Thomas Jefferson Papers

William P. Smith to Thomas Jefferson, 20 December 1821

From William P. Smith

Philadelphia Decr 20th 1821.


As it appears from present circumstances that the University at Charlotteville of which you are rector will be ready for the reception of pupils during the Subsequent year,1 I am led to enquire of you respectfully whether an English teacher would meet with encouragement from the board of trustees. I have been for some time employed in teaching the usu[al] branches of an English education in private families, and as I wish to make it a permanent2 employment, I should be much pleased by an engagement3 at your institution. With this View I have ventured to trouble you on this occasion, and to know when, in what manner, and to whom, to make application for a Situation at the aforesaid University.

I have the honor Sir to be,
Respectfully Your Mo. Obt
William P. smith
 So. 10th St.

RC (DLC); mutilated at seal; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire, Charlotteville, Virginia”; franked; endorsed by TJ as received 26 Dec. 1821 and so recorded in SJL.

William Penn Smith (ca. 1796–1866), educator and tax collector, was born and educated in Philadelphia. He resigned from the United States Army in 1820 after serving briefly as a second lieutenant of artillery. That same year he was the secretary for meetings of “Old School” Republicans supporting Joseph Hiester’s election as Pennsylvania governor. Smith worked in Philadelphia as an accountant, 1823–24, and as a teacher, 1825–30, including chairing the English department at Episcopal Academy. He was appointed a city tax collector in 1829, a position he held until 1844. Smith was still living in Philadelphia in 1850, when he owned real estate valued at $20,000, but he died in Bristol, Pennsylvania (Smith to TJ, 8 June 1824; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, repr. 1994, 2 vols. description ends , 1:905; Philadelphia Weekly Aurora, 6 Mar. 1820; Philadelphia Democratic Press, 12 Sept. 1820; Robert Desilver, The Philadelphia Index, or Directory for 1823 [(Philadelphia, 1823)]; Desilver, The Philadelphia Directory, for 1824 [(Philadelphia, 1824)]; Thomas Wilson, ed., The Philadelphia Directory and Stranger’s Guide, for 1825 [Philadelphia, 1825], 131; Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, 22 July 1826; Register of Pennsylvania 3 [1829]: 16; Desilver’s Philadelphia Directory and Stranger’s Guide, 1830 [1830], 181; McElroy’s Philadelphia Directory for 1844 [1844], 293; DNA: RG 29, CS, Pa., Philadelphia, 1850; Philadelphia Inquirer, 28, 29 May 1866).

1Word interlined, with caret mistakenly placed after the comma.

2Manuscript: “permament.”

3Manuscript: “egagement.”

Index Entries

  • education; English language search
  • English language; applicants to teach at University of Virginia search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Smith, William Penn; identified search
  • Smith, William Penn; letter from search
  • Smith, William Penn; seeks position at University of Virginia search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; and faculty recruitment search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; faculty applicants search