Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Breckinridge, 6 October 1818

To James Breckinridge

Monticello Oct. 6. 18.

Dear Sir

You have had a right to suppose me very unmindful of my promise to furnish you with drawings for your Courthouse. yet the fact is not so. a few days after I parted with you, the use of the waters of the warm spring began to affect me sensibly & unfavorably, and at length produced serious imposthume & eruption, with fever, colliquative sweats, & extreme debility. these sufferings aggravated by the torment of the journey home, over the rocks and mountains I had to pass, had reduced me to the lowest stage of exhaustion by the time I had got back. I have been on the recovery some time and still am so: but not yet able to sit erect for writing. by working at your drawings [a l]ittle every day, I have been able to compleat, & now to forward them by mail. with the explanations accompanying them, I hope your workman will sufficiently understand them. I send also some seed [of]1 the Succory which I think I promised you.

I cannot omit this occasion of acknoleging to you my sensibility for [your]2 kind attentions on our journey, and during our stay together at the springs. long kept by other vocations from an every-day intercourse with the world, I feel the need of a Mentor, when I enter it, & especially in an unknown society: an[d] I found the benefit of it in your kind cares. I only lament that the knolege of your worth and goodness comes to me when so little of life remains to cultivate and to merit it’s cordial reciprocation. if my health should become again as firm as it was before the unlucky experiment of the springs, I shall not despair in my annual rambles to the Natural bridge, of being able at some time to extend them to Fincastle, towards which the pleasure of visiting you would be the chief inducement. nor will I despair that some of your journeyings, on private or public account, may lead you thro’ our quarter, and give me the gratification of seeing you at Monticello. with deep & permanent impressions of cordial esteem, accept the assurance of my affectionate attachment and high respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of Thomas Ritchie to TJ, [ca. 21 May 1818]; three words faint; at foot of text: “General Breckenridge”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosures not found.

James Breckinridge (1763–1833), soldier, attorney, and public official, was a private in a company of riflemen from Botetourt County and later served as an ensign under Nathanael Greene in North Carolina during the Revolutionary War. He studied briefly at Liberty Hall Academy (later Washington and Lee University) and then read law under George Wythe at the College of William and Mary. Breckinridge’s public service began with his 1782 appointment as deputy clerk of Botetourt County. He practiced law in that county starting in 1789 and held various offices, including town trustee for Fincastle, militia captain, county commonwealth’s attorney, and federal revenue inspector. Breckinridge represented Botetourt in the Virginia House of Delegates for thirteen terms, serving 1789–90, 1796–1802, 1806–08, 1819–21, and 1823–24. He won election to the United States House of Representatives in 1809 and held that seat until 1817. Although Breckinridge, a Federalist, opposed the declaration of war on Great Britain in 1812, he led a brigade of Virginia militia following the burning in 1814 of Washington, D.C. Based at Grove Hill, his Botetourt County plantation, he operated mills, a brickyard, a tannery, and a forge. Breckinridge was one of the University of Virginia commissioners who met at Rockfish Gap in 1818, and the following year he was appointed to the new school’s Board of Visitors, a position he held until his death (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; 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 ; Katherine Kennedy McNulty, “Gen. James Breckinridge, Frontier Man for All Seasons,” Roanoke Historical Society, Journal 7 [winter 1971]: 2–21; 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 ; TJ to Breckinridge, 3 Mar. 1819; Richmond Enquirer, 24 May 1833; Botetourt Co. Will Book, E:372–3).

1Torn at seal.

2Torn at seal.

Index Entries

  • architecture; TJ advises J. Breckinridge search
  • Botetourt County, Va.; TJ designs courthouse for search
  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; identified search
  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; letters to search
  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; TJ sends architectural drawings to search
  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; visits Warm Springs search
  • chicory (succory) search
  • health; staphylococcus infection search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; staphylococcus infection search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Travels; to Natural Bridge search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Travels; to Warm Springs search
  • Natural Bridge, Va.; TJ visits search
  • seeds; chicory (succory) search
  • seeds; sent by TJ search
  • staphylococcus; TJ infected with search
  • Warm Springs (Bath Co.); TJ visits search