Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 4 July 1820

To Thomas Cooper

Monticello. July 4. 20

Dear Sir

I was about addressing a letter to you at Columbia, when I recieved information by Dr Caldwell that he had left you in Philadelphia. I learnt with great pleasure by your’s of May 3. that our friends of S. Carolina had had the wisdom so readily to avail themselves of your disengagement with us. yet I could not, & cannot renounce the hope that it is not to be final. I had felt no concern at the bellowings of our pulpit mountebanks, half rogues, half dupes; having ever found that the only way to get along in any public concern is, first to decide wisely, then to persevere steadily, without regarding1 the noise to right or left, assured that all will rally in the end, to what has been well devised in the beginning. but some of our younger colleagu[es,] not hardened as I had been to the currycomb, were skittish & restless under it, as young colts are at their first handling. I joined them however, in the general result, on another ground. we had borrowed of the literary fund 60,000.D. under the authority of the legislature and on the pledge of our annual donation; to comp[le]at all the building[s] for the accomodation of the Professors and students. if the legislatur[e] should really leave us to reimburse the loan from our own revenue that would be tied up for 5. years before we could open the Universit[y.] in this case every motive of justice and expediency made it a duty in us to release you from your engagement. and on that ground I concurred with my brethren: at the same time I consider it a certainty that the legislature, at their next meeting, will relinquish the deb[t,] and the more certainly as the loan is from a public fund, ready raised, and specifically appropriated to the purposes of education. if it is relinquished, our funds will be liberated on the 1st of Jan. ne[xt,] and we shall then immediately take measures to procure our profess[ors,] which we have no doubt of doing by the autumn of the next year. our board had been unanimous in the opinion that there would be no fear of attack on you, entering, en groupe, with the other professors: that the attacks in that case would be on the whole body or on ourselves which would not be regarded. my hope therefore is that your engagements at Columbia will be such as to leave you a free choice between them and us. the building intended for you has been compleated, and locked up for some time. and I can assure you that yourself and brethren will be as comfortably & handsomely lodged here as the professors of any University on either side of the Atlantic. my hope therefore is still kept alive that we may yet have your aid in giving the first forms to our University. all this is written to you in confidence and in my private capacity, and for a purpose now to be explained. Stack’s school will, I fear, slip from under him. nobody doubts he is the able scholar whic[h yo]u represented him to be, and his correctne[ss,] morals, and inoffensiveness of character are obvious to all.2 unfortunately he is hypocondriac, suspicious, indecisive and so totally without nerve as to be incapable of keeping up any order or discipline in his school. the younger boys generally therefore, and some of the older, are so idle and disorderly as to have brought the school into entire disrepute; and parents have consequently withdrawn several of the pupils; and it is feared that most will be taken away at their year’s end. Laporte too, who kept the boarding house, for them; falls thro’ from the want of funds, and perhaps of management to maintain it; and it is very doubtful if they can find board elsewhere in the place. if this school breaks up, I have no hesitation in advising those in whose education I feel an interest, to go to whatever seminary you will be in. my grandson Eppes I am particularly anxious about. he will possess the antt and modern languages, & Mathematics but for Nat. philos. Chemistry & Nat. hist. I should look to you and I suppose there are other professors in Columbia college, qualified to give him Astron. & Rhetoric. this is as full a course a[s] he can accomplish before age. Ethics & Politics, which need not the aid of an instructor, must remain to be afterwards pursued in his closet. the object of this letter therefore is to ask of you the state of Columbia college as to the sciences not within your department; and what would be the expences of tuition and boarding? and to these enquiries I will ask as early an answer as convenient; for we may have early occasion to look out for another place.   I wish it were possible for yourself, mrs Cooper and family to take an upper route on your return to Columbia, by Washington, this place, Warren, Danville and Salisbury. it is direct and healthier than the lower one. making Monticello a station of rest, you would see our University far advanced beyond what you had seen it before. the two ranges of Pavilions & dormitorie[s] 600.f. long all but finished. a range of the same length, of hote[ls] and dormitories, on a backstreet to the East, advancing fast and preparations making for a like range of Hotels & dormitories on a Western back street.   but this way, that way, or any way my wishes are all for your success and happiness.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (ViU: TJP); first two pages on reused address cover of Levett Harris to TJ, 15 June 1820, and final page on verso of reused address cover of Fernagus De Gelone to TJ, 14 June 1820; edge trimmed; damaged at seal, with several words rewritten by TJ; at foot of first page: “Doctr Cooper”; endorsed by TJ.

TJ’s younger colleagues and my brethren were the other members of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. en groupe: “as a group.”

Elizabeth Trist wrote to her grandson Nicholas P. Trist on this date from Monticello that “poor” Peter laporte had “had all his furniture seized for debt,” adding that Gerard E. Stack had “no control” over the students at his Charlottesville Academy, that they mostly did as they pleased, that many were planning to leave the school, and that Stack was “offended with Mr Jefferson because he dont come to the school to keep his Boys in order.” Later in the letter she reported that “This being the Anneversary of our independence … Mr Jefferson had an invitation to a barbacue near Charlottesville which he declined as he had long given up attending those festivals” (RC in DLC: NPT).

antt: “antient.” columbia college: South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina).

1Manuscript: “rigarding.”

2Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • astronomy; collegiate education in search
  • Caldwell, Charles; and T. Cooper search
  • Charlottesville Academy; and G. E. Stack search
  • Charlottesville Academy; misbehavior of students search
  • chemistry; collegiate education in search
  • Cooper, Elizabeth Pratt Hemming (Thomas Cooper’s wife); proposed visit of search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); and construction of University of Virginia search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); and G. E. Stack search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); invited to visit Monticello search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); letters to search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); professor at South Carolina College search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); University of Virginia professorship proposed for search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, at South Carolina College search
  • ethics; study of search
  • Fourth of July; celebrations search
  • furniture; P. Laporte’s search
  • health; hypochondria search
  • hypochondria search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; relations with grandchildren search
  • language; study of search
  • Laporte, Peter (Victoire Laporte’s husband); financial situation of search
  • Laporte’s boardinghouse (Charlottesville); closing of search
  • Literary Fund; and annuity for University of Virginia search
  • Literary Fund; and loans for University of Virginia search
  • mathematics; study of search
  • natural history; collegiate education in search
  • natural philosophy; collegiate education in search
  • politics; study of search
  • rhetoric; collegiate education in search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); and F. W. Eppes search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); cost of education at search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); faculty at search
  • Stack, Gerard E.; and Charlottesville Academy search
  • Stack, Gerard E.; health of 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; dormitory rooms search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; East Range search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; hotels search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; pavilions search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; Pavilion VII search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; West Range search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opening of search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; T. Cooper as proposed professor search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search