Thomas Jefferson Papers

Andrew Wills to Thomas Jefferson, 11 March 1822

From Andrew Wills

Fredericksburg, 11th March 1822


Having been engaged, for some time, in the study of Scientific Grammar, I have experienced considerable obstruction from my unacquaintance with the Saxon language.—

Judging that you have a knowledge of that tongue,—by recommending it, as a branch of study in the Virginia University; & knowing no other source, whence I could receive information on this subject, I have taken the liberty of soliciting your advice, in regard to the course to be pursued in the attainment of the language, & the books necessary to effect that object.—

The only apology, which I have to offer, for this obtrusion,—arises from that zeal, which you have always manifested for the advancement of Science, and your constant disposition to encourage and assist it’s humblest cultivators—

I am, Sir, With sentiments of deep respect, your most obedt servt

Aw Wills

RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); dateline adjacent to closing; at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Mar. 1822 and so recorded in SJL.

Andrew Wills (ca. 1800–27), educator and editor, was a native of Scotland who graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1816. The next year he moved to the United States and began teaching in 1819 in Fredericksburg, where he owned two slaves in 1820. Wills became a naturalized citizen in 1822 and moved the following year to Huntsville, Alabama, where he was an active Freemason and presided over Greene Academy for nearly two years. In 1826 he became the editor of the Huntsville Democrat, but his political exchanges in the newspaper led to his death in a duel shortly thereafter (Peter John Anderson, ed., Officers and Graduates of University & King’s College, Aberdeen, MVD–MDCCCLX [1893], 275; DNA: RG 29, CS, Fredericksburg, 1820; Ruth Ketring Nuermberger, “The ‘Royal Party’ in Early Alabama Politics,” Alabama Review 6 [1953]: 97–8, 198–209; 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 , 6:576, 577; Huntsville Democrat, 27 July 1827).

TJ included the Anglo-Saxon language as a branch of study to be taught at the University of Virginia in the Rockfish Gap Report of the University of Virginia Commissioners, 4 Aug. 1818, document 5 in a group of documents on The Founding of the University of Virginia: Rockfish Gap Meeting of the University of Virginia Commissioners, 1–4 Aug. 1818.

Index Entries

  • Anglo-Saxon (Old English) language; instruction in at University of Virginia search
  • Anglo-Saxon (Old English) language; study of search
  • English language; Anglo-Saxon (Old English) search
  • grammar; study of search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; proposed curriculum search
  • Wills, Andrew; and Anglo-Saxon language search
  • Wills, Andrew; identified search
  • Wills, Andrew; letter from search