Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Cooper to Thomas Jefferson, 20 February 1818

From Thomas Cooper

Philadelphia Feb. 20. 1818

Dear Sir

I feel myself greatly obliged and much gratified by the kind and liberal conduct of the Governors of your Institution in my case. In truth, having from the age of twenty to fifty laboured almost exclusively for the public, I find it absolutely necessary to labour now for my family, which forms if not the only the strongest motive to exertion with me now; and I must for their sake, use the few years that remain with a view to the benefit of those whom I have made dependant upon me.

As to the Chemical Chair, Dr Physick1 and Dr Dorsey have hitherto exclaimed nolo episcopari: but if Dorsey does not take the chair of anatomy, the Trustees will look to Dr2 Hossack. The dread of this, I think will drive Dorsey into an acceptance, which a little persuasion will easily produce. In that case, unless my Politics keep me out (no unlikely event) I shall find an opening.

The Medical faculty to their great disgrace, have recommended Dr augustine Smith of Williamsburgh, who is some kind of relation to Physick and Dorsey, and whom they expect to manage at will. Smith, may be a tolerable dissector, but he is no more. He cannot write a page either of grammar or orthography, without much consultation with a dictionary. He is perfectly ignorant of the Classical languages, his temper is very bad, and I have no reason to speak in favour of his conduct, which so far as I have been interested in looking at it, has been marked by duplicity. He will not succeed here.

At all events, unless my necessities compel me to renew my course of Chemistry and Mineralogy for the Spring, I will accept M. Correa’s kind offer of a seat in his Carriage, when Congress breaks up; because whether here or in Virginia, I shall be anxious to promote an Institution that promises more liberal Instruction than any thing I know of in this Country.

Your business will be to make it an University, and to build a Hospital. The latter is a sine quâ non.

Accept mean while, my kind and respectful thanks, and believe me as heretofore, always Dear sir
Your obliged friend and Servant

Thomas Cooper

RC (ViU: TJP); endorsed by TJ as received 1 Mar. 1818 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Reuben Haines, 18 May 1818, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esq Monticello Virginia”; stamp canceled; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 20 Feb.

For the disposition of the chemical chair and other professorships at the University of Pennsylvania, see note to Cooper to TJ, 23 Jan. 1818. The phrase nolo episcopari (“I do not wish to be made a bishop”) is often “applied ironically to those who affectedly disclaim that which is the secret and sole object of their ambition” (A New Dictionary of Quotations from the Greek, Latin, and Modern Languages [1869], 307).

1Manuscript: “Physic.”

2Cooper here canceled “Wistar.”

Index Entries

  • anatomy; collegiate education in search
  • books; dictionaries search
  • carriages; stagecoaches search
  • Central College; as state university of Va. search
  • Central College; professors for search
  • Central College Board of Visitors; and proposed professorships search
  • chemistry; collegiate education in search
  • Congress, U.S.; adjourns search
  • Cooper, Thomas; academic career of search
  • Cooper, Thomas; and Central College search
  • Cooper, Thomas; family of search
  • Cooper, Thomas; invited to visit Monticello search
  • Cooper, Thomas; letters from search
  • Cooper, Thomas; on J. A. Smith search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; visits Monticello search
  • Dorsey, John Syng; as university professor search
  • Hosack, David; as medical educator search
  • hospitals; and university education search
  • medicine; collegiate education in search
  • mineralogy; collegiate education in search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); invitations to visit search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Corrêa da Serra, José search
  • Pennsylvania, University of search
  • Physick, Philip Syng; as university professor search
  • schools and colleges; University of Pennsylvania search
  • Smith, John Augustine; T. Cooper on search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; hospital proposed for search