James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 15 November 1817

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello Nov. 15. 17.

Dear Sir

We are sadly at a loss here for a Palladio.1 I had three different editions, but they are at Washington, and nobody in this part of the country has one unless you have. If you have you will greatly aid us by letting us have the use of it for a year to come. It will come safely by the stage, and may be left at the stage office of either Milton or Charlottesville, & either postmaster will pay the postage for me to the driver. We fail in finishing our 1st. pavilion this season by the sloth and discord of our workmen, who have given me much trouble. They have finished the 1st. story and covered it against the winter. I set out to Bedford tomorrow, on a short visit, and at Lynchbg. shall engage undertakers for the whole of next summer’s brickwork.

Cooper is not able to get us a Professor of languages above the common order; and is suspended as to coming here. Efforts are on foot in Philadelphia to get from the Medical department permission for their students to attend their own chemical professor or Cooper at the choice of the student. In this case all will quit the former & attend the latter, which will ensure him more than he can get here, and in a more agreeable situation. We shall have to write to Dugald Stewart2 & Professor Leslie,3 who I am sure will select for us those of the 1st. order. But we had better defer writing till we know whether the legislature will adopt us,4 because that will greatly add to the inducements of a foreigner to come to us. I have given to mr. Cabell a sketch of a bill for establishing the ward schools, Colleges, & University at an expence within the funds of the literary board now in hand.5 Their funds could not have met Mercer’s bill in a century.6 I hope they will pass mine. We all join in affectionate respects to mrs. Madison & yourself

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

1Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) was an Italian architect whose I Quattro Libri dell’ Architettura, published in 1570 and thereafter reproduced in various editions, greatly influenced Jefferson and other American architects. It is not known what edition JM owned (James S. Ackerman, Palladio [Baltimore, Md., 1966], 19, 27, 180, 184–85).

2Dugald Stewart (1753–1828) held the chair of moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, 1785–1820, from which he exerted a great influence on intellectual life in Great Britain. Stewart’s sympathetic views on the French Revolution endeared him to JM and his fellow Republicans.

3John Leslie (1766–1832) was a mathematician and scientist who was elected chair of mathematics at the University of Edinburgh in 1805, and then chair of natural philosophy in 1819. Knighted in 1832, he is best known for his experimental work on the principles of heat, but he published widely on a variety of scientific topics.

4In its 1815–16 session the Virginia General Assembly had granted permission for the creation of the Central College but had included no funds for its support. Jefferson’s hope was that the college would become, as it later did, the state-supported University of Virginia (Malone, Jefferson and His Time description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time (6 vols.; Boston, 1948–81). description ends , 6:247–50, 282).

5For Jefferson’s draft of an education plan, see ibid., 6:267–74.

6In the 1816–17 session of the Virginia General Assembly, delegate Charles Fenton Mercer proposed a sweeping plan that would establish free primary schools in every part of the state for all white children and a higher education system of fifty-one academies, four colleges, and a centrally located university. The Literary Fund would underwrite the system, with the primary schools to be funded first. The plan, which passed the House of Delegates, ran into political troubles in the Senate and was defeated (Douglas R. Egerton, Charles Fenton Mercer and the Trial of National Conservatism [Jackson, Miss., 1989], 116–28).

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