Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Francis Eppes, 13 December 1820

To Francis Eppes

Poplar Forest Dec. 13. 20.

Dear Francis

Yours of Oct. 31. came to me here Nov. 28. having first gone to Monticello. I observe the course of reading at Columbia which you note. it either is, or ought to be the rule of every collegiate institution to teach to every particular student the branches of science which those who direct him think will be useful in the pursuits proposed for him, and to waste his time on nothing which they think will not be useful to him. this will certainly be the fundamental law of our University to leave every one free to attend whatever branches of instruction he wants, and to decline what he does not want. if this be not generally allowed at Columbia, I hope they may be induced to indulgence in your case, in consideration of the little time you have left, & which you cannot afford to waste on what will be useless to you, or can be acquired by reading hereafter without the aid of a teacher. as I do not know any professor at Columbia but Doctr Cooper, request, in my name, his interest & influence to be permitted to adapt your studies to your wants.

Reviewing what you say are the courses of the 4. classes, I pass over the 1st and 2d which you are done with, and should select for you from the 3d Algebra, Geometry, trigonometry and Natural philosophy, & from the 4th Logarithms and chemistry to which I should add astronomy, Botany1 & natural history, which you do not mention in any of the classes. I omit Blair’s Rhetoric, Watt’s logic, Kaims, Paley, Butler Etc which you can read in your closet after leaving College as well as at it. and in Mathematics I do not think you have time to undertake either Conic sections or fluxions. unless you can be indulged in this selection I shall lament very much indeed the having advised your going to Columbia: because time is now the most pressing & precious thing in the world to you; and the greatest injury which can possibly be done you is to waste what remains on what you can acquire hereafter yourself, & prevent your learning those useful branches which cannot well be acquired without the aids of the College.

Whether our University will open this time 12month or be shut up 7. years, will depend on the present legislature’s liberating our funds by appropriating 100,000 D. more from the Literary fund. if you watch the newspapers you will see what they do, and be able to judge what may be expected.

Ellen & Virginia are here with me. we leave this the day after tomorrow for Monticello, where we hope to meet your aunt, who will be returning at the same time from Richmond. we learn by your letter to Virginia that Wayles is with you. to him and to yourself I tender my affectionate attachments. to Dr Cooper also give my friendly souvenirs. the difficulty with which I write puts that much out of my power

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC); addressed: “Mr Francis Eppes at the College of Columbia S.C.”; franked; postmarked Lynchburg, 29 Dec. PoC (CSmH: JF); on William Daniel to TJ, 4 Sept. 1819, with some obscured and polygraphically misaligned text rewritten by TJ; edge trimmed; endorsed by TJ.

Citing letters of 24 Dec. 1820 just received from ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) and virginia J. Randolph (Trist), Elizabeth Trist reported to her grandson Nicholas P. Trist on 1 Jan. 1821 that while returning to Monticello from Poplar Forest “they had a most terrible journey rain and bad roads bad accomadations, and Mr Jefferson had the Rheumatism very bad travilling.” Earlier in the letter Trist stated that she had learned from a letter of 20 Dec. from Cornelia J. Randolph that “Mr Jefferson and the two young Ladies return’d from Poplar Forest in good health a week before xmass, the family had not assembled, only five in family but they expected Mrs Randolph up at xmass.” In a previous communication Trist informed her grandson that “Monticello is still solitary not one of the white family there but they expected to begin to rally about xmass but that I suppose will depend on the state of the weather and the roads” (Elizabeth Trist to Nicholas P. Trist, Farmington, 16 Dec. 1820, 1 Jan. 1821 [RCs of both in ViU: Trist, Randolph, and Burke Family Papers]).

your aunt: Martha Jefferson Randolph. wayles: John Wayles Baker.

1Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • astronomy; collegiate education in search
  • Baker, John Wayles (TJ’s grandnephew); relationship with F. W. Eppes search
  • Blair, Hugh; Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres search
  • botany; collegiate education in search
  • Butler, Joseph; The Analogy of Religion search
  • chemistry; collegiate education in search
  • Christmas; at Monticello search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); professor at South Carolina College search
  • education, collegiate; TJ on search
  • Elements of Criticism (H. H. Kames) search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); and Central College–University of Virginia search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, at South Carolina College search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); family of search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; rheumatism search
  • Kames (Kaim), Henry Home, Lord; Elements of Criticism search
  • Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (H. Blair) search
  • Literary Fund; and General Assembly search
  • Logick (I. Watts) search
  • mathematics; collegiate education in search
  • natural history; collegiate education in search
  • natural philosophy; collegiate education in search
  • Paley, William; The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ’s grandchildren visit search
  • Randolph, Cornelia Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); correspondence with E. Trist search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); visits Richmond search
  • rheumatism; TJ’s search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); and F. W. Eppes search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); curriculum of search
  • The Analogy of Religion (J. Butler) search
  • The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (W. Paley) search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; and M. J. Randolph search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; and TJ’s health search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; friends and family of search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; on the weather search
  • Trist, Nicholas Philip; correspondence with E. Trist search
  • Trist, Virginia Jefferson Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; funding for search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opening of search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; proposed curriculum search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Watts, Isaac; Logick search
  • weather; rain search