Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Brown (1762–1826) to Thomas Jefferson, 8 February 1819

From John Brown (1762–1826)

Spring Farm Feby. 8th 1819


This will be handed you by Mr Cosby, who waits on you for the purpose of obtaining a contract for the erection of Such buildings as may be thought necessary, at this time, for the University of Virga; and who has requested me to state to you my opinion of his character, and of his fitness for the undertaking.

Mr Cosby has never done any work for me; nor have I ever, critically, examined any that he has done: and, if I had, I do not consider myself a competent judge of such matters. He built a house on the land I now own, for the gentleman from whom I purchased, the materials and workmanship of which appear to me to be very good. And though he has been pretty extensively engaged in building for the Sixteen years last past, during which I have known him; I have never heard but of two or three complaints against him. But whether he was really in fault in those cases; or whether his employers, as sometimes happens, raised objections in order to avoid or delay payment, I know not.   My opinion is that Mr Cosby is a good workman. And, as I know him to be sober, attentive, and industrious, I would, in contracting with him, for myself, feel perfectly secure of a faithful performance, on his part.

I will only add that his moral character, as far as I know, is without a stain.

With great respect, I am, Sir, your Most Ob. sevt

Jno Brown

RC (ViU: TJP); endorsed by TJ as received 13 Mar. 1819 from “Brown John. Chancr” and so recorded in SJL. RC (PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit PPAmP); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Emma Willard, 18 Dec. 1819, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire Monticello” by “Mr Cosby.”

John Brown (1762–1826), judge, was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and attended Liberty Hall Academy (later Washington Academy, Washington College, and Washington and Lee University), 1782–83. He studied law and set up a legal practice in Hardy County in what later became West Virginia. Brown was appointed a brigadier general of militia in 1799. Three years later the Virginia General Assembly elected him judge of the Superior Court of Chancery at Staunton, a position he held until his death. During the last dozen or so years of his life, Brown also presided over court sessions in Wythe and Greenbrier counties (the latter later in West Virginia). A Republican politically, he served as a presidential elector for TJ in 1800, supported James Madison’s candidacy in 1808, and was a trustee of his alma mater, 1807–17. Brown favored the establishment of banks west of the Blue Ridge, increased representation for western counties in the state legislature, more equitable taxation, and an expanded suffrage. He died at his Augusta County home, Spring Farm, later incorporated into Staunton (DVB description begins John T. Kneebone, Sara B. Bearss, and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, 1998– , 3 vols. description ends ; Joseph A. Waddell, Annals of Augusta County, Virginia [1902; repr. 1958], 387–8; Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, 1749–1888 [1888], 50; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1798–99 sess.], 100 [24 Jan. 1799]; Richmond Virginia Argus, 24 Oct. 1800; JSV description begins Journal of the Senate of Virginia description ends [1801–02 sess.], 64 [27 Jan. 1802]; Richmond Enquirer, 20 Oct. 1826; gravestone inscription in Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton).

Index Entries

  • Brown, John (1762–1826); identified search
  • Brown, John (1762–1826); letter from search
  • Brown, John (1762–1826); recommends D. Cosby search
  • Cosby, Dabney; recommendations of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; builders for search