Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Linn Banks and Edward Watts, 20 November 1818

To Linn Banks and Edward Watts

Monticello Nov. 20. 1818.


The Commissioners appointed under the act of the last General assembly for appropriating a part of the revenue of the literary fund, and for other purposes, met according to law, at the Rockfish gap, on the 1st day of August last, and having continued their session by adjournments until the 4th day of that month, agreed to a Report, which being signed in Duplicates, individually and unanimously, by all the members who attended, they instructed me to transmit to the Speakers of1 both houses of legislature.   in obedience to that instruction, I now inclose one of the sd original reports, with a copy of their journal, and of the documents exhibited and left in their possession.

Some of the outstanding subscription papers therein mentioned, have been returned with additional subscriptions to the amount of 2650. Dollars and an additional purchase has been made of 48¾ acres of land adjoining the site of the Central College, necessary to the probable extent of buildings should that be adopted, as proposed by the Report, for the site of the University; which circumstances having taken place since the date of the Report, I have deemed it a duty to mention as supplementory to it.

I have the honor to be with sentiments of the highest respect and consideration, Sir

Your most obedient and most humble servant

Th: Jefferson

RC (Vi: RG 79, House of Delegates, Speaker, Executive Communications); at foot of text: “The honorable The Speaker of the House of Delegates of Virginia.” PoC (CSmH: JF-BA); addressed at foot of text and endorsed by TJ as a letter to the speakers of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates. Printed in University of Virginia Commissioners’ Report; JHD (1818–19 sess.), 9 (8 Dec. 1818); and Richmond Enquirer, 10 Dec. 1818, with all printed versions addressed only to the Speaker of the House of Delegates. Enclosures: (1) Proceedings of Rockfish Gap Meeting of the University of Virginia Commissioners, 1–4 Aug. 1818, printed above at 4 Aug. 1818. (2) Rockfish Gap Report of the University of Virginia Commissioners, 4 Aug. 1818. (3) Conveyance of Central College Properties to the President and Directors of the Literary Fund, 27 July 1818. Letter to Watts enclosed in TJ to Joseph C. Cabell, 20 Nov. 1818.

Linn Banks (1784–1842), attorney and public official, was born in a part of Culpeper County that became Madison County in 1792. He studied at the College of William and Mary through 1806, then read law, and was admitted to the bar in Madison County two years later. Banks served as a captain in the Virginia militia during the War of 1812 and subsequently attained the rank of colonel. He was elected as a Republican to the House of Delegates in 1812 and represented Madison County in that body for the next twenty-six years, presiding as Speaker, 1817–38. In the latter year Banks won a seat in the United States House of Representatives by special election and served until his defeat in a reelection bid in 1841. Throughout his career he continued to practice law. In 1840 Banks owned forty-seven slaves. He died in Madison County (DVB; E. Griffith Dodson, Speakers and Clerks of the Virginia House of Delegates, 1776–1955 [1956], 7, 56–7, 141; William and Mary Provisional List, 6; Leonard, General Assembly; DNA: RG 29, CS, Madison Co., 1840; Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser, 18 Jan. 1842; Madison Co. Will Book, 7:162–3, 485).

Edward Watts (1779–1859), attorney and public official, was born in Prince Edward County, graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1801, and then read law in Campbell County with Christopher Clark. He took up the practice of law in Campbell County, which he represented in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1808–09. Watts sat in the Senate of Virginia, 1809–21, acting as Speaker from late in 1816 until he left that body. He moved to Botetourt County by 1820, and when the portion in which he resided split off to become Roanoke County in 1838, he served as the commonwealth’s attorney for the new county’s circuit court. From 1830 to 1835 Watts was a trustee of Washington College (later Washington and Lee University). In 1834 the House of Delegates elected him brigadier general of the 13th brigade of the Virginia militia in place of his recently deceased father-in-law, James Breckinridge. That same year Watts ran unsuccessfully for governor of Virginia. He retired from public life about 1840 and devoted himself to agriculture. Watts owned 74 slaves in 1820 and 134 two decades later. He died at his home in Roanoke County (S. Bassett French Biographical Sketches [Vi: Personal Papers Collection]; John Frederick Dorman, The Prestons of Smithfield and Greenfield in Virginia: Descendants of John and Elizabeth (Patton) Preston Through Five Generations [1982], 123–4; Princeton Catalogue, 113; Leonard, General Assembly; JSV [1816–17 sess.], 12–3 [5 Dec. 1816]; DNA: RG 29, CS, Botetourt Co., 1820, 1830, Roanoke Co., 1840, 1850; George S. Jack and Edward B. Jacobs, History of Roanoke County; History of Roanoke City … [1912], 8; Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, 1749–1888 [1888], 38; JHD [1833–34 sess.], 160 [8 Feb. 1834]; Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser, 12 Aug. 1859; gravestone inscription in Fair View Cemetery, Roanoke; Roanoke Co. Will Book, 1:135–9).

For the additional purchase of 48¾ acres of land for Central College, see Agreement by John M. Perry to Sell Lands to Central College, 7 Nov. 1818.

1Preceding three words not in Richmond Enquirer.

Index Entries

  • Banks, Linn; as speaker of Va. House of Delegates search
  • Banks, Linn; identified search
  • Banks, Linn; letter to search
  • Central College; land purchased for search
  • Central College; subscription for search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; and Central College–University of Virginia subscription search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; and University of Virginia Commission search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Rockfish Gap Report of the University of Virginia Commissioners search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); prints TJ’s correspondence search
  • subscriptions, nonpublication; for Central College–University of Virginia search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; commissioners’ report search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; Proceedings of Rockfish Gap Meeting of the University of Virginia Commissioners search
  • Watts, Edward; as Speaker of Va. Senate search
  • Watts, Edward; identified search
  • Watts, Edward; letter to search