Thomas Jefferson Papers

Joseph C. Cabell to Thomas Jefferson, 20 December 1820

From Joseph C. Cabell

Senate Chamber 20th Dec: 1820.

Dear Sir,

I thank you sincerely for your favor of Nov: 28. which I received on my arrival here on 5th inst. I should have written you before now, but that my whole time has been taken up by the scandalous attack on Governor Randolph’s character. Thank Heaven! we were fortunate enough to make the blow recoil on the heads of his accusers, and I trust we shall never again be insulted by the intrusion of such abominable subjects. You will hear the whole affair from your family. I have shewn your letter to Genl Breckenridge & some other friends. Mr Johnson will not be here till christmas. We have agreed, for reasons I will more fully detail hereafter, to let the subject of the University lie over till after christmas. I am going to spend the Holidays with Mrs Cabell in Wmsburg, from which I will write you at leisure. For the present I will1 only say that we shall probably have to fall down in our petition for a sum sufficient to finish the buildings, and let the rest lie till another session. We shall have the academies to contend with this year. Our difficulties are great, but every effort will be used to carry the bill. Some objections are made to the mode in which our accounts are presented. Some ask why the items are not more detailed: others, why mr Garrett’s accounts do not go back farther than April. I would advise the fullest & freest2 rendition of accounts. There lies our hold on the public affections. The affair of the payment to Doctor Cooper is known to our enemies.

Yours faithfully

Joseph C. Cabell

RC (ViU: TJP-PC); endorsed by TJ as received 24 Dec. 1820 and so recorded in SJL. RC: left half of address cover only (CSmH: JF), with PoC of TJ to Francis Eppes, 8 Apr. 1821, on verso; right half of address cover only (MHi), with PoC of TJ to Louis H. Girardin, 8 Apr. 1821, on recto; addressed (trimmed): “Mr Jefferson M[o]nticello”; franked; inconsistently postmarked Richmond, 19 Dec.

In his 4 Dec. 1820 annual address to the Virginia legislature, Governor Thomas Mann Randolph advocated religious tolerance, expressed his own preference for seeking the divine in the natural world, and warned against the “indirect legislative sanction” of sectarianism. He also proposed a system of gradual emancipation that would use taxes on slaves to purchase enslaved youths and send them abroad. While the speech was somewhat controversial, potentially far more damaging was a scandalous attack on Randolph’s personal character, the details of which are not now known. Through the efforts of Cabell and other supporters, those charges were refuted and the General Assembly elected Randolph to another one-year term on 16 Dec. 1820 (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1820–21 sess.], 6–12, 48; William H. Gaines Jr., Thomas Mann Randolph: Jefferson’s Son-in-Law [1966], 123–7; Elizabeth Trist to Nicholas P. Trist, 16 Dec. 1820 [ViU: Trist, Randolph, and Burke Family Papers]; Cabell to TJ, 22 Dec. 1820).

1Cabell here canceled “content.”

2Manuscript: “freeest.”

Index Entries

  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; as member of University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; as member of University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; as Va. state senator search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; letters from search
  • Cabell, Mary Walker Carter (Joseph C. Cabell’s wife); travels of search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); University of Virginia professorship proposed for search
  • education; in Va. search
  • Garrett, Alexander; as University of Virginia bursar search
  • Johnson, Chapman; as member of University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); as governor of Va. search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); family of search
  • religion; in Va. search
  • slavery; and emancipation proposals search
  • slaves; taxes on search
  • taxes; on slaves search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; bursar of search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; funding for search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; members of search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; T. Cooper as proposed professor search
  • Virginia; and education search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Virginia; governor search
  • Virginia; religion in search