Thomas Jefferson Papers

Joseph C. Cabell to Thomas Jefferson, 4 August 1816

From Joseph C. Cabell

Edgewood. 4th Augt 1816.

Dear Sir,

I beg you to accept my sincere thanks for your favor of the 13th inst, and for the communication of the accompanying letter on the propriety of calling a convention to amend the constitution of Virginia. The information you give me on the subject of Hedges is very acceptable; it will exempt me from the mortification of failures in experiments that extend thro so large a portion of human life. I have about a half bushel of Holly seed now lying in my garden undergoing the process of preparation for the seed bed—but since the receipt of your letter I have determined to throw them aside, or to make but very small use of them. I shall direct my future attempts in this line towards the thorn, & to the variety you recommend, unless I should be able to procure that of which mr Jefferson Randolph Speaks so highly, for which purpose I have sent him the enclosed letter of enquiry. I presume he alludes to a Thorn in the old fields about Hendrick’s Tavern, the strength & density of which have frequently been mentioned to me by gentlemen who had been travelling that way. It is not certain, altho’ it is probable that maine’s Recipe will succeed with all the different thorns.

I have written to mr meriwether on the subject of surveying this county. The law authorizing a chart of the State passed hastily thro’ both Houses of Assembly, at the close of the session, and is defective. I regret that the county Courts have any thing to do with the business: for tho’ some may make judicious contracts, I am confident many of them will employ incompetent agents, and the map will be a half formed party colored affair. In my opinion, it would be a commendable course, if the executive would defer acting on any of the contracts till the meeting of the Assembly, when we might amend the Law, by appointing a Surveyor General, who with the aid of deputies chosen by himself under proper checks, would make a map of which the State might justly be proud. If, as is to be apprehended, this well intended scheme, should be spoilt in the execution, the people, already dissatisfied with so large an appropriation for such an object, may in a fit of disgust, insist on the repeal of the Law for internal improvement. The difficulties which must, by this time, have been encountered in every county of the state, in the attempt to procure suitable agents, have probably prepared the public mind for such an exercise of power on the part of the executive. I have written nothing on this subject, as any suggestions of mine would be entitled to but little attention on the part of the Executive: but I wish some gentleman possessing the confidence of the Executive would take the subject in hand.

I am extremely obliged to you for the perusal of your letter on the state constitution. many of the views are new; some in conflict with my previously-formed opinions: and all in the highest degree interesting. I wish this letter could have fallen into my hands some years ago. Wishing to give to its various topics the fullest consideration, I have taken the liberty to retain a copy, & unless you should forbid it, I will take the further liberty of shewing it to a few of my friends, who will not disregard the injunctions contained in a certain part of the Letter.

For eight years I have been contending with factions in the county of Nelson & this Senatorial District. During all that time, I have seen the people as often made the dupes of unprincipled intriguers, that I acknowledge I have gradually glided into the ranks of the friends of the freehold Law. In the same series of years I have served in the Assembly: where I have been disgusted by often witnessing what I deemed to be the most unjustifiable efforts in the western Delegation to throw the pecuniary burthens of the commonwealth upon the eastern people. In the hottest of the war, when the British army were laying waste all the shores of the Chesapeake, this temper often displayed itself. They demand a convention, & drop the project so soon as a reassessment of Lands is coupled with it. Last winter, Doddridge & others, finding we would not charter their 15 banks, said to us—We (meaning the federalists of the west) have heretofore been enemies to a Convention; but now we will let you see we will have one. Accordingly the Staunton Convention originated among Bank Stockholders, & officers, about Winchester. Viewing it in the light of a Hartford Convention, I declined attending a Small meeting at Nelson Court House in July, when two gentlemen of this county were appointed to go to Staunton in August.—A Series of circumstances like this, has made me heretofore hostile to a Convention. If one is to be held, I hope it will be taken out of the Hands of Speculators, & brought forward under the auspices of the friends of the people. I will reconsider my opinions on these subjects, and sincerely thank you for your letter.

I enclose for the perusal of yourself & Col: Randolph two interesting papers relative to the two Banks in Virginia, which were communicated to the last Assembly: I will thank you for the return of them by the 1st Octr

Doct Smith has adopted the Review of montesquieu as the text book on the Principles of govt for the Students of Wm & mary. He will adopt either Say or Tracy on political economy, as the one or the other may appear best, when the latter comes out. We hear nothing of it. Owing to the weak state of my health, I shall be tardy about the translation of Say, you recommend me to undertake. Perhaps I shall not be competent—but I will make the attempt, as soon as my health will permit.

