Thomas Jefferson Papers

Joseph C. Cabell to Thomas Jefferson, 25 January 1821

From Joseph C. Cabell

Richmond 25 Jan: 1821.

Dear Sir,

Since the date of my letter of 18th inst the meeting therein alluded to has taken place. I find Mr Johnson1 averse to any expression of opinion on the subject of the Ancient2 charters. Our meeting broke up without any valuable result. The want of a Report on the state of the Literary fund, retards our movements.3 There is a current constantly setting against us on Richmond Hill.4 It scatters discord in our ranks, & undermines the zeal of our friends. Preston’s last deficiency falls on the literary fund, and augments our difficulties. The counties that neglected to draw, insist pertinaciously on their “equal rights.” That claim I suspect will nearly exhaust the surplus on hand. Even some of our friends, Johnson, Breckenridge &c think we should not touch the principal of the fund: & the balance still due from the Genl Govt forms a part of the principal. The annual Revenue falls short of the annual appropriation. There is no prospect that we shall be able to get into the poor school fund. In this situation, hemmed in by difficulties & obstacles on all sides, one only prospect opens itself to my view. I presume that it is in every case proper to finish the buildings. To get the necessary funds for this object, must be our polar star. For this purpose, we must get our credit for the existing loan of $60,000, put on one of the two bases which I proposed last spring: and obtain a power to make another loan of $50,000, on similar terms. This would give us the buildings & a clear income of about $7000. Future assemblies must be looked to for the balance. I spoke of this plan to Genl Breckenridge & Mr Johnson, yesterday: & spoke of it as a dernier resort. They seemed to approve it. We shall first, however, ask for further funds in some shape or other. Governor Randolph told me some time since, we should have to content ourselves with this. He has gone into the country & I presume will see you before his return.

I will now, touch upon a subject5 that has engaged my thoughts for a long time past, and been often mentioned to some of my intimate friends. It is that of my withdrawing altogether from public life6 at the end of my present term of service. Genl Cocke will be with you shortly, and will explain to you the grounds on which I think, with some of my friends, that this measure becomes proper. I pauze to give my friends an opportunity to cast about for a safe depository for the great interests of our district. A Mr Claiborne of Nelson has notified me of his intention to offer. At first I thought it might be improper to retire under the imputations that might be made: & so expressed myself to my friend Governor Randolph. But on further reflection & on consultation with my brother & Genl Cocke, I do not think that circumstance should have the least weight with me. All other reasons apart, I do not suppose that a canvass could be dispensed with, and such is the weakness of my breast, that to ride from Court House to Court House, making speeches to large crouds, exposed to the rigors of the season, might carry me to the grave, or bring on me further & more distressing symptoms of pulmonary affection.7 Do not suppose, I beseech you, that my feelings & opinions have undergone any change. On the contrary, in retiring, I will do all in my power to bring in such persons as may be calculated to effectuate in future your great views of literary improvement. In the course which I contemplate, I have no view or wish to go to Congress, or into any other public station. I have been here 13 winters. My object8 now is domestic, rural, & literary leisure. I thank my friends in Albemarle, & the district, but above all yourself, for the confidence so long bestowed on me. The little share which I have had in promoting the establishment of the University & in seconding your views on that subject, will always constitute one of the most agreeable reflections of my life. May you succeed to the utmost of your wishes will ever be my constant & fervent prayer. But that great & valuable institution, I hope, is now on a safe & permanent footing: and altho’ its endowment is for the present too small, yet it must & will ultimately triumph over all its enemies.

I presume it is unnecessary to announce my final determination till the close of the session. I remain, Dr Sir, faithfully your friend

Joseph C. Cabell

RC (ViU: TJP-PC); endorsed by TJ as received 28 Jan. 1821 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to John Graves, 5 Mar. 1821, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson esq. Monticello”; franked; postmarked Richmond, 25 Jan.

The Richmond neighborhood of richmond hill later became known as Church Hill (Mary Wingfield Scott, Old Richmond Neighborhoods [1950; rev. ed., 1984], 23–54). In this context, however, Cabell may have been thinking of Shockoe Hill, the site of Virginia’s capitol.

dernier: “last.”

1Cabell here canceled “totally.”

2Preceding two words interlined.

3Preceding three words interlined in place of “paralizes every thing.”

4Cabell here canceled “A certain great man & his friends.”

5Preceding four words interlined in place of “for the first time, mention to you, about a subject.”

6Cabell here canceled “for some.”

7Cabell here canceled “Our friend Mr Gordon would be a safe depository of our interests.”

8Cabell here canceled “& wish.”

Index Entries

  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; as Va. legislator search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and establishment of University of Virginia search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and funding for University of Virginia search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; as Va. state senator search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; health of search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; letters from search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; on Va. General Assembly search
  • Cabell, William H.; advises J. C. Cabell search
  • Claiborne, Sterling; as potential Va. legislator search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell (1780–1866); and J. C. Cabell search
  • Congress, U.S.; mentioned search
  • Gordon, William Fitzhugh; as Va. legislator search
  • Johnson, Chapman; as Va. state senator search
  • Literary Fund; and loans for University of Virginia search
  • Literary Fund; funds of search
  • Literary Fund; reports of search
  • Preston, John (d.1827); as treasurer of Va. search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); as governor of Va. search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; funding for search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opposition to search