Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 14 August 1820

To Thomas Cooper

Monticello Aug. 14. 20.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 24th ult. was recieved in due time and I shall rejoice indeed if mr Elliot and mr Nulty are joined to you in the institution at Columbia, which now becomes of immediate interest to me. mr Stack has given notice to his first class that he shall dismiss them on the 10th of the next month, and his mathematical assistant also at the same time, being determined to take only small boys in future. my grandson Eppes is of his first class; and I have proposed to his father to send him to Columbia, rather than any where Northwardly. I am obliged therefore to ask of you by what day he ought to be there, so as to be at the commencement of what they call a session, and to be so good as to do this by the first mail, as I shall set out to Bedford within about a fortnight. he is so far advanced in Greek & Latin that he will be able to pursue them by himself hereafter; and being between 18. & 19 years of age he has no time to lose. I propose that he shall commence immediately with mathematics and Nat. Phily to be followed by Astronomy, chemistry, mineralogy, botany, Nat. history. it would be time lost for him to attend professors of ethics, metaphysics, Logic Etc. the first of these may be as well acquired in the closet as from living lectures: and supposing the two last to mean the science of mind, the simple reading of Locke, Tracy, & Stewart, will give him as much in that branch as is real science. a relation of his (mr Baker) and class mate will go with him.

I hope and believe you are mistaken in supposing the reign of fanaticism to be on the advance. I think it certainly declining. it was first excited artificially by the sovereigns of Europe as an engine of opposition to Bonaparte and to France. it arose to a great height there, and became indeed a powerful engine1 of loyalism, and of support to their governments. but that loyalism is giving way to very different dispositions, and it’s prompter, fanaticism, is evanishing with it. in the meantime it had been2 wafted across the Atlantic, and chiefly from England, with their other fashions. but it is here also on the wane. the ambitious sect of Presbyterians indeed, the Loyalists and Loyalists3 of our country, spare no pains to keep it up. but their views of ascendancy over all other sects in the US. seem to excite alarm in all; & to unite them as against a common and threatening enemy. and altho the Unitarianism they impute to you is heterodoxy with all of them, I suspect the other sects will admit it to their alliance in order to strengthen the phalanx of opposition against the enterprises of their more aspiring antagonists. altho’ spiritualism is most prevalent with all these sects, yet with none of them, I presume, is materialism declared heretical. mr Locke, on whose authority they often plume themselves, openly maintained the materialism of the soul; and charged with blasphemy those who denied that it was in the power of an almighty creator to endow with the faculty of thought any composition of matter he might think fit. the4 fathers of the church of the three first centuries,5 generally, if not universally were materialists, extending it even to the creator himself. nor indeed do I know exactly6 in what age of the Christian church the heresy of spiritualism was introduced. Huet, in his commentaries on Origen, says ‘Deus igitur, cui anima similis est, juxta Origenem, reapse corporalis est, sed graviorum tantum ratione corporum incorporeus.’7 St Macarius speaking of angels says ‘quamvis enim subtilia sint, tamen in substantia, forma, et figura, secundum tenuitatem naturae eorum corpora sunt tenuia, quemadmodum et hoc corpus in substantia sua crassum et solidum est.8 St Justin Martyr says expressly ‘το θειον φαμεν ειναι αςωματον, ουχ ὁτι εϚιν αςωματον.9 Tertullian’s words are, ‘quid enim Deus nisi corpus?’ and again ‘quis autem negabit Deum esse corpus? etsi deus spiritus, spiritus etiam corpus est sui generis, in suâ effigie’.10 and that the soul is matter he adduces the following tangible proof. ‘in ipso ultimo voluptatis aestu, quo genitale virus expellitur, nonne aliquid de animâ sentimus exire?[’]11 the holy father thus asserting, and, as it would seem, from his own feelings, that the sperm infused into the female matrix deposits there the matter and germ of both soul and body, conjunctim, of the new foetus. altho’ I do not pretend to be familiar with these fathers, and give the preceding quotations at second hand, yet I learn from authors whom I respect, that not only those I have named, but St Augustin, St Basil, Lactantius, Tatian, Athenagoras and others12 concurred in the materiality of the soul. our modern doctors would hardly venture or wish to condemn these fathers as hereti[cs,] the main pillars of their fabric resting on their shoulders.

