Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Joseph C. Cabell, 27 June 1810

To Joseph C. Cabell

Monticello June 27. 10.

Dear Sir

I inclose you a letter from Judge Cooper of Pensylvania, a political refugee with Dr Priestley from the fires & mobs of Birmingham. he is one of the ablest men in America, & that in several branches of science. the law opinion which he mentions, I have recieved, and a more luminous one has not been seen. it will produce a revolution of opinion on the question treated. not in the present day, because old1 lawyers like old physicians & other old men never change opinions which it has cost them the whole labours of their youth to form. but when the young lawyers get on the bench they will carry Cooper’s doctrine with them. the best pieces on political economy which have been written in this country were by Cooper. he is a great chymist, and now proposes to resume his mineralogical studies. on this subject you will percieve that he wishes a correspondent in our state. I know no body to whom I can so advantageously commit him as to yourself. my information in mineralogy dates with Linnaeus; and like other old men I have lost the ardour of science and permitted egoism to qualify all it’s pursuits. I add another word to Cooper’s question, mihi Cui bono? but at your time of life I should have jumped at such a correspondent as Cooper. will you accept of him? you will be of mutual value to each other. would you rather begin the correspondence by a reference to the inclosed letter & asking a more particular communication of his wishes? or shall I desire him to write to you first? my answer shall be shaped to your own, & therefore awaits it. be so good as to return me the inclosed & to accept the assurances of my friendship & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViU: TJP); addressed: “Joseph H. Cabell esq. Warminster”; franked and postmarked; endorsed by Cabell as answered 23 July 1810: “declining the proposed correspondence with Judge Cooper, for want of time & knowledge of the subject.” Enclosure: Thomas Cooper to TJ, 10 May 1810.

Joseph Carrington Cabell (1778–1856), who represented TJ’s district in the Senate of Virginia, 1810–29, spent his life trying to improve education, agriculture, and the economy of his native state. He attended Hampden-Sydney College and the College of William and Mary, studied law (with guidance from TJ) but never practiced, and traveled in Europe, 1803–06. Cabell represented Amherst County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1808–09, and sat for Nelson County, 1809–10 and 1831–35. TJ and Cabell exchanged a lively correspondence on a wide variety of legislative topics, with special emphasis on their shared struggle to establish and later administer the University of Virginia. Cabell used his legislative influence to help push funding for the school through the General Assembly, sat on the Board of Visitors of Central College, 1816–19, and of the University of Virginia, 1819–56, and served as rector, 1834–36 and 1845–56. He also worked to establish a continuous water route between Richmond and the Ohio River by helping to reorganize the James River and Kanawha Company and serving as its president, 1835–46. Cabell was an increasingly conservative Jeffersonian Republican whose local popularity began to wane late in the 1820s when he opposed electoral reform and supported federal tariffs. His portrait as well as a cane he gave TJ as a Christmas gift in 1809 are illustrated elsewhere in this volume (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; DVB description begins John T. Kneebone and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, 1998– , 3 vols. description ends ; Bruce, University description begins Philip Alexander Bruce, History of the University of Virginia 1819–1919: The Lengthened Shadow of One Man, 1920–22, 5 vols. description ends , esp. 1:145–57; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends ; Nathaniel Francis Cabell, Early History of the University of Virginia, as Contained in Letters of Thomas Jefferson and Joseph C. Cabell [1856]; Daily Richmond Enquirer, 12 Feb. 1856).

Carl linnaeus is best known as a botanist but also wrote on mineralogy (DSB description begins Charles C. Gillispie, ed., Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 1970–80, 16 vols. description ends ). mihi cui bono?: “how does it benefit me?”

1TJ here canceled “judges.”

Index Entries

  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and mineralogy search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; identified search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; letters to search
  • Central College (Charlottesville); Board of Visitors search
  • Christmas; Cabell’s gift to TJ search
  • Cooper, Thomas; and mineralogy search
  • Cooper, Thomas; The Opinion of Judge Cooper, on the Effect of a Sentence of a Foreign Court of Admiralty search
  • Cooper, Thomas; TJ on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; old lawyers and doctors search
  • Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné); and mineralogy search
  • mineralogy; and C. Linnaeus search
  • mineralogy; and T. Cooper search
  • Priestley, Joseph; mentioned search
  • The Opinion of Judge Cooper, on the Effect of a Sentence of a Foreign Court of Admiralty (Cooper) search
  • Virginia, University of (Charlottesville); rector of search
  • Virginia, University of (Charlottesville); visitors of search