Thomas Jefferson Papers

Hugh Holmes to Thomas Jefferson, 8 August 1818

From Hugh Holmes

New Market August 8h 1818

Dear Sir

In transitu I drop you a line of introduction to make you acquainted with Mr Blackburn the bearer a gentleman of science and for many years the professor of Matthematics in Wm & Mary colledge—not personaly acquainted with this gentleman before the Accidental meeting on the road to day I have still no hesitation, from a knowledge of his reputation gained through unexceptionable channels to recommend him to your patronage with a View to aid the great work we have on hand and altho finished by us yet subject to alteration amendment or even final rejection—you may find his opinions usefull, indeed I hope he may aid you much in giving the Central Colledge a start and place a feather in its Cap before it makes its appearance before the Assembly

You already know that with sentiments of high regard & esteem I am your friend

Hh Holmes

RC (MHi); addressed: “The honble Thomas Jefferson Esqre now at the Warm Springs” to be delivered by “Mr Blackburn”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Sept. 1818 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Augustine C. Smith to Holmes, Winchester, 7 Aug. 1818, introducing George Blackburn, “my much esteemed and learned friend”; indicating that Smith, Francis W. Gilmer, and others have frequently spoken of Blackburn’s “great sientific acquirements”; stating that he “is certainly the first mathematician in the U. States”; and concluding that “in the rare and happy talent of communicating instruction he is perhaps unrivalled in the world” (RC in MHi; addressed: “The Honble Hugh Holmes Esq. Stanton Va”; with note by Holmes at foot of text: “Hh Holmes to Mr Jefferson”).

George Blackburn (1765–1823), educator, mathematician, and cartographer, was born and received his early education in Dublin. He immigrated to the United States by 1800 and successively operated schools in Philadelphia and Fauquier County. Blackburn served as the professor of mathematics at the College of William and Mary, 1804–11, and at South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina) in Columbia, 1811–14. He left the latter institution following a series of controversies related to student discipline that prompted him to publish a vindication of his conduct. During his time in South Carolina, Blackburn also helped to survey its boundary line with North Carolina, and he took latitude and longitude readings that he used in his map of South Carolina published in 1822. By 1817 he had settled in Baltimore, where he was professor of mathematics at the newly formed Asbury College. In 1821 Blackburn returned to Columbia and taught at an academy there until his death (Maximilian LaBorde, History of the South Carolina College [1859], 79–83; Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 1 Oct. 1800; Susan H. Godson and others, The College of William & Mary: A History [1993], 1:178, 202–3, 297, 304; Daniel Walker Hollis, University of South Carolina [1951–56], 1:62–3; Blackburn, Narrative of Transactions in the South-Carolina College, during the three last courses [1814?]; Methodist Magazine 1 [1818]: 110–6; Blackburn to TJ, 8 Mar. 1819; Charleston City Gazette, 23 Aug., 24 Oct. 1823).

in transitu: “in transit.”

Index Entries

  • Blackburn, George; identified search
  • Blackburn, George; introduced to TJ search
  • Blackburn, George; professor at College of William and Mary search
  • Blackburn, George; seeks professorship at Central College search
  • Central College; as state university of Va. search
  • Central College; professors for search
  • Holmes, Hugh; as University of Virginia commissioner search
  • Holmes, Hugh; introduces G. Blackburn to TJ search
  • Holmes, Hugh; letters from search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; commissioners’ meeting at Rockfish Gap search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search