Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Brown (1757–1837), 3 November 1820

To John Brown (1757–1837)

Monticello Nov. 3. 20.

Dear Sir

The son of the only class-mate I now have living proposes to visit your state, and naturally wishes to be made known to it’s principal worthies. his father mr James Maury & myself were boys together at the school of the grandfather in this neighborhood.   with the present gentleman I am not personally acquainted; but all who are, speak well of him. and I think nothing, not good, could have come from such a father. shew him then, my friend, such civilities as shall be not inconvenient to you, and make him sensible that my recommendation is not a matter of indifference with you. that you may have health, happiness & long life are the prayers of your affectionate friend.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of William Sampson to TJ, 10 June 1819; at foot of text: “John Brown esq.”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosed in TJ to William Maury, 3 Nov. 1820.

John Brown (1757–1837), attorney and public official, was born in Staunton and attended his father’s school, which would later become Liberty Hall Academy (and eventually Washington and Lee University). He enrolled at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), probably shortly before classes were suspended late in 1776 due to the American Revolution, during which Brown evidently served as an army private. He continued his education at the College of William and Mary, 1778–80, studied law under George Wythe, and spent time in Albemarle County with access to TJ’s library. In about 1783 Brown moved to Kentucky and practiced law, first in Danville and then in Frankfort. He represented the Kentucky district in the Senate of Virginia, 1784–88, and in the Confederation Congress, 1787–88, and he supported the new federal constitution. As a leading proponent both of Kentucky statehood and of the free navigation of the Mississippi River, Brown conferred in 1788 with Diego de Gardoqui, the Spanish chargé d’affaires, in discussions that drew criticism and accusations of trying to separate Kentucky from the United States in an alleged “Spanish Conspiracy.” Nevertheless, Brown was elected from Virginia to the United States Congress, 1789–92, and he represented the new state of Kentucky in the United States Senate, 1792–1805, allying himself with TJ and James Madison and serving as president pro tempore, 1803–04. Losing his bid for a third term, Brown returned permanently to Liberty Hall, his home in Frankfort, where he again practiced law, entertained Aaron Burr when the latter visited the city in 1805, and served as a director of the Bank of Kentucky (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Princetonians description begins James McLachlan and others, eds., Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, 1976–90, 5 vols. description ends , 1776–1783, pp. 217–23; William and Mary Provisional List description begins A Provisional List of Alumni, Grammar School Students, Members of the Faculty, and Members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary in Virginia. From 1693 to 1888, 1941 description ends , 9; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends ; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , esp. 13:211–3, 19:xxxiii–xxxiv, 469–74; Doc. Hist. Ratification description begins Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, 1976– , 29 vols. description ends , 10:1579–80, 16:404; Washington Globe, 9 Sept. 1837).

Index Entries

  • Albemarle County, Va.; schools in search
  • Brown, John (1757–1837); identified search
  • Brown, John (1757–1837); letter to search
  • Brown, John (1757–1837); TJ introduces W. Maury to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction from search
  • Maury, James (1717–69); and TJ’s education search
  • Maury, James (1746–1840); family of search
  • Maury, James (1746–1840); friend of TJ search
  • Maury, William; TJ introduces search
  • schools and colleges; in Albemarle Co. search