Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James P. Preston, 13 July 1818

To James P. Preston

Poplar Forest July 13. 18.


I recieved in due time your Excellency’s letter of Mar. 18. covering the appointment with which you were pleased to honor me as one of the Commrs under the act concerning the University. meaning to accept the trust, it did not occur in the moment that I ought to say so, and to prevent any suspence which my silence might occasion in your mind on the subject. the reciept of your second favor of May 20. which after a long absence from home, found me here, first brought to my attention the culpable failure in duty which occasioned you the trouble of a second notification. entirely sensible of this inadvertence, I sollicit your Excellency’s pardon, with the assurance that it proceeded from absence of reflection solely. my high respect for yourself personally, as well as the sense of a duty omitted, call for this apology, with an addition of the tardy assurance that I accept the appointment with which you have honored me, and will render under it every service in my power. with my regrets at this incident be pleased to accept the sincere expressions of my high consideration and esteem.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Vi: RG 3, Governor’s Office, Executive Papers); addressed: “His Excellency Governor Preston Richmond”; franked; postmarked Lynchburg, 16 July; endorsed by Preston as TJ’s letter “accepting the appt of Commr to fix the Site for the University,” received 20 July 1818. PoC (NPV: Autograph Files Collection); with notation at foot of text that TJ’s great-grandson Wilson Cary Nicholas Randolph presented the text to Vassar College on 3 Nov. 1905.

Preston’s letter of mar. 18, not found, is recorded in SJL as received 28 Mar. 1818 from “Counc. chamb.” Its enclosure was evidently TJ’s formal appointment as one of the University of Virginia commissioners. While TJ’s copy has not been found, it presumably differed from the version sent to James Madison only in the specific information filled in by hand. Madison’s copy, dated Richmond, 18 Mar. 1818, cited the 21 Feb. 1818 statute requiring appointment by the governor of “twenty-four discreet and intelligent persons” to form a “Board of Commissioners to aid the Legislature in ascertaining a permanent scite for a University and for other purposes” and appointed Madison, “by and with the advice of the Council of State,” as the commissioner for his senatorial district (printed form with blanks filled in by a clerk, signed by Preston, in DLC: Madison Papers; printed in Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 1:239).

Preston’s second favor of may 20, described above as a second notification of TJ’s appointment as a University of Virginia commissioner belatedly received at Poplar Forest, is not recorded in SJL and evidently distinct from the letter of that date printed above, which is on a different subject and was received at Monticello.

Index Entries

  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; and founding of University of Virginia search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); as University of Virginia commissioner search
  • Preston, James Patton; and commissioners for University of Virginia search
  • Preston, James Patton; letters from accounted for search
  • Preston, James Patton; letters to search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; commissioners search
  • Virginia; Council of State search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search