Thomas Jefferson Papers

Joseph C. Cabell to Thomas Jefferson, 24 December 1818

From Joseph C. Cabell

Richmond. 24th Decr 1818.

Dear Sir,

Conformably to your advice, I urged the friends of the University to hasten the proceedings of the House of Delegates upon that subject, and to get the Bill up to the Senate before Christmas. Unfortunately, however, the Bill is now lying on the table of the Lower House, after one reading & an order to print. As we met on 7th and 15 days are pretty fully employed in reading petitions, which this year are more numerous than usual, it would have been very difficult to avoid the delay which has taken place; especially as an artful opposition has been continually urging the necessity of1 time to consider, and to bring forward their claims. From 30 to 40 members of the House of Delegates are now absent on a visit to their families, and it will be unsafe to take a vote on the bill till a week after christmas. Two strenuous efforts have at different times been made to get an adjournment of the Senate. On the first the vote was 10 to 5: on the second 9 to 5. But altho the attempt failed in both cases, yet 4 or 5 of the Senators have gone off without leave, and broken up the House. There are now about ten of us in town. Some of our best friends are in the country: & we shall suffer by their absence. The delay upon the University bill is truly to be lamented. The Hostile interests are daily acquiring new force by intrigue & management. The party opposed altogether to the University is growing so rapidly we have just grounds to fear a total failure of the measure. I this morning counted up 26 votes of this description on this side of the Ridge: and there are doubtless many others. Many of the Western members will take the same course, particularly if they lose the scite. If all the western votes could be united in opposition we shall certainly be defeated. Some of the west will certainly be with us on the Scite, and I hope a respectable portion will be for the bill on the passage. Yet if this portion should be small, it will be insufficient to save the bill from Eastern hostility. The friends of Wm & Mary demand2 $5000, pr annum, as the price of their concurrence: & in the event of refusal will carry off some votes. I have advised my friends not to enter into any compacts of the kind, and sooner will I lose the bill than I will give my assent to it. The party hostile to the University, come chiefly from the lower country, & are within convenient distance of Wm & Mary. The better educated part of them, whilst they, their sons, connexions or friends have been educated at Wm & Mary, quote Smith, the Edinburgh Review, & Dugald Stewart, to prove that education should be left to individual enterprize. The more ignorant part, pretend that the Literary fund has been diverted from its original object, the education of the poor: and accuse the friends of the university of an intention to apply all the fund to the benefit of the wealthy. Mr Archer of Amelia, very unintentionally, but very unfortunately, has given plausability to this charge. Two days ago, he offered a resolution to authorize the Committee of Schools & Colleges to consider of & report to the House on, the expediency of repealing that part of the Law relative to the poor. The resolution was laid on the table. The exhibition of such a resolution from a friend to the University, at this time, has produced great & perhaps irratreavable mischief. I have prevailed on him to consent not to call it up at all: or if another course should be preferred, to suffer it to be withdrawn. It will probably lie on the table.3—In regard to Charlottesville as a scite for the University, many liberal & enlightened persons feel difficulties from the smallness of the town. They think a town of some size necessary, to attract professors, to furnish polished society for students, to supply accomodations; to resist the physical force, & present the means of governing a large number of young men &c. This last objection seems to make some4 impression. Mr Johnson of Staunton arrived two days ago. He is very prudent and very remarkable on all occasions for reserving till the last moment, the disclosure of the opinion he means to advocate. On the day he arrived in the Senate Chamber, he went to the map of Virginia, and in a tone, half laughing & half earnest, observed to Genl Preston & myself that he always expected that those lines drawn across the state in the calculations published in the Enquirer, were not drawn in a proper manner: & proceeded to remark on the circumstance that the Eastern & western lines commencing at the middle of the mouth of the Chesapeake, were nearer to the Southern than northern side of the State. Should the bill get up to the Senate, it may be proper for me to be able to meet all possible objections on that subject. Perhaps Mr Johnson may take the course you expect of him; but if he does, I shall be greatly disappointed. I should therefore be much obliged if you will inform me, whether due5 Eastern & Western, and due Northern & Southern lines, would materially change the position of the Center of population; or whether lines drawn in any other direction would materially vary the result; as also, whether, the mode of ascertaining the center, by the point of intersection of only two transverse lines, be liable to any well founded6 objection. I have madison’s map in my room, & shall make some calculations, but I ask you for information because yours would be more accurate than my own, particularly as to the relative portions of counties bisected by the lines. I will, if you desire it, make no other use of your letter than to enable myself to meet any objections to the present mode of drawing the lines. My motive for asking for information on the preceding subject, is not that I myself doubt, but that I may meet and dissipate the doubts of others.—You recollect no doubt the letter I wrote you last winter stating my impressions that certa[in cha]racters in the H. of Delegates were hostile to the location of the Univer[sity] [. . .] [Char]lottesville. I have ascertained that upon that subject I was entirely cor[rect.] I was also correct in my anticipation that they would go with the Board of Commissioners. They will now give us their support.—I lately wrote you that mr Hunter of Essex would unite with us. But in that, I was mistaken. my first apprehensions were well founded. He will be opposed to the measure altogether.

