Thomas Jefferson Papers

John D. Terrell to Thomas Jefferson, 26 August 1821

From John D. Terrell

Alabama. Marion County 26th August 1821


In the act of Congress which authorized a Convention in the State of Alabama you will have noticed a donation of Seventy-two Sections of land to this government. for literary purposes Specifialy,

Those lands were Selected under the immediate Superintendance of the late Govr Bibb and are not inferior neither in quality or Situation to any lands in the State, to lease—or to Sell those lands—how best to husband their proceeds and the establishment of a State university upon the best principles, are the questions

This Subject was agitated at the last fall Session and many leading members were disposed to have addressed Mr Jefferson through the Executive by Joint resolution.1 the Legislature however adjourned Sooner than was expected, which, together with the press of business incident on the close of a Session, prevented this Course

The days may come when the financial Concerns of this Country may want a prop when folly or turpitude may prevent2 a ready Support in the funds of this institution—what is the best mode of Security—As chairman on the part of Senate, on School & College lands and the establishment of a State university, I have ventured on this resort, feeling as I do—a great desire to be in possession of your free and enlarged views on the questions Submitted, So as to be enabled to lay them before the Genl Assembly, which Convenes at the temporary Seat of government (Cahaba) on the first monday in Novr next to which time & place you will please to address me,

You will want no evidence of my Sensations—I Know that I have made an innovation—on the private hours of a man, who from his own choice has retired from public life—but Sir tis his experience we want and for this, we are emboldened to look from the firm Conviction, that your Services always Stand upon the threshold of the wants of your Country. Accept Sir the assurance of the great Consideration with which I remain your Obnt &C.

Jno D Terrell

RC (CSmH: JF-BA); addressed: “Mr Jefferson of Monticello, Albermarle County, Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Russellville, Ala., 31 Aug. 1821; endorsed by TJ as a letter from “Terrell George D” received 19 Sept. 1821 and so recorded (as a letter from “Terril George D.”) in SJL.

John Dabney Terrell (ca. 1773–1850), surveyor, farmer, and public official, was born in North Carolina. He lived in Georgia by 1806, when the state legislature elected him to be a district surveyor. The following year Terrell was appointed a Tugalo River commissioner, and in 1811 he represented Franklin County in the Georgia House of Representatives. He moved to Alabama Territory by 1818. Terrell sat in the convention that wrote Alabama’s first constitution the following year. He represented Marion County in the Alabama State Senate, 1819–21, was elected its president in 1821, served in the state’s House of Representatives, 1822–23, and was appointed a justice of the Marion County Court late in 1820. By about 1826 Terrell had been appointed a special commissioner to the Chickasaw Indians, and he was involved in the negotiations that led to the 1832 Treaty of Pontotoc Creek, which ceded all Chickasaw land east of the Mississippi River to the United States. He resided in Marion County at the time of his death (Thomas McAdory Owen, History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography [1921], 4:1656; A-Ar: Terrell Family Papers; Stephen F. Miller, The Bench and Bar of Georgia: Memoirs and Sketches [1858], 1:362–3; Augustin Smith Clayton, A Compilation of the Laws of the State of Georgia, Passed by the Legislature Since the Political Year 1800, to the Year 1810, Inclusive [Augusta, 1812], 383; Georgia House of Representatives, Journal [1811 sess.]; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 18:388–9, 668–9; Alabama Senate, Journal [1819 sess.]; [1820 sess.]; [June 1821 sess.]; [Nov.–Dec. 1821 sess.]; Alabama House of Representatives, Journal [1822 sess.]; Alabama Historical Quarterly 6 [1944]: 129, 135; 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 , 6:192, 10:743; DNA: RG 29, CS, Ala., Marion Co., 1830, 1840, 1850 mortality schedules [place of birth]).

The 2 Mar. 1819 act of congress that authorized Alabama to write a constitution and form a state government allocated two townships or seventy-two sections of land for the support of a seminary of learning (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 3:491). On 18 Dec. 1821, during a legislative session that began the first monday in novr (5 Nov.), the Alabama General Assembly passed “An Act supplementary to an Act to Establish a State University.” This measure vested the congressional land grant in the trustees of the University of Alabama and stipulated that it was not to be sold for less than seventeen dollars per acre (Harry Toulmin, comp., A Digest of the Laws of the State of Alabama [Cahaba, 1823], 554–5).

1Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

2Manuscript: “present.”

Index Entries

  • Alabama, University of; land grant for search
  • Alabama (state); legislature of search
  • Alabama (state); university for search
  • Bibb, William Wyatt; as governor of Ala. search
  • Congress, U.S.; and Ala. statehood search
  • schools and colleges; University of Alabama search
  • Terrell, John Dabney; identified search
  • Terrell, John Dabney; letter from search
  • Terrell, John Dabney; requests advice from TJ search