Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert Mills to Thomas Jefferson, 4 June 1810

From Robert Mills

Philadelphia June 4th–10

My dear Sir,

Being requested by “the Society of Artists of the United States,” now forming in this city to transmit to you a Copy of their “Constitution,” I would beg leave herewith to enclose it;—should the establishment of an institution of this nature meet your approbation, the Society would consider themselves much honored by your signature & support.

The pleasure & readiness you have always manifested in promoting everything relative to the improvement of the Arts, induces me to hope the establishment of the above institution will meet with your cordial assent. It will give me great satisfaction to communicate the reality of such a hope to the Society.—I have the pleasure to observe that the institution has met the approbation of as many of the chief characters of Pha as have been yet notified of its existence—

Before I close this letter permit me my dear Sir to enquire after your health?—I have always anticipated this, to accord with the best wishes of my heart, nothing giving me greater pleasure than to learn of your enjoyment of every good—Allow me to offer you my thanks for the recommendatory letter you favored me dated 23d June 1808.—the unwillingness to intrude on your time has been the sole cause of my not acknowledging the receipt of it & honor confer’d, before this—Since my professional establishment in Pha, I have had my time completely occupied, but the nature of my business being new, I find much difficulty in receiving such pecuniary returns as suffices reasonably to remunerate my trouble. Indeed the irregular way of doing business in our Country, compared with the method established in Europe, constitutes the chief cause of this difficulty—

Mrs Mills would join with me in every expression of respect Sir to you—we desire to acknowledge how much we stand indebted to you—The letter I had the pleasure of bearing from you to her Father Genl John Smith of Va in 1806 introduced me to the knowledge of that family & by a course of favorable circumstances obtained me the honor of an alliance with his amiable daughter, to whom I had been attached previously many years—From this confession you will be led to accept of our gratefull acknowledgments without surprise.—

Excuse this interruption & receive the salutations of affectionate respect from
yours &c

Robt Mills.—

RC (DLC); at head of text: “ Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello, Albemarle Co Va”; endorsed by TJ as received 10 June 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: The Constitution of the Society of Artists of the United States, Established at Philadelphia, May, 1810 (Philadelphia, 1810).

Robert Mills (1781–1855), architect, was a native of Charleston, South Carolina. He studied successively under James Hoban, the designer of the President’s House in Washington, D.C.; under TJ, with whom Mills practiced his craft by making elevated drawings of Monticello in 1803; and under Benjamin Henry Latrobe, for whom Mills was a draftsman and clerk, 1803–08. In the latter year he established his own office in Philadelphia, which he maintained until 1817. Mills designed or oversaw numerous public buildings and engineering works in the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. His efforts included churches, commemorative structures, hospitals, prisons, and schools, as well as the renovation of the United States Capitol and creation of monuments to George Washington in both Baltimore and the District of Columbia, with the latter completed decades after Mills’s death. In 1851 Mills designed an annex to TJ’s Rotunda at the University of Virginia. Despite his efforts to harmonize it with the existing structure, the annex was unpopular and not rebuilt after its destruction by fire in 1895 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; R. Windsor Liscombe, Altogether American: Robert Mills, Architect and Engineer, 1781–1855 [1994]; John Morrill Bryan, ed. Robert Mills, Architect [1989]; Lay, Architecture description begins K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia, 2000 description ends , 15, 284–5).

the society of artists of the united states unanimously conferred honorary membership on TJ on 11 Dec. 1811 and elected him president on 2 Jan. 1812 (Thomas Sully to TJ, 22 Dec. 1811, 6 Jan. 1812). In the recommendatory letter TJ addressed to Mills on 23 June 1808 (DLC), he praised the quality of his architectural training and drawings and authorized him to present the letter to prospective employers in Philadelphia. In 1806 TJ introduced Mills to genl john smith of va as a liberally educated and worthy young man (TJ to Smith, 9 Oct. 1806 [MoSHi: TJC-BC]).

Index Entries

  • Mills, Eliza Barnwell Smith (Robert Mills’s wife) search
  • Mills, Robert; and Society of Artists of the United States search
  • Mills, Robert; identified search
  • Mills, Robert; letters from search
  • Mills, Robert; thanks TJ search
  • Philadelphia; and Society of Artists of the United States search
  • Smith, John (1750–1836); R. Mills introduced to search
  • Society of Artists of the United States; and TJ search
  • Society of Artists of the United States; constitution of search
  • The Constitution of the Society of Artists of the United States, Established at Philadelphia, May, 1810 search
  • Virginia, University of (Charlottesville); Rotunda at search