Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Josiah Meigs, 11 April 1803

From Josiah Meigs

University of Georgia,
Athens, April 11, 1803.—

Mr. President Jefferson,

I know not whether this address may not be judged impertinent; but I cannot refrain from expressing to you, personally, the grateful sentiments which your public conduct has excited in my breast.   For thirty years I have been an attentive observer of that progress of Mind which has produced such great and beneficial effects as I have witnessed. When I consider the magnitude & difficulty of the task of directing the affairs of a great nation, even in the most favourable circumstances, I feel it a sort of duty to assure you, personally, of the sentiments which I entertain of high approbation of your public conduct.—

May the Author of Mind, & the bestower of happiness to the Universe protect & prosper all your labours and efforts for the preservation of public right, & public liberty, civil & religious.

With sentiments of the highest Esteem, and with the greatest respect, I am, Yours,

J Meigs

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 11 May and so recorded in SJL.

Born in Middletown, Connecticut, son of Return Meigs, a hatter, Josiah Meigs (1757–1822) graduated from Yale College in 1778 and several years later returned as a tutor of mathematics, natural philosophy, and astronomy. He also studied law and in 1783 was admitted to the bar. In 1794, Meigs was appointed professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Yale, but he was soon threatened with dismissal for his zealous support of Jefferson and his political views. In 1800, he accepted an invitation from Abraham Baldwin, who had served as his mentor at Yale, to become a professor at the newly established college at Athens, Georgia. The next year Meigs became president of the new institution, which became the University of Georgia. He established an innovative curriculum, with an emphasis upon mathematics and science. Meigs resigned the presidency of the college in 1810 because of conflicts with the Federalist trustees and local citizens. In 1812, President Madison appointed him Surveyor General Northwest of the Ohio. Two years later Meigs moved to Washington as commissioner of the General Land Office. He served as a founding trustee of Columbian College, which became George Washington University. He was serving as professor of natural philosophy at the college at the time of his death (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Malcolm J. Rohrbough, The Land Office Business: The Settlement and Administration of American Public Lands, 1789–1837 [New York, 1968], 55–6, 69, 71–4).

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