In the consultations of the Visitors of the University on the subject of releasing you from your engagement with us, altho’ one or two members seemed alarmed at this cry of ‘fire’ from the Presbyterian pulpits, yet the real ground of our decision was that our funds were in fact hypothecated for 5. or 6. years to redeem, the loan we had recently made: and altho’ we hoped and trusted that the ensuing legislature would remit the debt and liberate our funds; yet it was not just, on this possibility, to stand in the way of your looking out for a more certain provision. the completing all our buildings for professors and students by the autumn of the ensuing year is now secured by sufficient contracts, and our confidence is most strong that neither the state nor their legislature will bear to see those buildings shut up for 5. or 6. years, when they have the money in hand, & actually appropriated to the object of education, which would open their doors at once for the reception of their sons, now waiting and calling aloud for that institution. the legislature meets on the 1st Monday of December, and before Christmas we shall know what are their intentions. if such as we expect, we shall then immediately take measures to engage our professors and bring them into place the ensuing autumn or early winter. my hope is that you will be able and willing to keep yourself uncommitted, to take your place among them about that time: and I can assure you there is not a voice among us which will not be cordially given for it. I think too I may add that if the Presbyterian opposition should not die by that time, it will be directed at once against the whole institution, and not amuse itself with nibbling at a single object. it did that before only because there was no other, and they might think it politic to mask their designs on the body of the fortress, under the feint of a battery against a single bastion. I will not despair then of the avail of your services in an establishment which I contemplate as the future bulwark of the human mind in this hemisphere. god bless you and preserve you multos años.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); edge trimmed; at foot of first page: “Doctr Cooper.”

Cooper’s letter of the 24th ult. was actually dated 12 July 1820. Elizabeth Trist informed her grandson Nicholas P. Trist from Ridgway on 10 Sept. 1820 that Gerard E. stack “has broke up his School and is going to Philad” and that Peter Laporte “who kept the Boarding House has gone off in debt” (RC in DLC: NPT). Thomas Ragland was the mathematical assistant at Stack’s Charlottesville Academy. evanishing: “vanishing; disappearing; dying out” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

deus igitur, cui … ratione corporum incorporeus: “God, therefore, like the soul, is, according to Origen, in fact corporeal, but, by reason of so much heavier bodies, incorporeal.” quamvis enim subtilia … et solidum est: “For although they are of light texture, nevertheless in substance, form, and figure, their bodies are fine, according to the fineness of their nature, while this body too in its substance is thick and solid.” το θειον φαμεν ειναι αςωματον, ουχ ὁτι εϚιν αςωματον: “We say that the divinity is without body, not because it is bodiless.” quid enim deus … in suâ effigie: “‘For what is God, except body?’ and again ‘Who, however, will deny that God is body? Although God is spirit, yet the spirit is body of its own nature, in its own image.’” in ipso ultimo … animâ sentimus exire?: “When, in the ultimate heat of pleasure, the genital liquid is expelled, do we not feel some of the soul issue forth?” For the sources of these quotes, see notes 7–11 below.

conjunctim: “conjointly.” multos años: “many years.”

1Manuscript: “ingine.”

2Manuscript: “bien.”

3Thus in manuscript, with latter two words interlined in place of “in a double sense.”

4TJ here canceled “antient.”

5Preceding five words interlined.

6Word interlined. TJ here keyed a note with an asterisk reading (one word editorially corrected from “believi”; edge trimmed, with “ha” and “nc” supplied from earlier microfilm [DLC: TJ Papers, 218:38910], now missing in manuscript) “I believe by At[ha]nasius & the cou[ncil] of Nicaea.”

7In right margin adjacent to this section, TJ wrote “Ocellus de d’Argens pa. 97” (Jean Baptiste de Boyer, marquis d’Argens, Ocellus Lucanus en grec et en françois [Utrecht, 1762; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 8 (no. 418)]), and “Enfield VI. 3” (William Enfield, The History of Philosophy, from the earliest times to the beginning of the present century; drawn up from Brucker’s Historia Critica Philosophiæ, 2 vols. [London, 1791; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1337; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 9 (no. 518)]).

