Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper and John Wayles Eppes, 16 September 1821

To Thomas Cooper and John Wayles Eppes

Monticello Sep. 16. 21.

Dear Sir

The shortness of the time now left to Francis1 for the pursuit of Academical studies, calls for extreme parcimony in the employment of the portion of it which still remains to him: and I am rendered more anxious for the economy of this remnant by information recieved from him, of which I was not before apprised. it seems2 there is a distinction in the College of Columbia between what are called regular, and irregular students: that the former are held to a systematic course of studies, embracing all the branches of science taught in that college; and that they recieve a Diploma as the crown of their attainments; while the latter are at liberty to devote their time to those sciences only which will be useful in the particular line of life they expect to pursue; but recieve no Diploma. unaware of this distinction, he has hitherto been arrayed in the rank of regular students, which has economised his time less rigorously than it’s scantiness required. the sciences useful for him may be divided into those which require the aid of an Academical apparatus and instruction, and those which he may acquire himself by a judicious course of reading after quitting college. the former comprise Mathematics, astronomy, Natural philosophy, and the several branches of chemistry: to which I should add Botany & Anatomy if taught at Columbia. the self-acquirable are Zoology, geography, history, politics, Law natural and municipal, ethics, ideology, belles lettres generally, & Rhetoric particularly. in the exercises of this last I know the value of the judicious criticisms of a qualified judge of style and composition. but time being wanting, this is one of the desirable things for which he must trust to himself hereafter. the ensuing year therefore I think he should3 employ exclusively on Algebra & Fluxions, the geometry of strait lines and of the Cone, astronomy, physics, & chemistry: and, should these be too much for the year, as I fear they may, fluxions & the Conic sections may be omitted, as least likely to be called for in the probable pursuits of his life. this relinquishes the honorary distinction of a Diploma, a good enough thing to excite the ambition of youth to study, but, in modern estimation, no longer worth tacking, by it’s initials even, to one’s name; and certainly not worth the sacrifice of a single useful science. he tells me that Cavallo’s Natural Philosophy is that used at College. I advise him therefore, in his leisure hours, to carry on the same subjects in Haüy’s4 Physique elementaire, an abler and more recent work than Cavallo’s. I expect in autumn, a copy of Haüy,5 of Biot’s astronomy, & Dumeril’s Natural history, which I wrote for, to Paris, for him, knowing he could not get them in America. in the mean time I observe there is a copy of Haüy6 in the7 College library.

When he enters on the study of the law (if that be8 his choice) as no human mind can apply itself with advantage to the same subject constantly, the sciences omitted at College may be carried on concomitantly with that of the Law. from 4. to 6. hours aday are enough for the Law.9 Anatomy, zoology, geography, history, politics, belles lettres, rhetoric and ethics, may each have their allotted hours. botany may amuse his rambles for exercise: and all may be attained within the period necessary for such a course of law-reading as will make a man respectable in that profession, and in the Senates of his country.10

[Remainder in PoC to Cooper only:]

On the subject of our University, F. Eppes will be able to inform you of the progress of our buildings. all of them will be compleated by the spring, except the one intended for a Library. but when the institution will be opened will depend on our legislature. after they shall liberate our annuity by a remission of the loan they made us on the hypothecation of that, we shall still require a year to get professors into place. Accept assurances of my constant esteem & respect

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViU: TJP); dateline and closing added in a different ink; with unrelated notations in an unidentified hand on second page. PoC of RC to Cooper (DLC); mutilated; at foot of first page: “Dr Cooper”; endorsed by TJ. Recorded separately in SJL as letters to Cooper and Eppes.

1Instead of preceding five words, PoC to Cooper reads “term left to my grandson Francis Eppes.”

2Instead of preceding two words, PoC to Cooper reads “he tells me.”

3Instead of preceding four words, PoC to Cooper reads “we would wish him to.”

4RC: “Hauÿ’s.” PoC to Cooper: “Haüy’s.”

5RC: “Hauÿ.” PoC to Cooper: “Haüy.”

6RC: “Hauÿ.” PoC to Cooper: “Haüy.”

7PoC to Cooper: “your.”

8Instead of preceding three words, PoC to Cooper reads “which I believe is.”

9Sentence not in PoC to Cooper.

10RC to Eppes ends here with “ever and affectionately yours” and signature.

Index Entries

  • anatomy; collegiate education in search
  • anatomy; study of search
  • astronomy; collegiate education in search
  • belles lettres; study of search
  • Biot, Jean Baptiste; Traité Élémentaire d’Astronomie Physique search
  • botany; collegiate education in search
  • botany; study of search
  • Cavallo, Tiberius; The Elements of Natural or Experimental Philosophy (ed. F. X. Brosius) search
  • chemistry; collegiate education in search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); and construction of University of Virginia search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); letters to search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); professor at South Carolina College search
  • Duméril, André Marie Constant; Traité élémentaire d’Histoire Naturelle search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); and Central College–University of Virginia search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); and legal education search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, at South Carolina College search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); letters to search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); relationship with son search
  • ethics; study of search
  • geography; study of search
  • Haüy, René Just; Traité Élémentaire de Physique search
  • history; study of search
  • ideology; study of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; orders books search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; recommends books search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; education search
  • law; study of search
  • law; TJ on study of search
  • Literary Fund; and annuity for University of Virginia search
  • Literary Fund; and loans for University of Virginia search
  • mathematics; algebra search
  • mathematics; calculus search
  • mathematics; collegiate education in search
  • mathematics; geometry search
  • natural philosophy; books on search
  • natural philosophy; collegiate education in search
  • physics; collegiate education in search
  • politics; study of search
  • rhetoric; study of search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); and F. W. Eppes search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); curriculum of search
  • The Elements of Natural or Experimental Philosophy (T. Cavallo; ed. F. X. Brosius) search
  • Traité Élémentaire de Physique (R. J. Haüy) search
  • Traité Élémentaire d’Astronomie Physique (J. B. Biot) search
  • Traité élémentaire d’Histoire Naturelle (A. M. C. Duméril) search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; progress of search
  • Virginia, University of; Construction and Grounds; Rotunda (library) search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • zoology; study of search