Thomas Jefferson Papers

Joseph C. Cabell to Thomas Jefferson, 22 December 1820

From Joseph C. Cabell

Williamsburg 22 Dec: 1820.

Dear Sir,

On consultation with Genl Breckenridge & others it was decided that we should bring forward nothing in regard to the University till after Christmas. I got leave of absence till 29th and left town on 20th. The evening before my departure I was informed that Mr Griffin of York had brought in a set of Resolutions the evident effect of which would be1 to embarrass the disposable2 part of the Literary Fund so as to defeat the claims of the University: & these resolutions were warmly supported by the friends of Hampden Sidney, but particularly by Mr Miller of Powhatan. They give the right to the counties to draw out the Derelict part of the fund, provide against the recurrence of a similar state of things, and make an appropriation to Wm & Mary, Hampden Sidney, Washington College, New London, the University &c. I went immediately to see Genl Breckenridge and spent the evening in conversing with him on this subject. He was glad the opposite party had come forward so early in the session. Instead of getting an advantageous start of us, he thought they would only defeat themselves, by disclosing their plans & conflicting with each other: & our friends, he thought, should attend the committee & let them run on for a time. Mr Bowyer & Mr Gordon seemed to be fearful of the consequences of this course. I got leave of absence with the intention of carrying Mrs Cabell up on 29th; but owing to this movement of the opposition, I had determined to leave her in Wmsburg and to return in the steam boat on 26th. I left your letter with Genl Breckenridge, and had shewn it to many of our friends. There was a general concurrence in the opinion that we should not succeed in an attempt at a general system of schools, and that we should aim at only so much money as would finish the buildings, leaving the mortgage for the present on our funds. It will be a hard struggle to get even this. The hostile interests are strong, & well conducted this session. I have looked over the accounts since I last wrote you. I am now satisfied that Mr M. was only seeking for materials of opposition: & I think it unnecessary3 for Mr Garrett to send down the detailed account before 1st April. The summary statement covers the whole ground. Should it be necessary, I will hereafter call for explanation as to any part of the accounts. Genl Breckenridge thinks Genl Blackburn will run with us. Mr Doddridge comes down in a good humor, has candidly acknowledged that I was in the right as to the great litter of banks: and avowed himself a friend to the University. He is anxious for an endowment of the Randolph Academy. But I hope he will ultimately unite with us. Bowyer of Rockbridge is my intimate friend & heartily with us. Otey of Bedford advocates an appropriation to New London Academy, but I believe will in the end go right. Mr Watson of Louisa is our zealous friend. I fear Mr Crump of Cumberland will be induced to insist on an appropriation to Hampden Sidney: yet I hope he will ultimately cooperate with us. His local position is unfortunate. D. S. Garland & party will be violently opposed to the University: but I hope that influence is now but small. I am advised by Genl Breckenridge not to stir the question relative to the old charters but as a dernier resort. Some have thought it a dangerous weapon inasmuch as it would divide the friends of Science: and throw the majority against us. Morris, Breckenridge, Bowyer, Genl Taylor—Coalter—all—think the principle sound, and that it cannot ultimately be resisted. Our object now is to finish the buildings. If this could be done without resort to this doctrine, I would willingly put it aside for the present—but I do not see how we can avoid calling it in; unless they should defeat themselves, & leave the field4 open to us. I will keep you fully informed from time to time. Let me urge you to write to Judge Roane & one or two other friends: but at least, to Judge Roane.—The Governor’s triumph over his enemies was compleat. Never was overthrow more brilliant & galling. His friends regretted greatly the introduction of some topics into his message; the parts respecting slavery & religion would have done him great injury, but for the attack on his character, which united the country in his support.

I am, dear sir, faithfully yours

Jos: C: Cabell

RC (ViU: TJP-PC); endorsed by TJ as received 31 Dec. 1820 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Lancelot Minor, 31 Mar. 1821, on verso; addressed: “Mr Jefferson Monticello,” with “Charlottsville” added in an unidentified hand; franked; postmarked Williamsburg, 25 Dec.

On 19 Dec. 1820 Thomas Griffin presented a set of resolutions on the Literary Fund to the Virginia House of Delegates, which referred them to the Committee of Schools and Colleges. In addition to providing for the disbursement to each county of its share of the derelict part of the fund, they proposed to make an appropriation to the state’s academies and to the colleges and university named by Cabell above, required that a still-to-be-determined number of poor and promising students be given scholarships at institutions receiving state aid, and allocated to county primary schools any funds remaining after payment of the specified appropriations (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1820–21 sess.], 51–2; Richmond Enquirer, 23 Dec. 1820).

A 31 Dec. 1787 statute of the Virginia General Assembly chartered the randolph academy in Clarksburg (later West Virginia) and allotted it a share of the fees paid to public surveyors. A building was constructed and the school opened in about 1795, but it seems only to have lasted for a couple of decades (Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1787–88 sess.], 46; Henry Haymond, History of Harrison County, West Virginia [1910], 287–90).

Cabell did later raise the question relative to the old charters, reportedly arguing “that an appropriation of public money to the uses of either of the old colleges ought not to be granted by the Legislature, except upon the express condition that such college should, like the University of Virginia, be at all times and in all things subject to the control of the Legislature” (Cabell to TJ, 4 Jan. 1821; quote from Cabell, University of Virginia, 194n). dernier: “last.”

1Reworked from “evident object of which was.”

2Manuscript: “disposabble.”

3Manuscript: “unnessary.”

4Manuscript: “feald.”

Index Entries

  • banks; in Va. search
  • Blackburn, Samuel; as Va. legislator search
  • boats; steamboats search
  • Bowyer, John; and establishment of University of Virginia search
  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; as member of University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; as Va. legislator 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, Joseph Carrington; on Va. General Assembly search
  • Cabell, Mary Walker Carter (Joseph C. Cabell’s wife); travels of search
  • Coalter, John; and establishment of University of Virginia search
  • Crump, George William; as Va. legislator search
  • Doddridge, Philip; as Va. legislator search
  • education; in Va. search
  • education; of the poor search
  • Garland, David Shepherd; as Va. legislator search
  • Garrett, Alexander; as University of Virginia bursar search
  • Gordon, William Fitzhugh; and establishment of University of Virginia search
  • Griffin, Thomas; as Va. legislator search
  • Hampden-Sydney College; funding for search
  • Literary Fund; and General Assembly search
  • Miller, Thomas (of Powhatan Co.); as Va. legislator search
  • Morris, Richard; as Va. legislator search
  • New London, Va.; academy at search
  • Otey, Isaac, Jr.; as Va. legislator search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); as governor of Va. search
  • Randolph Academy (Clarksburg) search
  • religion; in Va. search
  • Roane, Spencer; and establishment of University of Virginia search
  • schools and colleges; Hampden-Sydney College search
  • schools and colleges; New London Academy search
  • schools and colleges; Randolph Academy (Clarksburg) search
  • schools and colleges; Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) search
  • slavery; and emancipation proposals search
  • steamboats; in Va. search
  • Taylor, Robert Barraud; as member of University of Virginia Board of Visitors search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; Alexander Garrett’s Account with the University of Virginia search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; funding for search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia; and education search
  • Virginia; banks in search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Virginia; House of Delegates search
  • Virginia; religion in search
  • Virginia; steamboats in search
  • Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) search
  • Watson, David (1773–1830); as Va. legislator search
  • William and Mary, College of; funding for search