Thomas Jefferson Papers

Joseph C. Cabell to Thomas Jefferson, 15 February 1819

From Joseph C. Cabell

Richmond. 15 Feb: 1819.

Dear Sir,

On saturday the Visitors of the University were appointed. They are Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Chapman Johnson, James Breckenridge, Robert B. Taylor, John H. Cocke and Joseph C. Cabell. I communicated to the Governor a message from Genl Cocke, purporting1 that a report was in circulation that the Visitors of the Central College were about to be appointed Visitors of the University; that he did not wish to be appointed as he was well persuaded2 there were many characters in the state who would be better qualified than himself to vote on the many important and difficult questions that would arise in the progress of the institution; and his only desire was to see the University flourish and answer the expectations of the country. I availed myself of the acquaintance I have with the Governor and with a member of the Council, who spoke to me on the subject, to express my deep conviction of the application of such observations to myself; and to assure them that any little zeal & activity which I may have heretofore discovered sprang from no interested motive, and must not weigh a feather in the scale of appointment. I beseeched them to look abroad, and select men calculated to give you efficient co-operation & to have weight with future legislatures. They have thought proper notwithstanding3 to put Genl Cocke & myself on the list. I recommended very earnestly the appointment of mr Johnson. Situated as I was, it was a subject in which I did not wish to interfere: but as I was consulted in regard to the Valley, I urged the appointment of mr Johnson as a point of importance. He has treated your name with great respect & deference throughout our contests for the Site, and that question being determined, he will go on with you in future. No man on the other side of the Ridge could have as much influence in breaking down future opposition from that Quarter of the State. I was consulted as to the Quarter of Winchester, and recommended Tucker, Carr, Hoomes, &c &. They were all inadmissable—every distinguished character in that part of the state was objected to, either as holding the office of Judge; or as being a member of Congress; or as being a Federalist. Having appointed Taylor and Breckenridge, the Executive were not disposed to select another from that party. Their policy differed in some degree from that which I was told4 you preferred; which was to select the Visitors from the neighbouring counties. They preferred to take a majority from the vicinity and the rest from a distance. Genl Taylor will scarcely accept the appointment. He was put in out of deference to the lower parts of the state. The last5 monday in March is fixed on for the first meeting of the Visitors. I hope it will not be necessary for me to come to any intermediate meeting of the Visitors of the Central College, as I should fear the effects of the keen air of the mountains at an earlier period than the latter part of March. My health is greatly improved, and the only thing now necessary to my entire reestablishment is to avoid the exposure of my Lungs to keen air, or unusual exertion. I regret exceedingly that a report has prevailed in the circle of the members that I was to go to Europe in pursuit of professors: inasmuch as it enabled my opponents to ascribe to me personal views, and to injure me with illiterate men, who are as ignorant of my real motives on this occasion, as they are of the nature and responsability of the agency in question. To one or two of my friends I shall state the substance of the communications that passed between you & myself in regard to this subject. I deem it unnecessary to consider this proposition again, inasmuch as the deficiency of the appropriation will necessarily defer any such measure for the present. Viewing the whole ground, I consider it as good policy to employ all the funds for some time in building, and not to put the Institution into operation, till sufficient6 arrangements shall have been made for a brilliant commencement. Suffice it to say, for the present, that the appointment I now hold, I regard as the highest honor ever conferred on me, and that I shall look far around for the means of duly fulfilling the duties it imposes. But in this pursuit, I shall look up to you as my principal guide & support. My7 fervent wishes for the entire restoration & long continuance of your health continue invariable.   Faithfully yours

Joseph C. Cabell

P.S. Since writing the preceding letter, I have conversed with another friend, and from the representations made by him, I am induced to doubt whether the wicked construction stated above to have been placed upon my conduct extends to many persons. In the heat of the conflict aspersions were thrown out on both sides. Time dissipates these mists of prejudice: and upon this subject I now feel relieved.

Mr Taylor of Chesterfield thinks the House of Delegates will not consent to repeal the additional $20,000, appropriated for the education of the poor. Even should this temper continue, the appropriation for the University will not be endangered, as it may be drawn at any time of the year.

It is of the utmost importance for the friends of the University to procure the election of able & liberal men to the next assembly. Genl Tucker will be a valuable accession to the Senate.

RC (ViU: TJP); endorsed by TJ as received 18 Feb. 1819 and so recorded in SJL; with notes by TJ beneath endorsement relating to his reply to Cabell of 19 Feb.: “appmt of visitors himself & Cocke meeting necessary appd approve of buildg but Cooper, & usher put off others another year nevr mentd his case but to Cocke.” RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to John Vaughan, 15 Feb. 1820, on verso; addressed: “Mr Jefferson Monticello”; franked; postmarked Richmond, 15 Feb.

The governor of Virginia was James P. Preston. hoomes: Hugh Holmes.

1Manuscript: “purpoting.”

2Manuscript: “persuded.”

3Word interlined.

4Preceding three words interlined in place of (one word illegible) “Mr [. . .] told me.”

5Reworked first from “4th” and then from “4th or last.”

6Cabell here canceled “buildings shall be ready.”

7Cabell here canceled “prayers.”

Index Entries

  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; appointed to University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and recruitment of University of Virginia faculty search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and TJ’s health search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; appointment of to University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; as member of University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; health of search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; letters from search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; recommends candidates for University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Carr, Dabney (1773–1837) (TJ’s nephew); and University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Central College Board of Visitors; meetings of search
  • Central College Board of Visitors; members of search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell (1780–1866); appointment of to University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Congress, U.S.; members of search
  • education; in Va. search
  • education; of the poor search
  • Holmes, Hugh; and University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; appointed to University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Johnson, Chapman; appointment of to University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); appointed to University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Preston, James Patton; and University of Virginia search
  • Taylor, Robert Barraud; appointment of to University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Taylor, Samuel; as Va. legislator search
  • Tucker, Henry St. George; and University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Tucker, Henry St. George; as Va. state senator search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; funding for search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; meetings of search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; members of search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opening of search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; recruitment of faculty from Europe search
  • Virginia; and education search
  • Virginia; Council of State search
  • Virginia; elections in search
  • Virginia; House of Delegates search
  • Virginia; Senate of search