Thomas Jefferson Papers

Tobias Watkins to Thomas Jefferson, 16 September 1820

From Tobias Watkins

Baltimore 16h Septr 1820


The Trustees of Baltimore College have received an application for the place of Principal to that institution, from Mr. L. H. Gerardin of Virginia, who has referred us, among other distinguished personages, to you, as being acquainted with his character and pretensions.

As I have been the channel of Mr. Gerardin’s application to the Board of Trustees, they have requested me to solicit from you, such information concerning him, as it may be in your power to give. An anxious desire to resuscitate our long dormant College, could alone have induced the Board or myself, to take the liberty of troubling you on this occasion. Your favourable report of Mr. G. will ensure his immediate election.

With sentiments of unfeigned respect and veneration

I have the honor to be Sir Yr. Obt Hl Svt

T, Watkins.

RC (CSmH: JF-BA); endorsed by TJ as received 24 Sept. 1820 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Nathaniel Macon, 19 Aug. 1821, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked Baltimore, 16 Sept.

Tobias Watkins (1780–1855), physician, public official, and author, was born in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He graduated in 1798 from Saint John’s College, Annapolis, and was an assistant surgeon in the United States Navy, 1799–1801. After completing medical studies in Philadelphia in 1802, Watkins settled briefly in Havre de Grace, Maryland. He then relocated to Baltimore, where in addition to his medical practice he edited several medical and literary journals, helped write a history of the American Revolution, translated a monograph by Luis de Onís on the negotiations leading up to the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty between the United States and Spain, and assisted in the revival of Baltimore College. Watkins served as an army surgeon during the War of 1812 and as an assistant surgeon general, 1818–21. He was also a prominent Freemason. By 1822 Watkins moved permanently to Washington, D.C. Appointed fourth auditor of the United States Treasury in 1824, he was imprisoned for fraud and embezzlement five years later. Following his release in 1833, Watkins resumed his medical practice and worked as an educator (James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds., Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography [1887–89], 6:388; Howard A. Kelly and Walter L. Burrage, American Medical Biographies [1920], 1205; Triennial Catalogue of St. John’s College [1858], 17; Callahan, U.S. Navy description begins Edward W. Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900, 1901, repr. 1969 description ends , 571; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, repr. 1994, 2 vols. description ends , 1:1008; Watkins to James Madison, 31 May 1815 [DNA: RG 107, LRSW]; Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines [1930–38; repr. 1970], 1:293–6; Judah Delano, The Washington Directory [Washington, 1822], 80; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 5 May, 15 Aug. 1829, 22 Apr. 1833, 15 Nov. 1855; Anthony Reintzel, comp., The Washington Directory, and Governmental Register, for 1843 [1843], 94; DNA: RG 29, CS, Washington, D.C., 1840, 1850).

Index Entries

  • Baltimore College search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; and Baltimore College search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • schools and colleges; Baltimore College search
  • Watkins, Tobias; and Baltimore College search
  • Watkins, Tobias; identified search
  • Watkins, Tobias; letters from search