Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Francis Brooke, 7 November 1817

To Francis Brooke

Monticello Nov. 7. 17.


It has been mentioned to the Visitors of the Central College established by act of assembly near Charlottesville that the society of Cincinnati in this state had in contemplation to apply their funds to the foundation of a school for the military arts of Gunnery and fortification, and that some of the members had intimated a disposition to incorporate it with the Central College. a Professorship which should embrace these necessary branches within the course of it’s instruction is within the scheme of our establishment, if our funds should be made competent to it. they are not so as yet. we calculate that 25,000 Dollars are requisite for every professorship, that is to say to erect the buildings necessary for the accomodation of the Professor and his students, & to deposit in some of the public funds a capital sum the interest of which would furnish a perpetual salary of 1000 D. the funds of your society are suggested to be about 20,000.D. ours would enable us to furnish the supplement to that sum, & we could provide the buildings and a Professor within the course of the ensuing year. I am authorised therefore by my Colleagues of the visitation to say that should your society consider such an institution as satisfactorily trusted to their direction, it should be faithfully exercised, and they would propose, as a just & proper commemoration of the source of the foundation, to distinguish it by the appellation of the Cincinnati professorship. the legislature having so far taken the Central college under it’s patronage as to place the nomination of it’s visitors in the hands of the Governor of the state, it is presumed that the society will see in that circumstance a sufficient ground of confidence for the future as well as the present. I pray you to accept the assurance1 of my high respect & esteem.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of left margin: “Judge Brooke”; with unrelated notations on verso in Joseph Milligan’s hand; endorsed by TJ.

Francis Taliaferro Brooke (1763–1851), attorney and public official, was a native of Spotsylvania County. After attending several local schools, Brooke served in the Continental army as an artillery lieutenant, 1781–83. He studied law under his brother Robert Brooke, passed the bar in 1788, and was a district attorney in the counties of Monongalia and Harrison (later West Virginia). Brooke represented Essex County in the House of Delegates, 1794–95, and the counties of Culpeper, Madison, Orange, and Spotsylvania in the state senate, 1800–04, including service as Speaker, 1802–04. He was appointed a major in the militia in 1796, lieutenant colonel in 1800, and brigadier general in 1802. Brooke was a judge of the General Court, 1804–11. In the latter year he was elected to the state’s highest tribunal, the Court of Appeals, serving as its president from 1824 to 1830. Under the new state constitution of 1830, Brooke returned to the renamed Supreme Court of Appeals in 1831 and remained on the bench until his death. He maintained a decades-long personal and political connection with Henry Clay. A member of the Society of the Cincinnati, Brooke served as the state chapter’s vice president from 1816 until it disbanded in 1824. In a memoir he published late in life, he recalled TJ as “a man of easy, and ingratiating manners,” who “never would discuss any proposition if you differed with him, for he said he thought discussion rather rivetted opinions than changed them” (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; DVB description begins John T. Kneebone, Sara B. Bearss, and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, 1998– , 3 vols. description ends ; Brooke, A Narrative of My Life; for My Family [1849], esp. 87–8; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 41 vols. description ends , 39:195; Heitman, Continental Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783, rev. ed., 1914 description ends , 122; 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 ; Clay, Papers description begins James F. Hopkins and others, eds., The Papers of Henry Clay, 1959–92, 11 vols. description ends ; Proceedings of the Virginia State Society of the Cincinnati from the 6th of October, 1783, to the Disbanding of the Society on October 13th, 1824 [1896], 85, 111; Richmond Enquirer, 11 Mar. 1851).

1Beginning with last five letters of this word, remainder of text written perpendicularly in left margin.

Index Entries

  • Brooke, Francis Taliaferro; and Society of the Cincinnati search
  • Brooke, Francis Taliaferro; identified search
  • Brooke, Francis Taliaferro; letter to search
  • Central College; and Society of the Cincinnati search
  • Central College; professors for search
  • Central College Board of Visitors; and proposed professorships search
  • education; military instruction search
  • military; and collegiate curriculum search
  • Society of the Cincinnati; and Central College search