Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Cooper to Thomas Jefferson, 11 October 1819

From Thomas Cooper

Octr 11. 1819 Philadelphia

Dear Sir

I wrote to you to Bedford Virginia, and since to Montecello. The castings were shipped about Six weeks ago by Mr John Vaughan who undertook the commission and thought it expedient to wait for a fresh assortment from the Furnace. The Bill will be presented to me and forthwith paid. About three months ago I procured a seal for the University, of which I sent you an impression: I did not chuse to pay for it till it had received your approbation, the engraver being willing to make any alteration you may suggest that can conveniently be made. He waits your directions, and I shall pay him when you are satisfied with the execution.

My going to Kentucky is uncertain as yet, but as I wish to see that part of the Country, I shall go there if I am regularly invited. I greatly doubt about the success of their medical School under its present aspect, but it would certainly be a most desireable establishment for the western country. I am quite certain that a similar establishment would succeed in Virginia; Botany, Chemistry, Materia Medica and the Institutes of Physic to be taught in the Summer at Charlotte’sville—and Anatomy, surgery, Midwifery, and the practice of Physic with clinical lectures, to be taught at Norfolk in the winter. I have not spoken to a single person who does not prefer it to the system adopted here, where the Lectures are crouded together for four months of the winter beyond the power of the Students to acquire the necessary knowledge under such divided attention; and the summer is for the most part idled away.

I observe with regret, in a Richmond Paper, that your funds come in too slowly for the accomodations to be finished as early as was contemplated. The present universal difficulty of obtaining money will also operate against any considerable supply of Students. Under any circumstances but want of health, I shall be ready to go to Charlotte’sville at the beginning of April: but if it should be expedient to defer my coming till either the fall of 1820 or till April 1821, I think it probable that I can employ my time profitably here in the event of a Bankrupt Law being passed.

Last year I was requested to apply for the office of Commissioner, under the expectation that a Law would be passed; and under a persuasion that the course I should pursue, would tend to correct some of the pressing evils. My application was signed by all the Judges of this City, and by all the Directors of the Bank of the United States resident here, & some Merchants.

I have since had a formal application from some mercantile people of influence, to permit a similar request to be made to the President, which will be signed by as many Bank directors & merchants of eminence as may be needful; & by all the Judges, whom I count on of course from what has already passed. should the Law pass, and I be appointed, I believe I should be able to do service to the public. In such case, I would resign the office, whenever your Visitors should intimate, that my services are required at Charlottesville. Nor shall any such application be made at all, without your consent. I make the proposal at present, merely on the supposition that it may be a matter of convenience at your establishment to defer the contract with me for a few months, untill times mend.

It will give me sincere pleasure to hear from you that your health continues good. my best wishes accompany all your pursuits.

Thomas Cooper

RC (ViU: TJP); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esq Montecello Virginia”; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 11 Oct.; endorsed by TJ as received 18 Oct. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to John H. Cocke, 5 Nov., Cocke to TJ, 15 Nov., TJ to James Madison, 30 Nov., and Madison to TJ, 6 Dec. 1819.

At some point Cooper evidently conveyed to TJ undated notes on his proposals for medical education in Virginia, detailing his curriculum for a medical school there:

“Medical school. Central College
Materia Medica, & Pharmacy.
History of the theory & Practice of Medecine.


Anatomy: general: morbid: comparative.

Physiology and Pathology.

{ Clinical Lectures on the Theory and
Practice of Medecine { Symptomatology

Surgery & Midwifery” (MS in ViU: TJP; written entirely in Cooper’s hand on one side of a small scrap of paper; undated; archivally bound with the Dfts of TJ’s Rockfish Gap Report printed above at 4 Aug. 1818).