I am, Dr Sir, most truly & faithfully yours,

Joseph C. Cabell

Poor old Col: Tatham is here, half deranged, in great poverty, avoided by every body, & trying to sell his collections to the Assembly, & to get his Lottery Law revived, in both which attempts I believe he will be disappointed.

RC (ViU: TJP-PC); mutilated at seal; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 28 Dec. 1818 and so recorded in SJL; with possibly related calculation by TJ on verso. RC (DLC); additional address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Louis H. Girardin, 16 Mar. 1819, on verso; addressed: “Mr Jefferson Monticello”; franked; postmarked Richmond, 24 Dec.

the ridge: the Blue Ridge Mountains. When the annual report of the President and Directors of the Literary Fund was presented to the Virginia House of Delegates on 22 Dec. 1818, William S. archer, of Amelia County, moved that it be referred to the House Committee of Schools and Colleges in order to investigate the possibility of repealing those sections of the 21 Feb. 1818 statute, “An Act appropriating part of the revenue of the Literary Fund, and for other purposes,” not concerned with creating a state university (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1818–19 sess.], 60; Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1817–18 sess.], 11–5).

After unsuccessfully proposing amendments to TJ’s Bill to Establish a University (printed above at 19 Nov. 1818), Chapman johnson of staunton ultimately voted in favor of making Central College the University of Virginia (JSV description begins Journal of the Senate of Virginia description ends [1818–19 sess.], 73 [25 Jan. 1819]). On 18 Dec. 1818 the surveyor William tatham petitioned the House of Delegates to name a new set of managers to oversee a lottery funding a geographical work of his, replacing those appointed by a 1791 statute. On 9 Feb. 1819 the General Assembly approved “An act concerning William Tatham” that appointed seven new lottery managers (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1818–19 sess.], 49; Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1818–19 sess.], 195).

1Cabell here canceled “delay.”

2Sentence opening reworked from “Wm & Mary demands.”

3A sentence here is heavily canceled and illegible.

4Word interlined in place of “most.”

5Word interlined.

6Preceding two words interlined in place of “material.”

Index Entries

  • An Act appropriating part of the revenue of the Literary Fund, and for other purposes (1818) search
  • An act concerning William Tatham (1819) search
  • Archer, William Segar; and establishment of University of Virginia search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and establishment of University of Virginia search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; letters from search
  • Central College; as state university of Va. search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; size of search
  • Christmas; mentioned search
  • Edinburgh Review; and education search
  • education; of the poor search
  • Hunter, James; and establishment of University of Virginia search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Bill to Establish a University search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the Geographic Center of Virginia’s Population search
  • Johnson, Chapman; and establishment of University of Virginia search
  • Madison, James, Bishop; and map of Va. search
  • maps; Bishop J. Madison’s map of Va. search
  • maps; of Virginia search
  • Preston, Francis; as Va. state senator search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); prints TJ’s Notes on the Geographic Center of Virginia’s Population search
  • Smith, Adam; and education search
  • Stewart, Dugald; and education search
  • Tatham, William; lottery for search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; Bill to Establish a University search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; commissioners search
  • Virginia; center of population of search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Virginia; House of Delegates search
  • Virginia; Literary Fund search
  • Virginia; maps of search
  • Virginia; regional conflicts in search
  • Virginia; Senate search
  • William and Mary, College of; and state university for Va. search