Thomas Jefferson Papers

John A. Wharton to Thomas Jefferson, 25 April 1821

From John A. Wharton

Nashville Tenn. April 25th ’21


Relying on your generosity, I take the liberty of addressing you, not having the honor of a personal acquaintance with you. I am convinced that no man in these United States beholds with more heartfelt satisfaction, the advancement of the cause of literature in this your native country, than yourself; I am, therefore, encouraged to write you on a subject of infinite importance to myself, as well as to youth in general.


I have seen, through the medium of the public prints, that the legislature of Virginia have made considerable appropriations to the University established at Charlottesville: in consequence of which the institution will be opened on the first day January next. The object of the present communication is to solicit from you any information which you can give, relative to the prices of tuition and boarding, and the previous qualifications necessary to an entrance into each of the classes. Any information which you can communicate (not being called for in this letter) will be thankfully received. You will, I hope, pardon my being thus particular in my enquiries concerning the University as economy in my financial calculations is absolutely necessary. I have now only to request you will direct your answer to Davis’ store, Bedford Virginia, the place of my residence: and to pray you1 to accept the assurance of my profound respect and unfeigned veneration.

J, A, Wharton

RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); at foot of text: “Mr Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as a letter from “Wm” Wharton received 13 May 1821 and so recorded in SJL.

John Austin Wharton (1803–88), attorney, public official, and clergyman was a native of Bedford County. He was mayor of Liberty (later Bedford) from its incorporation in 1840 until 1849. Wharton sat on the executive committee of the town’s Tippecanoe Club supporting William Henry Harrison in 1840, and he was cashier for a time of the Bedford Savings Bank. Ordained a deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1847, Wharton was later rector of Saint John’s Church in Liberty until at least 1868. In 1860 his real estate was valued at $15,000 and his personal property was worth $10,000. Wharton was the judge of the Bedford County Court from 1870 until 1880 (Mary Denham Ackerly and Lula Eastman Jeter Parker, “Our Kin”: The Genealogies of Some of the Early Families who Made History in the Founding and Development of Bedford County Virginia [1930], 124, 180, 221–2; W. Harrison Daniel, Bedford County, Virginia, 1840–1860: The History of an Upper Piedmont County in the Late Antebellum Era [1985], 3, 48, 92–3, 143; DNA: RG 29, CS, Bedford Co., 1840–80; Joanne Spiers Moche, Families of Grace through 1900: Remembering Radford [2008], 1:142; Journal of the Proceedings of the Bishops, Clergy, and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church [1847]: 269; [1869]: 544; JSV description begins Journal of the Senate of Virginia description ends [1869–70 sess.], 323–4 [13 May 1870]; [1879–80 sess.], 90 [9 Jan. 1880]; Bedford Co. Will Book, 26:438–9, 444–9; gravestone inscription in Longwood Cemetery, Bedford).

Wharton also wrote twice to James Madison this year requesting information about the University of Virginia (Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 2:251–2, 440).

1Manuscript: “your.”

Index Entries

  • Madison, James (1751–1836); works sent to search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; and General Assembly search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opening of search
  • Virginia, University of; Students; prospective students search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Wharton, John Austin; identified search
  • Wharton, John Austin; letter from search
  • Wharton, John Austin; seeks information on University of Virginia search