Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Magruder to Thomas Jefferson, 26 November 1821

From Thomas Magruder

Oak Spring, Caroline County near Ville-borough 26. novr 21

I am well aware, Sir, of the Apology a Stranger Should make for intruding upon your time for a moment; and I offer the Subject of this Communication as that Apology. It is Simply to enquire of you, the fountain head, as we all Conceive, in this lower Country, when, in your Opinion, the university now erecting under your auspices, will go into Operation with any degree of Certainty—the probable price which each Scholar will Cost for board tuition &c and to get the favor of you to point out the various Courses of instruction Contemplated to be given.

I have been always Opposed to Sending my children beyond the limits of their native State; and as I confess I do not like the establishment at Williamsburg, I Know not where I could turn my mind with better hopes for their Successfull improvement than to the institution I have alluded to.

My Boys, John & William, 13 & 15 years of age have been for Some time at the Rappahannock Academy—latterly with an Irish Gentleman, Mr Twomy, a private tutor in the family of McKensey Beverley.—In April next Mr Beverley will remove to the western Country & Mr Twomy will accompany him, and my boys are therefore to be provided for. They are in a Class, Reading virgil & Horace, and the eldest, John, is learning Greek. As they Cannot lose a moment of time very precious I think, at their periods of life, I must beg the favor of you to let me hear from You, if you will oblige me So far, as Soon as Convenient; and I must again offer the only Apology I have to make for thus troubling You, namely, an anxious wish to give to my Children the very best education I can which their native State will afford.

Any Communication you may be pleased to make to me, as Soon as may Suit your Conveniency, will be most thankfully received by

Sir, Your most respectfull & obent Servant

Thomas Magruder


I could have written to Col Lindsay—Mr Wm Gordon, Mr James Miller & Several other intimate friends on the Same Subject; but I thought it better to venture a Simple Communication to yrself, as I Knew very well they would all, either directly, or indirectly turn me over to you at last.

I have another boy, Allan B. Magruder nearly eleven who must be disposed of by 1st Jany Coming. He has been at a Common Country School & Knows very little, but is Smart enough. All these boys are to be educated at the expense of a very affectionate brother of mine namely, Dennis F. Magruder of Baltimore who is rich & what is better, willing, to expend his money in that way.—Can he be provided for immediately, or Soon, if he Commences his grammatical Studys as I wish him to do without loss of time?

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, Esquire, Monticello”; franked; postmarked Vielleboro, 28 Nov. 1821; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Dec. 1821 and so recorded in SJL; with Dft of TJ to Magruder, 8 Dec. 1821, beneath endorsement.

Thomas Magruder, merchant and attorney, moved from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Port Royal, where he operated a store by 1793 and was postmaster, 1794–97. He married a niece of TJ’s friend and relation by marriage, John Bankhead. Magruder operated a store in Alexandria from about 1797 to 1799 and then returned to Port Royal. He also practiced as an attorney, managed a tavern in 1805, and served locally as a trustee of both the Rappahannock Academy and a female school. In 1817 Magruder sought appointment as secretary to the governor of Alabama Territory, but failing in this attempt to provide for his family, he remained in Caroline County. He owned thirteen slaves in 1810 and fourteen in 1820, but his property was sold at public auction in 1825 and he owned no slaves by 1830. In 1850 Magruder lived in the household of one of his daughters (Thomas M. Settles, John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal [2009], 2–3, 5–7; Ralph Emmett Fall, Hidden Village: Port Royal, Virginia, 1744–1981 [1982]; Virginia Herald, and Fredericksburg Advertiser, 19 Dec. 1793; Virginia Herald, and Fredericksburg & Falmouth Advertiser, 18 Nov. 1796; Axelson, Virginia Postmasters description begins Edith F. Axelson, Virginia Postmasters and Post Offices, 1789–1832, 1991 description ends , 37; Alexandria Advertiser, 9 Oct. 1797; Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette, 16 June 1798, 10 Aug. 1799; DNA: RG 29, CS, Caroline Co., 1810–30, 1850; DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1817–25).

Of Magruder’s children, only John B. Magruder ultimately studied at the University of Virginia, attending classes in 1825 and 1826 (Nash, Students of the University of Virginia). The College of William and Mary was the establishment at williamsburg.

Index Entries

  • Beverley, McKenzie; employs tutor search
  • Gordon, William Fitzhugh; and University of Virginia search
  • Greek language; study of search
  • Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus); study of search
  • Lindsay, Reuben; and University of Virginia search
  • Magruder, Allan Bowie; education of search
  • Magruder, Dennis F.; and nephews’ education search
  • Magruder, John Bankhead; as University of Virginia student search
  • Magruder, Thomas; and sons’ education search
  • Magruder, Thomas; identified search
  • Magruder, Thomas; letters from search
  • Magruder, William B.; education of search
  • Miller, James (of Virginia); and University of Virginia search
  • Rappahannock Academy (Caroline Co.); students at search
  • schools and colleges; Rappahannock Academy (Caroline Co.) search
  • Twoomy, Cornelius L.; as tutor search
  • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro); study of search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; opening of search
  • Virginia, University of; Students; prospective students search
  • William and Mary, College of; criticized search