I am dr sir, most respectfully & truly yours

Joseph C. Cabell

RC (ViU: TJP-PC); endorsed by TJ as received 5 Aug. 1816 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to John Wood, 6 May 1817, on verso; addressed: “Mr Jefferson Monticello”; postmarked Warminster, 4 Aug.

The accompanying letter, probably enclosed herein and originally sent by TJ on 14 July 1816, was TJ to “Henry Tompkinson” (Samuel Kercheval), 12 July 1816. Cabell’s enclosed letter of enquiry to Thomas Jefferson Randolph has not been found. The executive of Virginia was Governor Wilson Cary Nicholas.

Cabell represented nelson County in the House of Delegates, 1809–10 and 1831–35. In the Senate of Virginia, 1810–29, he served Nelson County and a changing array of nearby counties. His current senatorial district consisted of Albemarle, Amherst, Buckingham, Fluvanna, and Nelson counties (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 ). The two gentlemen representing Nelson County at the Staunton Convention were Landon Cabell and William C. Rives (Norfolk American Beacon and Commercial Diary, 30 Aug. 1816).

The two interesting papers enclosed were probably the letter of 22 Jan. 1816 from John Brockenbrough, the president of the Bank of Virginia, to Alfred H. Powell, chairman of a joint committee of the General Assembly, with its “exhibit, in a tabular form, of ‘the condition of the Bank of Virginia and its several offices of discount and deposit, on the 1st of January of each year since the period at which the first dividend was declared,’” and a letter of 25 Jan. 1816 from Benjamin Hatcher, president of the Farmers’ Bank of Virginia, to Charles Fenton Mercer, chairman of a House of Delegates committee, stating that “the suspension of specie payments still continues” because “the Northern Banks” refuse to pay their debts to his bank in specie (JSV description begins Journal of the Senate of Virginia description ends [1815–16 sess.], 43 [3 Feb. 1816]).

Index Entries

  • agriculture; and hawthorn hedges search
  • An Act to provide an accurate chart of each county and a general map of the territory of this Commonwealth (1816) search
  • A Treatise on Political Economy (Destutt de Tracy) search
  • Bank of Virginia (Richmond); financial condition of search
  • banks; in Va. search
  • banks; J. C. Cabell on search
  • books; school textbooks search
  • Brockenbrough, John; and Bank of Virginia search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and J. B. Say’s writings search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and TJ’s letters on Va. constitution search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and Va. banks search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; as Va. state senator search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; letters from search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; on hedges search
  • Cabell, Landon; and revision of Va. constitution search
  • Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws (Destutt de Tracy); as textbook search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; A Treatise on Political Economy search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws search
  • Doddridge, Philip; as Va. legislator search
  • Farmers’ Bank of Virginia; financial condition of search
  • Hatcher, Benjamin search
  • holly (shrub) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Va. constitution search
  • Main (Maine), Thomas; and hawthorn hedges search
  • maps; of Virginia search
  • Mercer, Charles Fenton; as Va. legislator search
  • Meriwether, Mr. (son of William D. Meriwether); as surveyor search
  • Nelson County, Va.; state senator for search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); and survey of Va. search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); as Va. governor search
  • political economy; works on search
  • Powell, Alfred H.; as Va. state senator search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); on hedges search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); and Va. banks search
  • Richmond, Va.; banks in search
  • Richmond, Va.; Farmers’ Bank of Virginia search
  • Rives, William Cabell; and revision of Va. constitution search
  • Say, Jean Baptiste; Traité d’Économie Politique search
  • schools and colleges; textbooks for search
  • seeds; holly search
  • Smith, John Augustine; and writings of J. B. Say search
  • Smith, John Augustine; as president of College of William and Mary search
  • Staunton, Va.; convention of western counties held in search
  • surveying; and new map of Va. search
  • thorn; propagation of search
  • Traité d’Économie Politique (J. B. Say) search
  • Virginia; banks in search
  • Virginia; constitutional convention for proposed search
  • Virginia; constitution of (1776) search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Virginia; governor search
  • Virginia; House of Delegates search
  • Virginia; maps of search
  • Virginia; regional conflicts in search
  • Virginia; Senate search
  • Virginia; surveys of search
  • William and Mary, College of; textbooks of search