Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Hart Benton, 24 December 1821

To Thomas Hart Benton

Monto Dec. 24. 21.

Th:J. returns his thanks to mr Benton of Missouri for the copy of the petition of the University of Virga he has been so kind as to send him. he recieves it as an augury of approbn of it’s object,1 a presumption authorised2 by his enlightened efforts3 in the affairs of his own state, whose entrance into our4 fraternity of states has been welcomed more sincerely or warmly by no one than5 by


Dft (DLC); dateline at foot of text; written on verso of title page of Memorial of the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (Washington, 1821; printed above as Petition of University of Virginia Board of Visitors to United States Congress, 30 Nov. 1821), with TJ’s endorsement of this copy as received 1 Dec. 1821 from “Benton   Washn.”

Thomas Hart Benton (1782–1858), attorney and public official, was born near Hillsborough, North Carolina, and in 1799 was expelled after briefly attending the University of North Carolina. Two years later he moved with his family to property they owned near Nashville, Tennessee. Benton was a teacher and studied law before his admission to the bar in 1806. He sat in the Tennessee Senate in 1809, and during the War of 1812 he served under Andrew Jackson, first as a colonel in the Tennessee militia and then as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army. In 1815 Benton moved to Saint Louis, Missouri, where he resumed his legal practice and edited the St. Louis Enquirer. Two years later he fatally shot Charles Lucas in the second of their two duels. Benton was elected one of Missouri’s first United States senators in 1820, serving in that capacity from 1821 until 1851. In 1824 he visited TJ at Monticello. As a senator Benton was a strong ally of President Jackson and an advocate of hard money, cheap acquisition of public land by settlers, and westward expansion. In the 1840s he supported the Union and opposed Nullification and the extension of slavery. Defeated for reelection in 1850, Benton served one term in the United States House of Representatives, 1853–55. Late in life he wrote a largely autobiographical history, Thirty Years’ View; or, a history of the working of the American government for thirty years, from 1820 to 1850, 2 vols. (1854–56), published a lengthy refutation of the 1857 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, and completed a sixteen-volume Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 (1857–61). Benton died of cancer in Washington, D.C. (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, repr. 1968, 20 vols. in 10 description ends ; William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography [1979–96], 1:139–42; Daniel Lindsey Grant, Alumni History of the University of North Carolina [2d ed., 1924], 48; 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 , 1:213; Jackson, Papers description begins Sam B. Smith, Harold D. Moser, Daniel Feller, and others, eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 1980– , 11 vols. description ends ; Calhoun, Papers description begins Robert L. Meriwether, W. Edwin Hemphill, Clyde N. Wilson, and others, eds., The Papers of John C. Calhoun, 1959–2003, 28 vols. description ends ; Clay, Papers description begins James F. Hopkins and others, eds., The Papers of Henry Clay, 1959–92, 11 vols. description ends ; Herbert Weaver and others, eds., Correspondence of James K. Polk [1969–2021]; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:432–3; Benton’s Account of a Visit to Monticello, [25 Dec. 1824]; [Benton], Historical and Legal Examination of that part of the Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Dred Scott Case, which declares the unconstitutionality of the Missouri Compromise Act, and the self-extension of the Constitution to territories, carrying slavery along with it [1857]; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 12 Apr. 1858; gravestone inscription in Bellefontaine Cemetery, Saint Louis).

1Reworked from “augury that mr B. approves it’s principles.”

2Word interlined in place of “confirmed.”

3Word interlined in place of “conduct.”

4Word interlined in place of “the.”

5TJ here canceled “himself.”

Index Entries

  • Benton, Thomas Hart; identified search
  • Benton, Thomas Hart; letter to search
  • Benton, Thomas Hart; sends work to TJ search
  • books; tariffs on search
  • Congress, U.S.; Petition of University of Virginia Board of Visitors to United States Congress search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Missouri question search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Petition of University of Virginia Board of Visitors to United States Congress search
  • Memorial of the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson) search
  • Missouri (state); and statehood search
  • taxes; on books search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; petition of, to U.S. Congress search
  • Virginia, University of; Books and Library; and tariffs on books search