James Madison Papers

John Hartwell Cocke to James Madison, 13 November 1827

Bremo Nov. 13. 1827.

Dear Sir

I was prevented by ill health from visiting the University until last week, and therefore did not receive your last letter as soon as I otherwise should, Mr. Garrett having dispatched it to me by post just before I reached his House. I have now to regret it the more, from finding it contained the request, to suspend further proceedings in regard to Dr Jones appointment, as in conformity to your former letter. I had written inviting Dr. Jones to come on in the confidence that the Board of Visitors would confirm his appointment.

I have the pleasure to inform you, that there appears to be order & regularity prevailing generally at the University and in short I heard no complaints except against our old offenders the Hotel keepers. From information I obtained chiefly from Mr. Garrett & Mr. Trist, I can’t doubt, that their bankrupt condition, (for this is the case with all of them except Minor who you will consider as not included in these remarks) is exerting a most unfortunate influence upon the public feeling towards the Institution. It is stated, for Example, that a Drover who supplied them with pork last year to the amount of $1500. will not be able to get a Dollar out of them—Minor had determined to give up his Hotel until my late visit, in consideration of the small profits he could make from one fourth of the present number of Studts. I have some hope however that I prevailed upon him to suspend his final determination a little longer—He says with 50 boarders & not less, it will be an object worth his remaining for, and I find it is Mr. Garretts opinion, that unless we modify our regulations so as to give pretty good assurance of this number to Each Hotel, we shall not be able to command such men as ought to be in the Hotels. The inclosed Memo. from Mr. T. will show his probable concurrence in this opinion. While the number of students boarding at the University does not exceed 100 as at present, I should exercise the power given to the Executive Committee of notifying through the Proctor on or before the 1st. Decr. all the present Hotel Keepers, except Minor, that their contracts would cease with the year 1827. Under this arrangement I know Mr. Minor would gladly remain, and I am informed, that Major James Carr of Charlottesville who offered himself to the Visitors in July for a Hotel, but who has since become doubtful, under the prospect of getting only one fourth of the present whole number of Boarders, will also gladly take a Hotel with any prospect of increased numbers. Indeed, I am informed, he will at any rate offer himself as one of the Four, under the late regulation looking for increased Numbers in future. Mr. Garrett—speaks in high terms of Mr. Carr & thinks he is a man who will fill one of the Hotels in all respects satisfactorily. He further suggests that, if the number of Hotel keepers were reduced to two the Institution need not thereby lose any thing in Rent, for the two Hotel keepers could much better afford to pay the rent of all six Hotels with 50 boarders each, than the Six can afford to pay their respective rents as they now stand, which is quite manifest. Nor would the profits to two Hotel keepers with the present number of students be inordinate. With 50 boarders Mr. Minor says from 8 to 10.00 Dolls. may be made with economy & good management. And it appears to me, for much less than this, we can only expect such incumbents or rather incumbrances as we have already found in 5 cases out of 6. This then is my first choice of plans as to the Hotel keepers. But should you not concur with me in this, I should designate Richardson Chapman & Gray as the Hotel keepers to be left out, with an informal intimation to the Proctor, that if Mr. Carter would take Grays vacant Hotel with the understanding of its being for the benefit of Mrs. G. he should have the refusal of it. In this case Minor will probably give up his contract, whose place, I think would be best filled by Major Carr.

It escaped Mr. Cabells memory to say anything when we were together last, about dispensing with the meeting of the Board in Decr. The faculty expressed some anxiety when I was up, that the meeting should not be postponed unless unavoidable.

Mr. Bonnycastle has recd. some astronomical Instruments which he is anxious to place in a situation of safety & usefulness, and urges some strong reasons in favor of the immediate erection of a small cheap building of Wood about 12 feet square, as a temporary observatory I have instructed the Proctor to make an Estimate of its cost, and by your leave will order its erection if the amount should not make too serious an inroad upon the funds—I am Dear Sir, with high respect & Esteem Yours truly

John H. Cocke sen.

RC (DLC); copy (ViU). RC docketed by James Madison.

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