Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Lemuel Shaw, 20 February 1822

To Lemuel Shaw

Monticello Feb. 20. 22.

Th: Jefferson returns his thanks to mr Shaw for the report of the committee of the legislature of Massachusets which he has been so kind as to send him on the Maryland proposition to appropriate lands for the purposes of education. the Committee has certainly made a very strong argument against a measure which promised at first to be carried by acclamation. he begs leave to assure mr Shaw of his high respect.

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of Thomas Cooper to TJ, 24 Nov. 1819; dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ.

Lemuel Shaw (1781–1861), attorney, public official, and judge, was born in Barnstable, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1800. He studied law for three years and in 1804 was admitted to the bars of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Shaw practiced law in Boston and served as a representative in the Massachusetts legislature, 1811–15, 1820–21, and 1829, a delegate to a state constitutional convention, 1820–21, and a state senator, 1821–22. He drew Boston’s first city charter in 1822. During three decades as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, 1830–60, Shaw wrote more than 2,100 opinions that greatly influenced American commercial and constitutional law and often benefited railroads and emerging industries. He was also an overseer and fellow of Harvard, 1831–53 and 1834–61, respectively. In 1860 Shaw’s real estate was valued at $96,000 and his personal property at $32,000. He died in Boston (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 ; MHi: Shaw Papers; Leonard W. Levy, The Law of the Commonwealth and Chief Justice Shaw [1957]; Harvard Catalogue description begins Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1925, 1925 description ends , 10, 14, 115, 182; DNA: RG 29, CS, Mass., Boston, 1860; Boston Daily Advertiser, 1 Apr. 1861; gravestone inscription in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Mass.).

The committee report sent to TJ was signed by Shaw, dated 21 Jan. 1822, and headed “Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and twenty two. The Committee of both Houses of the Legislature, to whom at a former session, was referred a Message of His Excellency the Governor, communicating sundry Resolutions of the Legislature of the State of Maryland, relative to the appropriation of a portion of the Public Lands of the United States, in certain cases, to the encouragement and support of Common Schools, and other Seminaries of Learning; and to whom also, was referred that part of the several communications of His Excellency to both Houses, at the present session, relating to the same subject, and transmitting sundry Resolutions of the States of Vermont, New Jersey, and Kentucky, relative to the same, having according to order, had the same under consideration, thereupon ask leave, respectfully, to submit the following Report.” It concluded by proposing resolutions “That the Public Lands of the United States, are justly considered to be the common property of the Union, and that no State can justly claim any exclusive appropriation of them,” and “That the reservation of certain lots of land in townships offered for sale by the United States, for the support of schools in such townships, in pursuance of standing laws, cannot justly be considered as a donation to the States within which such lands are situated, and cannot, therefore, entitle any other State to demand any land or other donation by way of equivalent” (copy in MWA; also printed in Resolves of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [Boston, 1822], 419–34, and JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1821–22 sess.], 212–7).

Index Entries

  • education; federal appropriations for search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Kentucky; education in search
  • Kentucky; legislature of search
  • Maryland; and education search
  • Maryland; legislature of search
  • Massachusetts; education in search
  • Massachusetts; legislature of search
  • New Jersey; education in search
  • Shaw, Lemuel; and education search
  • Shaw, Lemuel; identified search
  • Shaw, Lemuel; letter to search
  • United States; and public education search
  • Vermont; and education search
  • Vermont; legislature of search