Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Philip Pendleton Barbour, 10 April 1825

Frescati, April 10th 1825.

Dear Sir,

Having just returned from the Superior Court of Culpeper, I did not receive your letter of the 29th ult. till yesterday. I hasten to reply to it. The Suggestion which I intended to make in my letter of the 12th was this—That I would take the Professorship of Law for a single year by way of experiment, retaining however my present office ad interim; and that at the close of the year, I would either surrender my professorship, or my judicial appointment, if after actual experience of the duties & emoluments of the other, I could feel such a step to be consistent with the welfare of my family. I am duly sensible of the confidence which is implied, in the fact of the appointment having been offered me—and in the renewal of the offer in another form; and yet Sir, under the circumstances of my situation, I must decline accepting it now, or at the close of the year, to the exclusion of my present office, without having made a previous experiment. Independently of other considerations, as my present office is for life, and that would be a substitute for it, I should not be able without the advantage of experience to say, whether I could bear the labor & confinement incident to it: for as I undertake nothing without zeal, I should expect to apply myself with laborious attention. I need scarcely repeat, that I would be still entirely willing to accept it for the year, upon the conditions which I have stated; and tho’ I will not say that there are no objections to the course proposed, yet I cannot but think that they are less strong, than at first sight they seem to be. Whatever share of success I may have had at the bar, it was at Wm & Mary College, that the first impulse was communicated; and there is scarcely an instance of a student reading with a practising lawyer, or of a law school, in which more time is applied than is embraced in my proposition. After the trial of a year, if the confinement seemed not to be too great, and the probable emoluments of the office compared with the labor, would justify the course, I would resign my office of Judge, or if not that, certainly the other.

I have been thus explicit, to share my views in relation to the subject. Whatever course the visitors think most beneficial to the University, I wish them to pursue, and I feel assured that they will. Should my proposition be considered not of that kind, I shall acquiesce in the decision, with a hope that one better qualified than myself may be procured; if on the contrary, it should meet your approbation, I should enter on the duties of the office, with a settled purpose, to do whatever of good could be accomplished by industry, zeal, and such capacity as I possess. With renewed assurances of my earnest desire for the prosperity [. . .]institution, to an extent equal to your just expectations.

I remain with sentiments of esteem Your’s respectfully

P. P. Barbour


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