Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Semple, 2 October 1812

To James Semple

Monticello Oct. 2. 12.


When I had the pleasure of seeing you for a moment in Charlottesville, I understood you were on your way to mr Carr’s to engage him to accept a professorship in the college of Wm & Mary. concluding thence that you take an interest in the success of that institution I take the liberty of communicating to you that President Meigs late of the University of Georgia is desirous of coming farther Northward. I am not personally acquainted with him, but know that he was selected by the late mr Baldwin for the University of Georgia, and I have always heard him spoken of as a man of distinguished science. his particular department has been that of Mathematics & Nat. philosophy, but perhaps his qualifications may fit him for some other professorship. my object in this communication being merely to put it in the power of the college to avail itself of the services of mr Meigs if they can be made useful to it, I take the liberty of requesting you to put it into such channel for that purpose as you think best, and to accept assurances of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (CtY: Franklin Collection); at foot of text: “The honble Judge Semple.”

James Semple (1768–1835), judge and legal educator, represented his native New Kent County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1797–98, before moving to Williamsburg, where he practiced law and purchased land in outlying counties. He represented Williamsburg in the House of Delegates, 1801–09 and 1822–23. Semple helped introduce legislation in 1806 that would have funded a state university. From 1809 until his death, he was a judge of the General Court of Virginia, a position that included service in a circuit of county superior courts. Semple was also an influential member of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary, 1803–19, and he served the college as professor of law, 1819–35. He died in Staunton (W. Hamilton Bryson, ed., Legal Education in Virginia 1779–1979: A Biographical Approach [1982], 567; Churchill G. Chamberlayne, The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent and James City Counties, Virginia, 1684–1786 [1937; repr. 1997], 600; Henry Churchill Semple, “Colonel Tarleton, Parson Semple and Judge Semple,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892–  description ends , 1st ser., 26 [1918]: 174–7; 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 ; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1805–06 sess.], 76 [14 Jan. 1806]; [1809–10 sess.], 91 [31 Jan. 1810]; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , 10:69; 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 , 50, 55; Susan H. Godson and others, The College of William & Mary: A History [1993], 1:210, 235; Richmond Enquirer, 4 Sept. 1835).

TJ’s nephew Peter Carr eventually declined a professorship in the college of William and Mary (Godson and others, The College of William & Mary, 1:201–2).

Index Entries

  • Baldwin, Abraham search
  • Carr, Peter (TJ’s nephew); and position at College of William and Mary search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation from search
  • Meigs, Josiah; TJ recommends for position search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation from TJ search
  • Semple, James; and faculty position for J. Meigs search
  • Semple, James; identified search
  • Semple, James; letters to search
  • William and Mary, College of; faculty of search