James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 30 November 1824

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello Nov. 30. 24.

Dear Sir.

I detained the inclosed letters1 awhile to enable me to write my letter of informn. addnal. to our Report to the Governor, and then in expectation some of the Visitors might call on their way to the legislature and wish to read them. None have called however, and I now inclose them for your perusal. On the reciept of Gilmer’s letter of Sep. 15. from London which came to hand 3. days after those from New York, I wrote to him conjuring him not to think of declining his professorship of law, and I rather think he will not. I write to him to-day to know whether Torrey will accept that of Nat. history. He will be a great acquisition, being highly qualified in Botany. Say also is highly worthy of the appointment.

It will occur to you that we must have a meeting of the Visitors as soon as practicable to appoint Professors of Nat. hist. & Ethics. As soon as I hear from Gilmer as to Torrey & himself I shall write to our colleagues in the lgistre. to appoint a day convenient to themselves, and notify yourself and Genl. Cocke of it by mail. I am quite at a loss for a Professor of Ethics. This subject has been so exclusively confined to the clergy, that when forced to seek one, not of that body, it becomes difficult. But it is a branch of science of little difficulty to any ingenious man. Locke, Stewart, Brown Tracy, for the general science of mind furnish materials abundant, & that of Ethics is still more trite. I should think any person with a general educn. rendering them otherwise worthy of a place among his scientific brethren might soon qualify himself. Wm. Campbell Preston, son of Francis, who returned from his travels in Europe 5. years ago has occurred to me. He is a fine young man in point of intelligence, much improved by his travels, considered at Edinbg. as among the most distinguished of our countrymen who had visited that place, a Native and2 educated at Wm. & Mary. He is practicing law, I believe, in S. Carola., & I suspect would prefer a quiet birth here to that contentious life. You may know him perhaps as writer of the defence of his gr. father Colo. Wm. Campbell against the attack of Govr. Shelby.3 Dabney Terril,4 a native of Virga., now of Kentucky, educated at Geneva, & particularly esteemed and recommended by Pictet,5 prepared lately for the law, but not yet engaged in it, is a fine character also; but not perhaps equal to Preston. Yourself and the other gentlemen will think of others. Affectionately yours

Th: Jefferson

P.S. A letter from Gilmer of Nov. 21. to Colo. M Randolph informs him he is still in bed.

RC (DLC); draft (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1These letters were Francis Walker Gilmer to Jefferson, 12 and 13 Nov. 1824, from New York, received on 19 Nov., and Gilmer to Jefferson, 15 Sept. 1824, from London, received on 22 Nov. (DLC: Jefferson Papers, Epistolary Record). The first letter announced the engagement of five professors (see Jefferson to JM, 20 Nov. 1824). The second suggested that John Torrey of the Military Academy at West Point be invited to the university as its professor of natural history (Trent, English Culture in Virginia description begins William P. Trent, English Culture in Virginia, Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, 7th ser., 5–6 (Baltimore, 1889). description ends , 115).

2“A native and” is omitted from the draft.

4Dabney Carr Terrell (ca. 1798–1827), attended Dickinson College in 1812–15, where he killed fellow-student John T. Corbin in a duel. A local jury brought in a charge of first degree murder, so Terrell fled to Switzerland, where he studied in Geneva. By 1826 he had returned to the United States; he died of yellow fever in New Orleans (Charles Coleman Sellers, Dickinson College: A History [Middletown, Conn., 1973], 440 n. 80; “Dabney Carr Terrell, Esq.,” Virginia Literary Museum and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, &c. 1 [1829]: 40).

5Marc-Auguste Pictet (1752–1825) was a Swiss scientist and professor of natural philosophy at the Academy of Geneva (Looney et al., Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, 8:322 n.).

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