America.
Stith’s history of Virginia
Keith’s history of Virginia

PrC (MHi); entirely in TJ’s hand; undated; faint, with text in brackets supplied from FC; arranged as five columns across the page, TJ carrying the “History” entries over from the end of the last column to the lower portion of the first column below the books on agriculture (those entries have been restored to the “History” column in the table above but TJ’s notations directing the reader from the one column to the other have been retained). FC (same); entirely in TJ’s hand; endorsed by him: “Munford Wm. Green course of reading”; first column labeled: “—VIII. Mathematics & Nat. Phylos.”; second and third columns labeled: “Law. VIII—XII”; fourth column headed “to II,” with divisions for “Fine arts,” “Politicks,” and “Moral Philos.”; fifth column labeled “History. at night.” Probably enclosed in TJ to Munford, 5 Dec. 1798 (recorded in SJL but not found; see below).

The recipient of this list was apparently William Green Munford (c. 1781?–1804), the fourth and youngest son of William Greene Munford (d. 1786) of Charles City County, who served as county sheriff, as a militia officer, and in other prominent positions in the county. The published version of the senior Munford’s will gives the father’s middle name as “Greene” and the son’s as “Green,” but it is not certain if the distinction in spelling was intentional. TJ used both spellings of the son’s name almost interchangeably (WMQ, description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892- description ends 1st ser., 11 [1903], 260–1; William J. Van Schreeven et al., eds., Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence, 7 vols. [Charlottesville, 1973–83], 2:201, 218, 269–70, 289; 3:218; 4:95; 6:316; and above in this series, Vol. 3:542–3; Vol. 4:304, 621, 626; Vol. 5:207, 418–19). In the spring of 1799, Carlo Bellini, a member of the faculty at the College of William and Mary, referred to the recipient of this list as “Monford” and called him “an ornament to human nature.” As TJ became acquainted with young Munford he regretted that he could not supervise the young man’s intellectual pursuits in person. Aaron Burr, who in October 1800 thought that Munford appeared to be “about 18 or 19 Years of age,” found him “to possess handsome talents & to be modest, amiable & well informed” (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 1:451; Bellini to TJ, 1 Apr., TJ to Bellini, 24 Apr. 1799).

According to SJL Munford first wrote to TJ on 20 Nov. 1798, but TJ did not receive that letter, which has not been found, until 14 Dec. There must have been earlier contact, however, for prior to the 14th TJ sent Munford “a letter on the general subject of a course of reading,” which has not been located but was most likely a communication listed in TJ’s epistolary record under 5 Dec. 1798. That letter may have included the list printed above. TJ continued to advise Munford on his studies, personally scouring Philadelphia’s bookshops for books to send to the young man, and in June 1799 he wrote an epistle to Munford that has been considered the epitome of TJ’s thought and expression on education, scientific progress, and the role of intelligent young men in the republic (Thomas Jefferson on Science and Freedom: The Letter to the Student William Greene Munford, June 18, 1799, foreword by Julian P. Boyd [Worcester, 1964], 22; TJ to Munford, 27 Feb., 18 June 1799).

Ironically, though, while Munford’s sincerity in soliciting his famous mentor’s advice cannot be gauged, the young man applied his talents and channeled his ambition in directions that TJ surely did not anticipate. Not everyone at the College of William and Mary shared Bellini’s exalted view of Munford, and late in 1800 one of the skeptics, Bishop James Madison, reported that the young scholar had returned from an overseas journey marked by “the most abominable swindling.” TJ, now cautious, noted that Munford had appeared in Washington with “a plan as incomprehensible as it was unworthy” (Bishop James Madison to TJ, 24 Dec. 1800; TJ to Madison, 9 May 1801). Munford was now “William G. Montfort.” Before arriving in the capital he had gone to New York with references from Horatio Gates and Colonel Samuel Griffin and presented himself to Burr as “abandoned by his family & friends”—he had, Burr attested, “fallen under my protection.” It may be that “Montfort,” who had been in France and now used a francophone version of his family name, was the source of Alexander Hamilton’s declaration as “a fact” to Gouverneur Morris in January 1801 that Burr was “in frequent & close conference with a Frenchman who is suspected of being an Agent of the French Government.” But sometime that month the young Virginian abruptly departed, as Burr reported to Albert Gallatin, “apparently in some agitation without assigning to me any cause and without disclosing to me his intentions or Views or even whither he was going, except that he proposed to pass through Washington.” In the capital the young man stayed in the same hotel as TJ, lobbied members of the House of Representatives to vote for Burr to break the Electoral College tie for the presidency, and claimed to be “Epaminondas,” whose letters, encouraging Federalists to support Burr, appeared in the New York Gazette. He also declared that he had seen a letter in TJ’s hand that denigrated Burr. Although TJ had received the bishop’s warning about Munford, when he wrote to Burr about the purported letter on 1 Feb. 1801 he betrayed no suspicion that the informant’s veracity might be questioned. That circumspection seems more likely to have been the product of political wariness than of naïveté, for only after Burr wrote to Gallatin and TJ on 12 Feb. would TJ know that the New Yorker did not claim Munford as his protégé (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 1:451, 494–5, 500–2; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 25:314–16; James Cheetham, A View of the Political Conduct of Aaron Burr, Esq. Vice-President of the United States [New York, 1802], 66–9).

Munford went to Dublin in 1802 and, still known as W. G. Montfort, subsequently made his way to Bordeaux, France, where he died of smallpox in December 1804. Among the dead man’s effects the U.S. consul at Bordeaux, William Lee, found three unidentified letters that he sent to TJ without comment—very likely TJ’s letters to Munford of 27 Feb., 18 June, and 16 Aug. 1799. Lee, who surmised from Munford’s papers that he had, while in Ireland, probably worked for the French government, also reported that before he died Munford expressed great remorse for his conduct (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 1:451–2n, 494n; William Lee to TJ, 18 Dec. 1804).

On at least one other occasion TJ framed out a course of study in columns, assigning books by topic to particular times of the student’s day. The first column of that list contains 14 works on politics for the period before 8:00 A.M. The third column includes 14 works on law arranged in three groups, to occupy the time from 8:00 to 11:00 A.M., and the second column lists four works on mathematics, “to be taken up after the course of law is gone through, & to occupy those hours.” In the fourth column TJ listed a dozen authors on moral philosophy allocated to the hour between 11:00 A.M. and noon. Twenty titles on history, to be read “P.M.,” occupy the fifth column. The next column is blank. Finally, in the seventh column 14 authors, including Ariosto, Seneca, Euripides, and Tasso, appear under the heading “Entertt.” (i.e., “Entertainment”), which TJ also assigned to the “P.M.” period of the day (MS in MHi; entirely in TJ’s hand; undated). Sometime probably before the death of George III in 1820 TJ also drew up a list of works on English history similar to that in the “course of reading” printed above. Following a general entry for “Saxon & Danish” history, TJ listed the abbreviated names of the monarchs of England from Edward I through George III. He indicated the year in which each reign (except the last) ended. Using braces to show which authors chronicled which eras, TJ in several cases also noted the reigns in which the authors themselves lived (MS in same; entirely in TJ’s hand; undated).

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