Thomas Jefferson Papers

Jefferson Chambers to Thomas Jefferson, 27 August 1819

From Jefferson Chambers

Winchester Clarke Cty. Ky. August 27th. 1819

Dear Sir,

Early taught, by my father, to venerate you, now he is taken from me, I solicit a correspondence with you, that I may, by your wisdom and experience, become wise also. I am now at the most critical period of my life, my circumstances are embarrassed, my passions are violent and ungovernable, and without the advice of an intelligent friend, I am, continually liable to be led by them into errors both of thought and action.

I was born in 1802 in Orange Cty. Va. where I went to a country school, occasionally until 1815 when my father died. My mother, perplexed with affairs and wanting my assistance, neglected to send me to school until two years afterwards when she moved to Kentucky, and sent me to a boarding school one year, but poverty forced her to take me home. I have since supported myself by teaching school. My father was once very wealthy. He possessed lands in this State, which would now sell for upwards of $100,000, but it was taken from him, owing, I beleive, to some defect in his claim. By this means1 I have been deprived of an education which, since my earliest2 time, has been the greatest wish of my heart. I cannot expect to receive a great deal of instruction from you at so great a distance,3 but you can mark out the line of conduct, which will be best for me to pursue in future. As soon as I receive an answer I will give you an account of my present circumstances. I hope you will excuse the liberty I have taken in writing to you. Yours respectfully

Jefferson Chambers

RC (MHi); superfluous punctuation editorially omitted; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Sept. 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

Thomas Jefferson Chambers (1802–65), attorney, land speculator, and public official, was born in Orange County. As a teenager he moved to Kentucky, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar about 1823. Shortly thereafter Chambers migrated to Alabama, and in 1826 he relocated again to Mexico City, where he studied the Spanish language and became acquainted with the laws and institutions of Mexico. In 1829 he worked as a surveyor in Texas (then a part of the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas) and helped colonists obtain land titles. The next year Chambers became a naturalized Mexican citizen. In 1834 he was licensed to practice law and named provisional superior court judge of Texas, although political unrest left him unable to perform his judicial duties. Chambers supported Texan independence in 1836 and traveled to the United States to recruit men and financial support for the revolution, efforts that earned him the rank of major general of the Texan reserves. After his return to Texas, Chambers devoted years to litigation trying to secure title to the numerous tracts of land he had been promised for his various positions and services. He also remained active in state politics, running unsuccessfully for governor in 1851, 1853, 1861, and 1863, and voting as a delegate to the Texas secession convention to leave the Union in 1861. In 1858 Chambers County, Texas, was named after him, and the 1860 census valued his combined real and personal estate there at $570,000. An unidentified gunman murdered Chambers at his estate of Chambersia (Llerena Beaufort Friend, “The Life of Thomas Jefferson Chambers” [M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1928]; William Chambers, Sketch of the Life of Gen. T. J. Chambers of Texas [1853; repr. 1975]; Jewette H. Davenport, The History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas [1917], 4–7; The Constitution of the State of Texas, as amended in 1861 … The Ordinances of the Texas Convention [1861], 19; DNA: RG 29, CS, Tex., Chambers Co., 1860; Galveston Daily News, 19 Mar. 1865; gravestone inscription in Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery, Galveston).

1Manuscript: “mians.”

2Manuscript: “erliest.”

3Manuscript: “distane.”

Index Entries

  • Chambers, Mary (Thomas J. Chambers’s mother) search
  • Chambers, Thomas (Thomas J. Chambers’s father) search
  • Chambers, Thomas Jefferson; identified search
  • Chambers, Thomas Jefferson; letter from search
  • Chambers, Thomas Jefferson; seeks educational advice from TJ search
  • education; in Ky. search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; with namesakes search
  • Kentucky; education in search