Thomas Jefferson Papers

George W. Summers and John B. Garland to Thomas Jefferson, 18 February 1822

From George W. Summers and John B. Garland

Washington College Feb. 18th 1822


Some of the members of this institution having formed themselves into a Society, for their improvement in speaking, have taken the liberty of calling it the Jefferson Society, as a token of the high esteem and veneration, with which they regard your virtue and talents

We sir have the honour of being appointed a committe, to write you in order to, be informed what day1 claims the Glory, of having given Birth, to a statesman who is now the admiration of the world, and will one day rank with a Lycurgus, and a Solon.

We wish to be informed of this that we may hereafter, celebrate that day, as the brightest era in the annals of our republic. by answering this our humble request (and if you think proper) to send us any, advice which your superior wisdom may dictate, you will oblige us exceedingly.2 We have sir the honour of being your most obedient humble servants,

Geo W. Summers } Committe
John B Garland

RC (MHi); entirely in an unidentified hand; endorsed by TJ as received <23> 22 Feb. 1822 from Washington College in Lexington and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with Dft of TJ to Charles Willson Peale, 18 July 1824, on verso; addressed: “Honorable Thos Jefferson Charlottesville Va P: mail”; franked; postmarked Lexington, 19 Feb.

George William Summers (1804–68), attorney and public official, was born in Fairfax County and moved with his family to Kanawha County (later West Virginia) in 1813. Beginning in 1820 Summers attended Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, and he went on to graduate from Ohio University in Athens in 1825. He studied law afterward under his brother in Kanawha and was admitted to the bar in 1827. Summers represented Kanawha County in the Virginia House of Delegates for four terms, 1830–32 and 1834–36, and he served two terms in the United States House of Representatives, 1841–45. In 1850–51 he attended the Virginia constitutional convention, and in the latter year he unsuccessfully ran for governor as the Whig candidate. Summers was elected a circuit court judge in 1852, resigning the position in 1858. He sat on the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, 1860–62. Summers supported the Union at an 1861 peace conference in Washington, D.C., attended the state convention in Richmond that same year, but resigned his seat after Virginia passed the ordinance of secession. He owned five slaves in 1850 and fourteen in 1860, when he possessed real estate valued at $53,000 and a personal estate worth $20,000. Summers continued to practice law until his death in Charleston, West Virginia (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. Laidley, History of Charleston and Kanawha County [(1911)], 103–9; Catalogue of Washington College, Virginia [1869], 34; Ohio Alumnus 5 [Mar. 1928]: 68; George W. Atkinson, Bench and Bar of West Virginia [1919], 118–9; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends ; Catalogue of the University of Virginia [1866], 3; DNA: RG 29, CS, Kanawha Co., 1850, 1860, 1850 and 1860 slave schedules; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 30 Sept. 1868; gravestone inscription in Spring Hill Cemetery, Charleston).

John Belfield Garland (1803–77), physician and dentist, was born in Richmond County and began attending Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) in 1820. In 1832 he lived in Richmond County and supported President Andrew Jackson’s reelection. Garland was a physician in Fredericksburg by 1837, and he practiced dental surgery there by 1845. He owned two slaves in 1840 but opposed secession and in 1864 served as an acting assistant surgeon in the United States Army at a hospital in Washington, D.C. By 1870 Garland was again practicing dentistry in Fredericksburg, where he died (Bible record and unidentified newspaper obituary in Virginia Appalachian Notes 29 [2005]: 74–8; Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of Washington and Lee University [1888], 74; Richmond Enquirer, 15 May 1832, 10 July 1840; Recommendatory Notices of the Indian History and Biography, now publishing by Edward C. Biddle [(Philadelphia, 1837)], 37; DNA: RG 29, CS, Spotsylvania Co., 1840, 1870; American Journal of Dental Science 6 [1845]: 162; American Journal of the Medical Sciences, new ser., 50 [1865]: 28, 31; Fredericksburg Virginia Star, 25 Apr. 1877).

1Manuscript: “day day.”

2Manuscript: “exceedlingly.” Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Garland, John Belfield; and Jefferson Society of Washington College search
  • Garland, John Belfield; identified search
  • Garland, John Belfield; letter from search
  • Jefferson Society of Washington College; named for TJ search
  • Lycurgus (Spartan lawgiver) search
  • schools and colleges; literary and fraternal societies at search
  • schools and colleges; Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) search
  • Solon; mentioned search
  • Summers, George William; and Jefferson Society of Washington College search
  • Summers, George William; identified search
  • Summers, George William; letter from search
  • Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) search