Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas P. Jones to Thomas Jefferson, 5 March 1821

From Thomas P. Jones

Warrenton (N C) March 5th 1821


Although the writer of this address is not personally known to you, he persuades himself that the warm interest which you are known to take in the affairs of the University of Virginia, will plead his excuse for troubling you on the present occasion.

When my friend Judge Cooper passed through this place on his way to Columbia, he mentioned the University as likely to afford at some future period, a situation suiting my habits and pursuits, and worthy my acceptance, observing at the same time, that he supposed the institution would not be organized in less than four or five years. The late act of the Legislature of Virginia, rendering it probable that this event will take place at a much earlier date, has induced me to determine to become a candidate for the professorship of Chymistry and Mechanical Philosophy: to these branches of science many years of my life have been devoted, and I have taught them as a public lecturer and professor, with approbation and success.

When I am made acquainted with the proper time and channel of communication; such testimonials as may be deemed necessary, shall be forwarded. Judge Cooper, Robt Patterson Esqr director of the Mint, Dr Patterson, Dr Hare, John Vaughan Esqr, and many other gentleman of high standing in Society, it is believed will give a very favourable opinion both as regards talents and integrity of character.

A line addressed to Dr Thos P Jones, in this place will be esteemed a favour.   I am Sir

With the highest consideration Your Obedient Servant

Thos P Jones.

RC (CSmH: JF); with Dft of TJ’s 13 Mar. 1821 response subjoined; endorsed by TJ as received 10 Mar. 1821 and so recorded (mistakenly dated 5 Feb.) in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to William J. Coffee, 14 June 1822, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Warrenton, N.C., 5 Mar. 1821.

Thomas P. Jones (1774–1848), scientist, educator, and editor, was born in Herefordshire, England. He trained as a physician before moving to the United States around 1800. Jones began his career as a traveling science lecturer. By 1811 he was living in Philadelphia, where he continued lecturing and teaching. The College of William and Mary named Jones its professor of natural philosophy and chemistry in 1814. Returning to Philadelphia in 1818, he resumed lecturing, sometimes at the museum of Charles Willson Peale. In 1825 Jones was hired as a professor of mechanics by the newly formed Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, and the following year he became the editor of its journal, which subsumed one that he owned, the American Mechanics’ Magazine. He led the Journal of the Franklin Institute for the rest of his life, and it published lists of current patents that became an invaluable record after a fire in 1836 destroyed the United States Patent Office in Washington, D.C. Jones succeeded William Thornton as patent office superintendent in 1828, but with the change in presidential administrations the following year he was transferred to a State Department clerkship in charge of consular correspondence. He became a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1831. Although Jones returned to the patent office in 1836 as an examiner, he left federal service two years later to begin his own business as a patent solicitor. By 1832 he held the chemistry chair and was later a trustee of the Columbian College Medical School (later George Washington University Medical School). Jones died in Washington (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, repr. 1968, 20 vols. in 10 description ends ; 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 , 49; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 21 Jan. 1831 [MS in PPAmP]; Francis Fowler, “Memoir of Dr. Thomas P. Jones,” Journal of the Franklin Institute, 3d ser., 130 [1890]: 1–7; Bruce Sinclair, Philadelphia’s Philosopher Mechanics: A History of the Franklin Institute, 1824–1865 [1974]; Kenneth W. Dobyns, The Patent Office Pony: A History of the Early Patent Office [1994]; Howard L. Hodgkins, Historical Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of The Columbian University [1891], 49; Jackson, Papers description begins Sam B. Smith, Harold D. Moser, Daniel Feller, and others, eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 1980– , 10 vols. description ends , 7:207, 265; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 13 Mar., 3 Apr. 1848; gravestone inscription in Congressional Cemetery, Washington).

The late act of the legislature of virginia, “An act concerning the University of Virginia,” authorized a loan of up to $60,000 to the fledgling institution from the Literary Fund (Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1820–21 sess.], 15–6 [24 Feb. 1821]).

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • An act concerning the University of Virginia (1821) search
  • chemistry; applicants to teach at University of Virginia search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); and professors for University of Virginia search
  • Hare, Robert; and University of Virginia search
  • Jones, Thomas P.; identified search
  • Jones, Thomas P.; letter from search
  • Jones, Thomas P.; seeks professorship search
  • Literary Fund; and loans for University of Virginia search
  • mechanical philosophy; applicants to teach at University of Virginia search
  • Patterson, Robert; and University of Virginia search
  • Patterson, Robert Maskell; and University of Virginia search
  • Vaughan, John (1756–1841); and University of Virginia search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; funding for search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; faculty applicants search