Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert S. Garnett to Thomas Jefferson, 20 March 1819

From Robert S. Garnett

Loyds, Essex County March 20, 1819

Dr sir,

Presuming that the Trustees of the University are desirous of employing a person well qualified to teach the languages; I take the liberty to forward you some certificates & letters, recommending, as highly competent for that office, a Mr Escopiniche, who is anxious to get employment in some seminary which can afford a liberal encouragement. I am not authorised to state the terms upon which Mr Escopiniche is willing to engage; and, indeed, as I imagine that so much of the salary as is intended to be permanent, will be determinately settled by the trustees, it would be unnescessary. Should the testimonials in favor of this gentleman, be deemed sufficient, by the trustees, to justify them in engaging with him; a letter may be directed to him immediately at Litchfield, or through me, at Loyds, Essex County. Two other gentleman have been also recommended to me very highly as accomplished linguists:—One of them, a Dr Speed, a relation of W. H. Sampson Esqr: of New York is stated by him to be a man of eminent classical attainments;—the other, Mr Bonfils, an Italian, is not only well acquainted with the dead languages,1 but with the Italian Spanish & French. The two latter gentleman are willing to engage either as private tutors, or in a public Seminary. It would perhaps be well to mention, that Mr Bonfils is well qualified to give instruction in the various branches of the military art, having served as an officer in the Army of Murat. Should any of these gentleman be wanted for the University, or should any of your friends, have occasion for them as tutors, in their families, I shall be very glad to convey any propositions to them, for that purpose, as well on their own account, as because I shall be happy to be in any degree instrumental in promoting the success of an institution, on the prosperity of which the glory and the happiness of the state so materially depend

Accept Sir, the assurances of the
esteem & respect with which I remain your obdt: Servt:

Robert S Garnett

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Mar. 1819 and so recorded in SJL; additional notations by TJ beneath endorsement relating to his 4 Apr. 1819 reply: “Escopinachi Speed Bonfils.” Enclosures not found.

Robert Selden Garnett (1789–1840), attorney and public official, was born in Essex County. He became a lawyer and sat in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1816–17, and in the United States House of Representatives, 1817–27, first as a Republican and later as a Jacksonian. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson appointed Garnett the customs collector and revenue inspector for the port of Tappahannock, and he served in that capacity for the remainder of his life. He owned sixty-two slaves in 1820 but only seven in 1840. Garnett died at his home in Essex County. His namesake son (1819–61) joined the Confederate army and was the first general from either side to be killed during the Civil War (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, online resource, Office of the Clerk, United States House of Representatives description ends ; 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 , 285; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 4:50, 60 [3, 16 Feb. 1830]; DNA: RG 29, CS, Essex Co., 1820–40; Richmond Enquirer, 25 Aug. 1840; gravestone inscription in Champlain Estate Cemetery, Lloyds; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , 8:738–9).

Marcus Escopiniche (Escopinichi) (ca. 1789–1834), educator, seems to have remained in Connecticut until at least 1824. He later moved permanently to Barbados, where he made his living as a language instructor. A corruption of his name, “scoopinickie,” was for a time playfully used on the island to address a small boy younger than twenty-one. Escopiniche owned two slaves during the last year of his life (The Records of Freemasonry in the State of Connecticut [1859], 364; Frank A. Collymore, Notes for a Glossary of Words and Phrases of Barbadian Dialect [1955; repr. 1970], 92; slave registers, 1813–34 [UkNA: Office of Registry of Colonial Slaves and Slave Compensation Commission]; Saint Philip Parish Burial Register [Barbados Department of Archives, Black Rock]).

Sauveur François Bonfils (Salvatore Bonfiglio) (1796–1849), educator, was born on the island of Corsica. He served in the military under Joachim Murat, king of Naples, graduated from the University of Pisa in 1815, and immigrated to the United States two years later. Over the next fifteen years Bonfils taught various Romance languages in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. Following a stint as professor of modern languages at the University of Alabama, 1832–36, he operated a female academy in Lexington, Kentucky, and taught at that city’s Transylvania University. Bonfils died of cholera in Lexington (James B. Sellers, History of the University of Alabama [1953], 1:53; DNA: RG 85, PNRNEC; Boston Patriot and Daily Chronicle, 8 Jan. 1818; Newport Rhode-Island Republican, 31 Mar. 1819; New Haven Connecticut Journal, 19 Dec. 1820; Washington Daily National Journal, 22 Mar. 1826; American Journal of Education 3 [1828]: 738; Thomas Waverly Palmer, comp., A Register of the Officers and Students of the University of Alabama, 1831–1901 [1901], 23; John D. Wright Jr., Transylvania: Tutor to the West [1975], 164; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 25 Sept. 1849; gravestone inscription in Old Morrison Crypt, Transylvania University, Lexington).

1Manuscript: “languges.”

Index Entries

  • Bonfils, Sauveur François (Salvatore Bonfiglio); identified search
  • Bonfils, Sauveur François (Salvatore Bonfiglio); recommended to TJ search
  • education; French language search
  • education; Italian language search
  • education; military instruction search
  • education; Spanish language search
  • Escopiniche (Escopinichi), Marcus; identified search
  • Escopiniche (Escopinichi), Marcus; recommended to TJ search
  • French language; study of search
  • Garnett, Robert Selden; identified search
  • Garnett, Robert Selden; letters from search
  • Garnett, Robert Selden; recommends language instructors to TJ search
  • Italian language; study of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • language; collegiate education in search
  • military; and education search
  • Murat, Joachim, king of Naples; army of search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Sampson, W. H. search
  • Spanish language; study of search
  • Speed, Dr.; recommended to TJ search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; and faculty recruitment search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; faculty applicants search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; faculty compensation search