James Madison Papers

Thomas H. Ellis to James Madison, 16 September 1832

University of Va Sepr—16th 1832

Dear Sir.

I have been induced to believe by one of the members of the Faculty, that I might probably be relieved from one of their decisions, by an appeal to the Executive Committee of the Visitors, of which you are a member.

The circumstances are these: My father, Charles Ellis, of Richmond, was not entirely satisfied with my progress in my studies during the last Session of the Uny. of Va; and knowing that I was subject to many inconveniences & interruptions by the frequent company of friends and the noise & disturbances of those adjacent to me, was extremely desirous to give me every possible advantage & facility during the present session, by placing me in a retired boarding house out of the Institution. With this design he selected that of Mrs Brockenbrough, a house approved by the Faculty, as a situation least liable to objection; because he supposed I might be allowed to board there without any violation of the laws of the University, as she is the widow of an old and esteemed friend, in whose family he would have wished me very much to reside, especially if it could be of any advantage to them.

The enactments of the Visitors allow persons to board elsewhere than at the Hotels if they be 20 years of age, or if it be at the house of a relation, or particular frd. The gentlemen of the Faculty have felt it their duty to construe this law so rigidly, as not to allow me to board with Mrs B. because Mr B, with whom my father’s friendship formerly existed, is unfortunately now not alive—and hence (say they) I should not be boarding with a friend. This is according to the letter of the law—But if I may be allowed to have an opinion, the reason of the law seems, in the present unfortunate circumstances of the family, to bear more strongly in my favour, than formerly. I have every reason to believe that with the wish, or even acquiescence of the Executive Committee the Faculty would very willingly give a more liberal construction to the law—and grant a privilege of which both my father & myself are extremely anxious that I may be possessed. I have written to the other gentlemen of the Executive Committee on the same subject, and trust that I shall hear from them & from you, a favourable answer to my request as speedily as possible; as I have already lost the advantages which I should otherwise have possessed by my early arrival, of selecting my own Dormitory & Hotel; have put Mrs B—and family to some trouble & expense; and cannot Matriculate until I hear from you. With anxious hope that my father’s wish may be gratified I remain, Dear Sir, with great esteem & respect Your Obedt. Servant

Thomas H Ellis


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