Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Chapman Johnson, 5 January 1813

To Chapman Johnson

Monticello Jan. 5. 13.

Dear Sir

I observe that a petition has been presented to the legislature by the Rivanna company for an enlargement of their powers. as these are to be exercised wholly within my lands & almost solely over my property, and have not hitherto been marked by a very tender forbearance from injury to me, it becomes necessary, while they ask for power, for me to ask for some just protection from it. mr Philip Barber was so kind as to ride over the ground and make himself acquainted with the situation. I have therefore written him a long letter on the subject & request him to communicate it to you. altho’ you are not our immediate representative, yet as a general legislator for us all, I am sure you would prefer acting on full information. I therefore ask the favor of you to read the letter, and when the bill comes before the Senate that you will so far attend to it as to apprise them of the material facts, that no injury may be done me through inadvertence, and whatever you & they shall think right I shall chearfully submit to. I have given, & shall continue to give every facility to the improvement of the navigation which does not go to the destruction of my mills, and of this I am sure it will be seen that I have given sufficient proofs. recommending myself therefore to your friendly & just care, I tender you the assurance of my great esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); at foot of text: “Chapman Johnson esq.”; endorsed by TJ.

Chapman Johnson (1779–1849), attorney and legislator, was born in Louisa County and studied law under St. George Tucker at the College of William and Mary. He began a law practice in 1802 at Staunton and was admitted three years later to the bar of the Court of Appeals, Virginia’s highest tribunal. Johnson served in the Senate of Virginia, 1810–26. He moved to Richmond in 1824 in order to be closer to the appeals courts where he did much of his work, and he represented the city in the House of Delegates, 1834–35. Johnson was a leader of the western group seeking democratic reforms at a state constitutional convention, 1829–30. A Jeffersonian Republican, he spoke on the benefits to the United States of the Louisiana Purchase in An Oration on the Late Treaty with France, by which Louisiana was Acquired (Staunton, 1804). Johnson was a member of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, 1819–45, and he served as rector, 1836–44. TJ relied on Johnson’s legal services on several occasions during his retirement. A portrait of Johnson is reproduced elsewhere in this volume (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Esther C. M. Steele, “Chapman Johnson,” VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893–  description ends 35 [1927]: 161–74, 246–57; 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. 3:194–6; Fillmore Norfleet, Saint-Mémin in Virginia: Portraits and Biographies [1942], 177; William and Mary Provisional List description begins A Provisional List of Alumni, Grammar School Students, Members of the Faculty, and Members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary in Virginia. From 1693 to 1888 [1941] description ends , 23; 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 ; Joseph C. Cabell to TJ, 15 Feb. 1819; “The Late Chapman Johnson, Esq.,” Southern Literary Messenger 15 [1849]: 674–8; Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser, 13 July 1849).

SJL records a letter of 31 July 1812 from TJ to Johnson, not found, and Johnson’s missing reply of 2 Aug. 1812, received from Staunton on 20 Aug. 1812.

Index Entries

  • Barbour, Philip Pendleton; and Rivanna Company search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; and Rivanna Company search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Rivanna River navigation search
  • Johnson, Chapman; and Rivanna Company search
  • Johnson, Chapman; identified search
  • Johnson, Chapman; letters from accounted for search
  • Johnson, Chapman; letters to search
  • Johnson, Chapman; letters to accounted for search
  • Rivanna Company; navigation rights of search
  • Rivanna Company; petition to General Assembly search
  • Rivanna River; navigation rights search
  • Virginia, University of (Charlottesville); visitors of search