Cooper may have seen the extract from an anonymous letter to richmond newspaper editor Thomas Ritchie, dated Charlottesville, 22 Sept. 1819: “As you are as well as myself a warm friend to the University of Virginia, it will perhaps not be uninteresting to you to know what is doing here towards the accomplishment of this great work. I must first give you a general outline of the plan, that you may know what portion of the work is executed. It is contemplated to build on each side of a lawn about two hundred feet wide, and on a beautiful eminence, a range of buildings, for the accommodation of the professors and students. There are to be five pavilions on each side, from 60 to 100 feet apart; each pavilion has a lecture room and four or five other rooms for the use of the professor. The intervals between the pavilions are filled up with dormitories sufficiently large for two students to each. About thirty dormitories on each side of the lawn will till [i.e., fill] up the intervals between the pavilions. Gardens will be laid off at the back of the pavilions, running back to a street about 250 feet from the lawn and parallel to it. On the back streets, boarding houses and other dormitories will be erected. The lawn will be handsomely improved, by planting trees and sodding it. It will be terminated on the North end by a large circular building and remain open to the South for any additional buildings that may be found necessary hereafter. So much for the general plan—Now for what is executed. Two pavilions are nearly completed, they are of the very best materials, and the workmanship is well executed, and finished externally with great taste. One of them has a very rich Corinthian entablature; the other finished agreeably to the Ionic order. All the pavilions are to have porticos in front and a colonade in front of the dormitories, so that the students can go to any lecture room under cover. The buildings will be all finished agreeably to the different orders of Architecture. In addition to the foregoing, four other pavilions, with the intermediate dormitories are now going on, and it is expected one or two more will be put up this fall if the weather is favorable. It is much to be regretted that the funds of this institution are so slender; the subscribers, I understand, pay but little, and the donation of the state will not go far towards completing the establishment. It must therefore be protracted for some years; if aid is not granted from some source or other, and where can we look but to the legislature? It will rest entirely with the next Assembly to say whether this important state institution, (that will not only save thousands that are carried out of the state for the education of Virginians, but in all probability will bring thousands from our sister states to the South and West,) shall be finished with expedition, or drag on heavily for years to come. With sufficient funds the buildings could all be completed the next year” (Richmond Enquirer, 1 Oct. 1819; at head of text: “UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA. The deep interest we feel in this institution induces us to give the following description of the buildings, from a letter to the editor”).

Cooper’s application for the office of commissioner of bankruptcy, a post not actually created at this time, consisted of his 20 Jan. 1818 letter to President James Monroe, an undated testimonial by William Tilghman and thirteen other signatories, and a 21 Jan. 1818 letter to Monroe by John B. Gibson (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1817–25).

Index Entries

  • anatomy; collegiate education in search
  • Bank of the United States, Second; directors of search
  • botany; collegiate education in search
  • Central College; medical curriculum for search
  • chemistry; collegiate education in search
  • Cooper, Thomas; and bankruptcy commissioner application search
  • Cooper, Thomas; and seal for University of Virginia search
  • Cooper, Thomas; letters from search
  • Cooper, Thomas; on medical education search
  • Cooper, Thomas; University of Virginia professorship proposed for search
  • Gibson, John B.; recommends T. Cooper search
  • health; pregnancy and childbirth search
  • household articles; stoves search
  • medicine; education in search
  • Monroe, James; presidency of search
  • Norfolk, Va.; medical curriculum proposed for search
  • pathology; collegiate education in search
  • pharmacy; collegiate education in search
  • physiology; collegiate education in search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); prints articles on University of Virginia search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); T. Ritchie as editor of search
  • Ritchie, Thomas; as editor ofRichmond Enquirer search
  • schools and colleges; Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.) search
  • stoves; for University of Virginia search
  • surgery; study of search
  • Tilghman, William; recommends T. Cooper search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); professorship for T. Cooper proposed at search
  • Vaughan, John; and stoves for University of Virginia search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; funding for search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; and faculty recruitment search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; building costs search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; dormitory rooms search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; East Lawn search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; gardens search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; pavilions search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; stoves for search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; West Lawn search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opening of delayed search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; seal of search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; T. Cooper as proposed professor search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search