8In right margin adjacent to this section, TJ wrote “ib. 105” (correctly, p. 103).

9In left margin adjacent to this section, TJ wrote “Timaeus. 17” (Boyer, marquis d’Argens, Timée de Locres en Grec et en François [Berlin, 1763; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 8 (no. 419)]) and “Enfield. VI. 3.”

10In left margin adjacent to this section, TJ wrote “18.”

11In left margin adjacent to this section, TJ wrote “1. Hist. des Saints 2. c. 4. pa. 212–218.” This work was Paul Henri Thiry, baron d’Holbach, Tableau des Saints, 2 vols. (London, 1770; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 9 [no. 478]).

12In left margin adjacent to this section, TJ wrote (edge chipped) “[Oc]ellus. 98.”

Index Entries

  • Athanasius, Saint; and spiritualism search
  • Athenagoras (early Christian apologist) search
  • Augustine, Saint search
  • Baker, John Wayles (TJ’s grandnephew); education of search
  • Basil, Saint search
  • books; classical search
  • Boyer, Jean Baptiste de, marquis d’Argens; translatesOcellus Lucanus en Grec et en François search
  • Boyer, Jean Baptiste de, marquis d’Argens; translatesTimée de Locres en Grec et en François (Timaeus of Locri) search
  • Charlottesville Academy; and G. E. Stack search
  • Charlottesville Academy; closing of search
  • Christianity; and materialism search
  • Christianity; and spiritualism search
  • Christmas; mentioned search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); and J. W. Baker search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); letters to search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); on intolerance search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); professor at South Carolina College search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); religious beliefs of criticized search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); University of Virginia professorship proposed for search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; writings of search
  • education, collegiate; TJ on search
  • education; of J. W. Baker search
  • Elliott, Stephen; and South Carolina College search
  • Enfield, William; The History of Philosophy search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, at South Carolina College search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, in Charlottesville search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); relationship with son search
  • Holbach, Paul Henri Thiry, baron d’; Tableau des Saints search
  • Huet, Pierre Daniel; editsCommentaria in Sacram Scripturam (Origen) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; relations with grandchildren search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; religion search
  • Justin, Saint search
  • Lactantius, Lucius Caecilius Firmianus (early Christian author) search
  • Laporte, Peter (Victoire Laporte’s husband); financial situation of search
  • Laporte’s boardinghouse (Charlottesville); closing of search
  • Literary Fund; and loans for University of Virginia search
  • Locke, John; and materialism search
  • Locke, John; writings of search
  • Macarius the Egyptian; and materialism search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; mentioned search
  • Nicaea; ecumenical council at search
  • Nulty, Eugenius; and South Carolina College search
  • Ocellus (Greek philosopher); writings attributed to search
  • Ocellus Lucanus en Grec et en François (Ocellus; trans. J. B. Boyer) search
  • Origen; Commentaria in Sacram Scripturam (ed. P. D. Huet) search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ plans visits to search
  • Presbyterians; and University of Virginia search
  • Presbyterians; TJ on search
  • Ragland, Thomas; and Charlottesville Academy search
  • religion; and T. Cooper search
  • religion; Presbyterianism search
  • religion; TJ on search
  • religion; Unitarianism search
  • religion; works on search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); and F. W. Eppes search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); and J. W. Baker search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); faculty at search
  • Stack, Gerard E.; and Charlottesville Academy search
  • Stewart, Dugald; writings of search
  • Tableau des Saints (Holbach) search
  • Tatian (early Christian author) search
  • Tertullianus, Quintus Septimus Florens; writings of search
  • The History of Philosophy (W. Enfield) search
  • Timaeus of Locri; Timée de Locres en Grec et en François (trans. J. B. Boyer) search
  • Timée de Locres en Grec et en François (Timaeus of Locri; trans. J. B. Boyer) search
  • Unitarianism; TJ on 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; progress of search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opening of search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; TJ’s vision for search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; T. Cooper as proposed professor search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search