Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John M. Mason, 16 February 1822

To John M. Mason

Feb. 16. 22


I recieved a few days ago a copy of your excellent1 Address delivd at Dickinson college, but from whom was not indicated. if from yourself, I thank you for it, if from another I avail myself of the occn it procures me of tendering my respects to you of assuring you of the pleasure with which I see literary institns arising & cherished in the US. and of holding out the hand of fellowship to that over which you preside from that which I am endeavoring to bring into being. when this will be I know not but if in my time I shall endeavor to make it worthy of fraternity with2 the worthiest, and can promise that it shall rejoice as much in the success of yours & all similar instns as in it’s own. our wish is that science may be promoted without jealousy3 from what quarter or what instn it shall be effected.4 be pleased to accept the assurce of my high respect

Dft (MoSHi: TJC-BC); on verso of reused address cover of Archibald Stuart to TJ, 9 Dec. 1819; dateline at foot of text; at head of text: “Mr J. M. Mason Principal of Dickinson Coll. Carlisle”; endorsed by TJ. Recorded in SJL with additional notation: “Carlisle.”

John Mitchell Mason (1770–1829), clergyman and educator, was born in New York City and graduated from Columbia College (later Columbia University) in 1789. He afterwards studied theology with his father and at the University of Edinburgh, returning to New York in 1792 in order to succeed his father as pastor of an Associate Reformed congregation there. Mason held this post until 1810, then established a new congregation with a larger church building and officiated there until 1821. In 1800 he published a pamphlet accusing TJ of being an “infidel” and warning against his presidential election. Mason founded an Associate Reformed theological seminary in New York, at which he held a professorship, 1805–16, and he also edited the Christian’s Magazine, 1806–11. He served as a trustee of Columbia College, 1795–1821, and as provost, 1811–16. In 1821 Mason moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to assume the presidency of Dickinson College. In the following year he transferred his allegiance to the Presbyterians. Mason resigned from Dickinson in 1824 and returned permanently to New York City (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, repr. 1968, 20 vols. in 10 description ends ; Ebenezer Mason, ed., The Complete Works of John M. Mason, D.D., 4 vols. [1832]; Jacob Van Vechten, Memoirs of John M. Mason, D.D., S.T.P. with portions of his correspondence [1856]; Sprague, American Pulpit description begins William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 1857–69, 9 vols. description ends , 4:1–26; Thomas, Columbia University Officers and Alumni description begins Milton Halsey Thomas, Columbia University Officers and Alumni, 1754–1857, 1936 description ends , 4, 73, 112; A Catalogue of the Graduates in the faculties of Arts, Divinity, and Law, of the University of Edinburgh, since its foundation [1858], 215; [Mason], The Voice of Warning, to Christians, on the Ensuing Election of a President of the United States [New York, 1800]; Joshua A. Lippincott and Ovando B. Super, Alumni Record of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa. [1886], xv–xvi; New York Commercial Advertiser, 28 Dec. 1829).

TJ had received a copy of Mason’s Address, delivered at the organization of the faculty of Dickinson College, January, 15th, 1822 (Carlisle, 1822; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 6 [no. 226]; TJ’s copy in DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections), which spoke to the school’s trustees and auditors on the occasion of the dormant institution’s revival; defined the three objectives of education as “the evolution of faculty, the formation of habits, and the cultivation of manners” (p. 2); and suggested that achieving these goals depended on the college’s government “being reasonable, being firm, and being uniform” (p. 14).

1Word interlined in place of “most admirable,” also interlined.

2TJ here canceled “those of the highest.”

3Word interlined in place of (one word illegible) “[envy?] or concern of.”

4Manuscript: “affected.”

Index Entries

  • Address, delivered at the organization of the faculty of Dickinson College, January, 15th, 1822 (J. M. Mason) search
  • Dickinson College; educational objectives of search
  • Dickinson College; TJ on search
  • education; TJ on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; education search
  • Mason, John Mitchell; Address, delivered at the organization of the faculty of Dickinson College, January, 15th, 1822 search
  • Mason, John Mitchell; identified search
  • Mason, John Mitchell; letter to search
  • schools and colleges; Dickinson College search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; TJ’s vision for search