Thomas Jefferson Papers

Dabney C. Terrell to Thomas Jefferson, 16 February 1816

From Dabney C. Terrell

Baltimore. Freby 16th 1816

Dear Sir

I arrived here two days ago and have seen Mr Stevenson. No vessel is sailing at this time to any French port; indeed there are very few departures at all. The basin has been frozen for six weeks. I have procured a passage to Amsterdam in a vessel which is to sail on the 22nd. I hope to hear from you before that time. Mr Gallatin’s letters have not yet arrived; they will probably come by tomorrow’s mail. I understand that Mann Randolph has a promise from the Secretary of the Navy, of obtaining a Midshipman’s warrant on the vacancy. Present my respects to Mrs Randolph and believe me to be with sentiments of the highest consideration and esteem,

Yours &c

Dabney. C. Terrell.

P.S. The Governor of Pennsylvania does not intend demanding me: probably because he expects that I am not to be found.


RC (ViU: TJP-CC); endorsed by TJ as received 21 Feb. 1816 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Bernard Peyton, 8 Mar. 1816, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson. Esqr Monticello Near Charlottesville Virginia” by “Mail”; stamp canceled; franked; postmarked Baltimore, 16 Feb.

Dabney Carr Terrell (d. 1827), attorney and poet, was a grandson of TJ’s sister Martha Jefferson Carr and a native of Kentucky. He studied at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he killed his fellow student John T. Corbin in a duel in 1815 and was expelled. With TJ’s help Terrell continued his education in Geneva, Switzerland, where he came under the tutelage of Marc Auguste Pictet. After Terrell’s return to the United States, TJ assisted him in a course of legal studies. When searching for the first law professor for the University of Virginia, TJ submitted Terrell’s name for consideration, but he was not chosen. He subsequently moved to New Orleans, where he died of yellow fever. A small collection of Terrell’s poems was published posthumously (Robert Isham Randolph, The Randolphs of Virginia [1936], 122; VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893–  description ends 2 [1895]: 223; Trustees Minutes, Dickinson College, 18 Dec. 1815 [PCarlD]; Charles Coleman Sellers, Dickinson College: A History [1973], 440–1; Edward Govan to Terrell, Carlisle, 4 Feb. 1816, and Terrell to Martha J. Terrell, brig Rolla, 1 Mar. 1816, both in ViU: Papers of the Carr and Terrell Families; Pictet to TJ, 1 Nov. 1819; TJ to Terrell, 26 Feb. 1821; TJ to University of Virginia Board of Visitors, 20 Jan. 1826; Richmond Enquirer, 28 Sept. 1827; Virginia Literary Museum and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, &c. 1 [1829]: 40–1, 51, 59, 196, 223, 361).

Terrell was concerned that Simon Snyder, the governor of pennsylvania, might seek to prosecute him for killing Corbin. His friend Edward Govan advised him that he would send him his diploma but that Terrell should stay in Virginia or Kentucky, because a coroner’s or grand jury had brought in a “verdict” of “murder in the first degree.” Govan concluded, however, that there was “no danger at present to be apprehended” (Govan to Terrell, 4 Feb. 1816).

Index Entries

  • Corbin, John T.; killed in duel search
  • Crowninshield, Benjamin Williams; as secretary of the navy search
  • Dickinson College; students duel at search
  • dueling search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and recommendations for D. C. Terrell search
  • Govan, Edward; advises duelist search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; applications to search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); greetings sent to search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1798–1835) (son of TJ’s cousin Thomas Eston Randolph); naval appointment for search
  • Snyder, Simon; as governor of Pa. search
  • Stevenson, George Pitt; and recommendations for D. C. Terrell search
  • Terrell, Dabney Carr (TJ’s sister Martha Jefferson Carr’s grandson); carries TJ’s letters to Europe search
  • Terrell, Dabney Carr (TJ’s sister Martha Jefferson Carr’s grandson); identified search
  • Terrell, Dabney Carr (TJ’s sister Martha Jefferson Carr’s grandson); kills fellow student in duel search
  • Terrell, Dabney Carr (TJ’s sister Martha Jefferson Carr’s grandson); letters from search
  • Terrell, Dabney Carr (TJ’s sister Martha Jefferson Carr’s grandson); letters of introduction for search