Thomas Jefferson Papers

Louis H. Girardin to Thomas Jefferson, 12 August 1821

From Louis H. Girardin

Baltimore, August 12th, 1821.

Dear and Respected Sir,

I do not know precisely how matters stand at the University with respect to the Mathematical Department—whether You are to have two Professors, or only one—and whether You have Yet made a choice. At any rate, I am sure You will easily excuse me for introducing to Your notice Mr O. Reynolds, who is now Professor of Mathematics in this College, where the present state of things compels him to descend to teaching reading, English grammar, and other Branches quite below his level. Mr R. is certainly a very profound mathematician—very prompt, comprehensive, and luminous—well acquainted with the french language, and the french Mathematicians, whose works are often in his hands.—When he came here, he was highly recommended by Adrain, and others; but such talents as his can be appreciated only by connoisseurs. He is a mild, inoffensive, correct, sober man, about 35 years of age, I conceive.—I enclose some of his solutions in an old Irish Diary, and in detached parts of the Portico. I really pity Mr Reynolds for thus being deprived of a proper field of action, and, although I should lose by it, I would be extremely pleased to see his superior talents utilized and remunerated1 at the University of Virginia, or any other suitable theatre.

If there be no opening for him, I request You, Dear Sir, to let the matter be confined to Your breast, because of his situation here.

Our College revives with tolerable rapidity. I have Just drawn up a system of instruction, discipline &c which the Trustees have adopted, and which, together with other measures, will, I trust, have a good effect. But, good heavens! what an intellectual atmosphere! Religious toleration is the basis of our charter—and, would you believe it? I have to eulogize such a basis—to struggle for its maintenance! The necessity and expediency of a Sectarian Institution, at last, are contended2 for by many—Ubi gentium sumus?—I hope that the good Sense, liberal principles, and patriotic sentiments of the majority of the Trustees will continue to prevail—and, although my interest will greatly suffer by it, the college shall, if I live, remain attuned to the leading tenets of our political faith, and of genuine religion. With religionism, I will have nothing to do.

Excuse me, Dear and respected Sir. I forget myself, when upon this subject.

I flatter myself that You continue to enjoy good health, and, of course, good spirits, although that even bodily pain can scarcely affect the serenity of your mind.—I hope too that Your great and good work, the University, is rapidly drawing near its completion.

I recollect some curious, I believe, hindu figures in your collection of natl and artl curiosities—They are grotesque representations of Deities, I think. Would You be so good, as to tell me whence they came?—Perhaps, they are from S. or N. America.—Indeed, I have but a very confuse recollection of them—but they have been mentioned by a Gentleman who is fond of antiquarian &c Knowledge, and I wish I Knew their origin.

I have likewise met with something relative to the Baroness De Reidesel, once Your Neighbour, and whose letters evince so much gratitude to You. Is she dead? and, if alive, where is she?

Forgive, Dear and respected Sir, so much obtrusive inquisitiveness.—With ardent wishes for a continuance of health and other blessings, to Yourself, and Your amiable family, I salute You with affectionate respect and friendship—

L. H. Girardin

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 16 Aug. 1821 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Bernard Peyton, [20 Oct. 1822], on verso; addressed: “Ths Jefferson Esqr Monticello near Charlottesville Va”; franked; postmarked. Enclosures: unidentified selections from mathematical solutions by Owen Reynolds in Portico 3 (1817): 73, 74–5, 153–4, 244–5, 317–8, 405–6. Other solutions not found. Enclosed letter printed below.

this college: Baltimore College. ubi gentium sumus (“Where in the world are we?”) is adapted from one of Cicero’s speeches against Catiline, In Catilinam, 1.9 (Cicero, In Catilinam I–IV, Pro Murena, Pro Sulla, Pro Flacco, trans. Coll Macdonald, Loeb Classical Library [1977], 40–1).

Baroness Frederika Charlotte Louise von Riedesel (baroness de reidesel) lived in 1779 with her family at Colle, an Albemarle County estate neighboring Monticello, when her husband, a general of German mercenary forces, was paroled to the area along with other soldiers captured at the Battle of Saratoga. She died in 1808 (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 1:477; Marvin L. Brown Jr., ed. and trans., Baroness von Riedesel and the American Revolution: Journal and Correspondence of a Tour of Duty, 1776–1783 [1965], xxxiii–xxxvi).

1Manuscript: “renumerated.”

2Manuscript: “contented.”

Index Entries

  • Adrain, Robert; recommends O. Reynolds search
  • Baltimore College search
  • Cicero; quoted search
  • Colle (Albemarle Co. estate); von Riedesel family reside at search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; and Baltimore College search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; and University of Virginia search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; letters from search
  • Indians, American; artifacts of, at Monticello search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • mathematics; solutions published search
  • mathematics; University of Virginia professorship of search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Entrance Hall search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Portico; publishes mathematical solutions search
  • religion; and toleration search
  • Reynolds, Owen; mathematical solutions by search
  • Reynolds, Owen; seeks position at University of Virginia search
  • Riedesel, Frederika Charlotte Louise, baroness von; inquiries about search
  • schools and colleges; Baltimore College search
  • schools and colleges; sectarian search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; progress of search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; mathematics professorship search