Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John H. Cocke and David Watson, 10 March 1817

To John H. Cocke and David Watson

Monticello Mar. 10. 17.

Dear1 Sir

It has been in contemplation for some time to establish a College some where near Charlottesville, of which I presume you have been apprised by the reciept of a Commission from the Governor appointing you one of the 6. Visitors. a first meeting of the Visitors is extremely urgent, to recieve from our predecessors what belongs to the institution, and to set it in motion. no person being particularly authorised to call the first meeting, I have presumed, as being nearest the place of meeting, to request the other visitors, as I now do yourself, to meet at Charlottesville on Tuesday the 8th of April. if to this favor you will add that of making this place your headquarters, I shall be happy to recieve you, and if it could be the day or evening preceding, we could in an evening’s conversation2 come to a common understanding with each other, so that our attendance3 at Charlottesville the next day would be short and merely of form. I tender you the assurance of my great respect and esteem.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Sotheby’s, New York City, 1987); addressed: “General Cocke Bremo near New Canton Fluvanna”; franked; postmarked; endorsed by Cocke. FC (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand; at foot of text: “Majr Augustus Watson <esq.> Genl J. H. Cocke”; endorsed by TJ as a letter to “Watson <Augustus> David” and to Cocke and recorded in SJL as separate letters of the same date to both recipients, without correction of Watson’s given name. Enclosed in TJ to Watson and to Peter Minor, both 30 Mar. 1817.

David Watson (1773–1830), attorney and public official, graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1797 and then began a career in law. During the War of 1812 he served in the militia as a major and commander of a troop of cavalry from Louisa County. Watson represented that county for seven sessions in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1801–02, 1806–09, 1814–15, and 1820–22. He was elected to a state constitutional convention in 1829 but was unable to attend due to ill health. Watson contributed literary compositions to the Richmond Enquirer, was a founding member of the Agricultural Society of Albemarle, and sat on the first board of visitors of Central College. At his death he left sizable landholdings and a personal estate valued in excess of $20,000, including more than sixty slaves (ViU: Watson Family Papers; Fillmore Norfleet, Saint-Mémin in Virginia: Portraits and Biographies [1942], 85, 220; 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 , 43; Stuart Lee Butler, A Guide to Virginia Militia Units in the War of 1812 [1988], 129, 259, 290; 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 ; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1282; True, “Agricultural Society,” description begins Rodney H. True, “Minute Book of the Agricultural Society of Albemarle,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1918 (1921), 1:261–349 description ends 247, 263, 269; Richmond Enquirer, 17 June 1828, 7 Apr. 1829, 10 Aug. 1830; Farmers’ Register 2 [1834]: 216; Louisa Co. Will Book, 8:177–9, 252–4, 307–8).

The 18 Oct. 1816 commission from the governor is printed above as an enclosure to Wilson Cary Nicholas’s letter to TJ of that date.

1Word not in FC.

2FC: “conversa-.”

3FC: “attending.”

Index Entries

  • Central College, Board of Visitors; meetings of search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell; letters to search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); and Central College search
  • Watson, David (1773–1830); identified search
  • Watson, David (1773–1830); letters to search