Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel Brown to Thomas Jefferson, 8 December 1821

From Samuel Brown

Lexington Decr 8th 1821.

Dear Sir.

Had I been able to convene the Trustees of the Transylvania University on an earlier day, I should have replied to your very interesting Letter relative to the Tax on Books, long before this time—But the absence of some of the Board & the natural supineness of others, prevented them from taking a vote on your propositions before last week. I am, however, happy to inform you, now, that all your wishes, on that subject, have been unanimously & cordially met, & that a Petition signed by the Presidents of the University & of the Board of Trustees has been transmitted to Congress accompanied by the necessary instructions to our Representatives in that body—

The number of students in this university, including the Preparatory school which is immediately attached to it, is, as will appear in the Report of the President 366—The Medical Department, of which I know more, consists of 135 regular Medical Students who will practise Medicine as a Profession—Previously to the establishment of this Medical Institution Kentucky never sent to the Atlantic schools more than 10 or 12 Medical students annually—By examining our Matriculation list it appears that1 this state alone furnishes our classes with 90—the rest are collected from ten different states—I mention this fact to shew how important it is to increase the number of our Medical institutions & to bring Education more within the reach of the lower & middling classes of society, whose habits of industry & labour so often advance them to the highest ranks of professional usefulness & reputation—From what I have seen of the Med. Students here & in Phila & N York I have no hesitation in affirming that, with equal means of instruction double the amount of information would be acquired here in an equal time—We have no amusements to attract, few dissipations to tempt our young men from regular study & we have no fame as a school which can be substituted for individual merit. When Medical Schools become very large the Professors & not the Pupils are the gainers—Two hundred is as great a number as can profit in one class, from the Anotomical Demonstrations or the Clinical cases—Why do not Virginia establish a Medical School at Richmond or Norfolk? The whole expence of the establishment of this Medical school in addition to what one of our Professors shamefully begged (perhaps 1200$.) was $5000 given by the state & $6000 to purchase a Library which the faculty borrowed from the town of Lexington—Even in a pecuniary point of view the foundation of a Medical school in a town of moderate size would be worthy of attention. Lexington now derives a revenue of $30 or 40,000 from a few thousand Dollars appropriated to this object—Our success would seem to prove that a Medical school may succed to a certain extent at least, in a town much less than Richmond or Norfolk—Our Library is very valuable & it is manifest that our students are availing themselves of its treasures much more than they would have done in a dissipated Capital—The school of Cincinnati consists of about 30 pupils—Some of the Professors are certainly men of great merit & I wish them success—Empiricism will be suppressed in proportion to the growth of Medical schools in our Country—

Next spring I hope to gratify the best feelings of my heart by paying you a hasty visit when on my way to Philadelphia—I have great curiosity to see the College which interests you so deeply & so worthily & am anxious to place my Son in it as soon as it is open for the reception of Students—

My Brother joins in my warmest wishes for your health & happiness—

Yo Mo Obt

Sam Brown

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esq. Late President U.S. Montecello Virginia”; stamp canceled; postmarked Lexington, Ky., 11 Dec.; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Dec. 1821 and so recorded in SJL.

On 27 Nov. 1821 Transylvania University’s Board of Trustees read TJ’s 28 Sept. 1821 letter relative to the tax on books and resolved to “draw up a Petition to Congress to repeal the duties upon books imported into the Union.” The petition was presented to the United States Senate on 27 Dec. 1821 (Transylvania University, Trustees Minutes [KyLxT]; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 11:41). The presidents of the university & of the board of trustees were Horace Holley and Robert Wickliffe, respectively (A Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, February, 1821 [Lexington, 1821], 2, 3). The school of cincinnati was the Medical College of Ohio.

1Preceding three words interlined.

Index Entries

  • books; tariffs on search
  • Brown, James P. search
  • Brown, Samuel; and tariffs on books search
  • Brown, Samuel; family of search
  • Brown, Samuel; letters from search
  • Brown, Samuel; proposed visit of search
  • Cincinnati, Ohio; Medical College of Ohio search
  • Congress, U.S.; petitions to search
  • Holley, Horace; as president of Transylvania University search
  • Lexington, Ky.; medical school in search
  • Medical College of Ohio (Cincinnati); students at search
  • medicine; education in search
  • New York (city); and medical education search
  • Norfolk, Va.; and medical education search
  • Philadelphia; and medical education search
  • Richmond, Va.; and medical education search
  • schools and colleges; and tariffs on books search
  • schools and colleges; medical search
  • Senate, U.S.; and tariffs search
  • taxes; on books search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); and tariffs on books search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); Board of Trustees, members of search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); funds for search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); library at search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); medical school at search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); petitions Congress search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); president of search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); students at search
  • Wickliffe, Robert; and Transylvania University search