Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Ritchie, 21 January 1816

I. Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Ritchie

Monticello Jan. 21. 16.

Dear Sir

In answering the letter of a Northern correspondent lately, I indulged in a tirade against a pamphlet recently published in his quarter. on revising my letter however, I thought it unsafe to commit my self so far to a stranger. I struck out the passage therefore, yet I think the pamphlet of such a character as ought not to be unknown, or unnoticed by the people of the United States. it is the most bold and impudent stride New England has ever made in arrogating an ascendancy over the rest of the Union. the first form of the pamphlet was an Address from the revd Lyman Beecher chairman of the Connecticut society for the education of pious young men for the ministry. it’s matter was then adopted and published in a sermon by a revd mr Pearson of Andover in Massachusets, where they have a theological college; and where the Address ‘with circumstantial variations to adapt it to more general use’ is reprinted, on a sheet and a half of paper, in so cheap a form as to be distributed, I imagine, gratis. for it has a final note indicating 6000. copies of the 1st edition printed. so far as it respects Virginia the extract of my letter gives the outline. I therefore send it to you to publish or burn, abridge or alter as you think best. you understand the public palate better than I do. only give it such a title as may lead to no suspicion from whom you receive it. I am the more induced to offer it to you because it is possible mine may be the only copy in the state, and because too it may be à propos for the petition for the establishment of a theological society now before the legislature, and to which they have shewn the unusual respect of hearing an advocate for it at their bar. from what quarter this theological society comes forward I know not. perhaps from our own tramontaine clergy, of New England religion and politics. perhaps it is the entering wedge from it’s theological sister in Andover, for the body of ‘qualified religious instructors’ proposed by their pious brethren of the East ‘to evangelize, and catechise,’ to edify our daughters by ‘weekly lectures’ and our wives by ‘family visits’ from these pious young monks of Harvard and Yale. However do with this what you please and be assured of my friendship & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Mr Thomas Ritchie.”

The second edition of the work by Lyman Beecher cited above was the one issued in 6000. copies. A petition for the establishment of a theological society was presented and read in the Virginia House of Delegates on 7 Dec. 1815. Although the Committee of Propositions and Grievances concluded on 13 Dec. 1815 that the request was reasonable, on 2 Jan. 1816 Jerman Baker moved that the resolution to incorporate a Theological Seminary of Virginia be rejected. Rev. John H. Rice, a trustee of the seminary, was then “admitted to the Bar of this House, and heard in opposition to the said motion, and in support of the said resolution of the Committee; after which he withdrew.” On 1 Feb. 1816 the resolution was considered again, and “The Reverend William Hill, the Reverend John H. Rice, and William Wirt, Esq. the Committee of the Trustees aforesaid, were then admitted to the bar of this House, and heard in support of the said petition.” Despite their efforts, the House struck down the bill by a vote of 119 to 48 (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1815–16 sess.], 23, 35, 88–9, 153; Vi: RG 78, Legislative Petitions, Prince Edward Co.). Notwithstanding this refusal to incorporate the Presbyterian seminary located at Hampden-Sydney College, it survived and eventually moved to Richmond as the Union Theological Seminary in Virginia (John Luster Brinkley, On This Hill: A Narrative History of Hampden-Sydney College, 1774–1994 [1994], esp. 137–42, 379–89).

our own tramontaine clergy: in this context, by tramontane TJ means the Presbyterian clergy of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Index Entries

  • Andover Theological Seminary search
  • A Sermon delivered in Boston before The American Society for Educating Pious Youth for the Gospel Ministry. Oct. 26, 1815 (E. Pearson) search
  • Baker, Jerman (1776–1828); as Va. legislator search
  • Beecher, Lyman; On the Importance of Assisting Young Men of Piety and Talents in Obtaining an Education for the Gospel Ministry search
  • Christianity; denominational strife search
  • Hampden-Sydney College; Presbyterian seminary at search
  • Harvard University; TJ on search
  • Hill, William, Rev.; and Theological Seminary of Virginia search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Presbyterians search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; religion search
  • New England; clergy of search
  • New England; TJ’s essay on religious intolerance in search
  • On the Importance of Assisting Young Men of Piety and Talents in Obtaining an Education for the Gospel Ministry (L. Beecher) search
  • Pearson, Eliphalet; and Andover Theological Seminary search
  • Pearson, Eliphalet; A Sermon delivered in Boston before The American Society for Educating Pious Youth for the Gospel Ministry. Oct. 26, 1815 search
  • Presbyterians; TJ on search
  • religion; Presbyterians search
  • religion; theological seminary proposed in Va. search
  • religion; TJ on search
  • Rice, John H.; and Theological Seminary of Virginia search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); T. Ritchie as editor of search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; and TJ’s Essay on New England Religious Intolerance search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; as editor of RichmondEnquirer search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; letters to search
  • schools and colleges; Andover Theological Seminary search
  • schools and colleges; Hampden-Sydney College search
  • schools and colleges; Harvard University search
  • schools and colleges; Union Theological Seminary in Virginia search
  • schools and colleges; Yale University search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; TJ abridges letter to search
  • Virginia; House of Delegates search
  • Virginia; religion in search
  • Virginia; theological seminary proposed in search
  • Wirt, William; and Theological Seminary of Virginia search
  • Yale College (later Yale University); TJ on search