Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Gerard E. Stack, 25 November 1819

To Gerard E. Stack

Monticello. Nov. 25. 19.

Dear Sir

To your letter of Sunday last, explaining your propensities for retirement, I will answer in the words of Cicero, which an experience of three or four years at one period of my life, proved to be full of wisdom. ‘Te ad coenas itare desisse, molesté fero. magnâ enim te delectatione et voluptate privasti. et me hercule moneo te, quod pertinere ad beate vivendum arbitror, ut cum viris bonis, jucundis amantibus tui vivas. nihil aptius vitae, nihil ad beaté vivendum accomodatius. nec id ad voluptatem refero, sed ad communitatem vitae atque victus, remissionemque animorum, quae maximé sermone efficitur familiari, qui est in conviviis dulcissimus. vides ut te philosophando revocare coner ad coenas? Cura ut valeas. id foris coenitando facillime consequere.’ Epist. ad Famil. IX. 24.

With respect to the letter of yesterday, proposing my signature to the advertisement it covered, I must say I do not think I can sign it with propriety. it would authorise an understanding that I am some way personally identified with the school, and under responsibilities for it, which I never contemplated. some gentlemen and myself, considering Charlottesville as a good stand for a classical school, and that it might prepare a number of subjects to enter the University as soon as that should open, you were invited to undertake such a school, on your own private account. and believing further that the opportunity of learning to speak French might induce many to come to it, we in like manner proposed to Mr Laporte to come and keep a boarding house, on his own account also. this done we considered ourselves as withdrawn from all other interference, and that, as your private institution, it was under your own care & direction. that you would conduct it under the superintendance of the Visitors of the University, [as] properly mentioned in the advertisement, I believe will encorage many to give it a preference, and the Visitors are willing to consider it as under their counsel and patronag[e] but, as one of that body I could not sign the advertisement, unless my colleagues were to sign also for in that character I can act only in concert with them. I am sincerely anxious for the success of the school, and, as a private individual, should be willing to subjoin to your own advertisement such a certificate as is below written. I restrain it to the classical languages considering these alone, under your establishment, as the necessary Portico of entrance into the University, to which the other sciences you mention will belong. if therefore you will put the advertisement into such a form as you would think proper to sign yourself, my certificate shall be subjoined to it: and every service I can render it, short of personal responsibility and implication, shall be rendered with a ready zeal. I think the removal to Milton well advised, because I see no other place where accomodations can be had, if the school should become numerous. I salute you with friendship and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); with PoC of enclosure subjoined; edge chipped and trimmed; at foot of first page (trimmed): “[m]r Stack.”

te ad coenas itare desissecura ut valeas. id foris coenitando facillime consequere: “I am sorry to hear that you have given up dining out. You have deprived yourself of a great deal of amusement and pleasure. … And really … I advise you, as something which I regard as relevant to happiness, to spend time in honest, pleasant, and friendly company. Nothing becomes life better, or is more in harmony with its happy living. I am not thinking of physical pleasure, but of community of life and habit and of mental recreation, of which familiar conversation is the most effective agent; and conversation is at its most agreeable at dinner parties. … You see how I try to bring you back to dinners by philosophizing! Take care of your health—which you will most easily compass by dining abroad.” Quotation, with minor variations, is from Cicero to Papirius Paetus, letter 362 (IX.24) in Cicero, Letters to Friends, ed. and trans. David R. Shackleton Bailey, Loeb Classical Library (2001), 3:194–7.

Writing from Charlottesville on 24 Sept. 1819, Hore Browse Trist reported to his brother, Nicholas P. Trist, that “Mr Stack is an excellent latin & Greek scholar & I beleive a good mathematician but he teaches no branch of science, he is the best natured man I ever saw & suffers his boys to do what they please, which although prejudicial to small boys and Lazy fellows is not so to young men who know the value of time. the price for tuition is thirty $ a year and 126 for board, or 15 & 63 per session. Mr S. talks of raising his price if Mr Jefferson will suffer him, if not, he threatens to decamp, but I dont beleive Mr J. will consent, & he has received two or three proposals from men who have the best recommendations, therefore if Mr S. does go off his place will soon be filled again.” Further on he remarked that “Mr Jefferson returned from Poplar Forest about 10 days and we have renewed our dances which I assure you are very agreable” (RC in DLC: NPT).

In Charlottesville on 4 Oct. 1819, John B. Preston, another student of the Charlottesville Academy, informed his father, John Preston, that “I have comenced my studies under an exelent Teacher. he has learned me more in 1 week of Greek than Dr Carr did in a month. I am reading Horace and Terrence I still continue to study the lattin grammar I expect to begin to read Greek in a few days.” He added that “Our school had a visit paid it to day by Mr Jefferson and he is well pleased with us all for our good lessons &c; he is to be here again monday with a board of trustees to make some more regulations and to examine us in the diffrent branches of education” (RC in ViU: Preston-Radford Papers).

Index Entries

  • Carr, Frank; and Albemarle Academy search
  • Charlottesville Academy; advertisement for search
  • Charlottesville Academy; and G. E. Stack search
  • Charlottesville Academy; and University of Virginia search
  • Charlottesville Academy; misbehavior of students search
  • Charlottesville Academy; tuition fees search
  • Cicero; TJ quotes search
  • dancing; and students search
  • French language; spoken in boardinghouses search
  • Greek language; study of search
  • Horace; works of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Literary Quotes; Cicero search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Recommendation of Gerard E. Stack search
  • Laporte’s boardinghouse (Charlottesville); French language spoken at search
  • Latin language; study of search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ returns from search
  • Preston, John (d.1827); family of search
  • Preston, John Bowker; studies at Charlottesville Academy search
  • Stack, Gerard E.; and Charlottesville Academy search
  • Stack, Gerard E.; letters to search
  • Stack, Gerard E.; recommendations of search
  • Stack, Gerard E.; TJ invites to Monticello search
  • Terence (Publius Terentius Afer) search
  • Trist, Hore Browse (1802–56); and Charlottesville Academy search
  • Trist, Nicholas Philip; correspondence with H. B. Trist search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; and Charlottesville Academy search
  • Virginia, University of; Students; academic preparation for search