Monticello May 16. 20.
We regretted much your absence at the late meeting of the board of Visitors, but did not doubt it was occasioned by uncontroulable circumstances. as the matters which came before us were of great importance to the institution, I think it a duty to inform you of them.
You know the sanction of the legislature to our borrowing 60,000. D on the pledge of our annuity of 15,000. D. the Literary board offered us 40,000. D on that pledge, to be repaid at five instalments, commencing at the end of the 3d. year from the date of the loan, and interest to be regularly paid in the mean time. we endeavored to obtain permission to draw for only 15,000. D. at first, and for 2,000. D. monthly afterwards, to avoid the payment of dead interest. this they declined, as bound themselves to keep the whole of their capital always in a course of fructification. we then requested a postponement of instalments to the 4th. instead of the 3d. year, with an additional loan of the further sum of 20,000. D authorised by the law. to the postponement they acceded and we are assured they will to the further loan. to explain to them the urgency of this additional year's postponement, a paper was laid before them of which I inclose you a copy, and on which we are now acting. should the legislature not help us to the 93,600 D therenoted, the result will be that at the end of the next year all the buildings will be compleated (the Library excepted) and will then remain unoccupied 5. years longer. [note, see below]
Another subject on this, as on former occasions, gave us embarrasment. you may have heard of the hue and cry raised from the different pulpits on our appointment of Dr. Cooper, whom they charge with unitarianism as boldly as if they knew the fact, and as presumptuously as if it were a crime and one for which, like Servetus, he should be burned: and perhaps you may have seen the particular attack made on him in the Evangelical magazine. for myself I was not disposed to regard the denunciations of these satellites of religious inquisition; but our colleagues, better judges of popular feeling thought that they were not to be altogether neglected; and that it might be better to relieve Dr. Cooper, ourselves and the institution from this crusade. I had recieved a letter from him expressing his uneasiness, not only for himself, but lest this persecution should become embarrassing to the visitors, and injurious to the institution; with an offer to resign, if we had the same apprehensions. the Visitors therefore desired the Commee of Superintendance to place him at freedom on this subject, and to arrange with him a suitable indemnification. I wrote accordingly in answer to his letter, and a meeting of trustees of the College at Columbia happening to take place soon after his reciept of my letter, they resolved unanimously that it should be proposed to, and urged on their legislature to establish a professorship of geology and mineralogy, or a professorship of law, with a salary of 1,000. D. a year to be given him, in addition to that of chemistry, which is 2,000. D. a year, and to purchase his collection of minerals; & they have no doubt of the legislature's compliance. on the subject of indemnification, he is contented with the balance of the 1,500. D. we had before agreed to give him, and which he says will not more than cover his actual losses of time and expences. he adds `it is right I should acknolege the liberality of your board with thanks. I regret the storm that has been raised on my account; for it has separated me from many fond hopes and wishes. whatever my religious creed may be, and perhaps I do not exactly know it myself, it is pleasure to reflect that my conduct has not brought, and is not likely to bring, discredit to my friends. wherever I have been, it has been my good fortune to meet with or to make ardent and affectionate friends. I feel persuaded I should have met with the same lot in Virginia had it been my chance to have settled there, as I had hoped and expected. for I think my course of conduct is sufficiently habitual to count on it's effects.' I do sincerely lament that untoward circumstances have brought on the inseparable loss of this professor, whom I have looked to as the corner stone of our edifice. I know no one who could have aided us so much in forming the future regulations for our infant institutions: and altho we may perhaps obtain from Europe equivalent in science, they can never replace the advantages of his experience, his knolege of the character, habits & manners of our country, his identification with it's sentiments & principles and the high reputation he has obtained in it generally. In the hope of meeting you at our fall visitation, and that you will do me the favor of making this your head quarters, and of coming the day before, at least, that we may prepare our business at ease, I tender you the assurance of my great esteem & respect.
type: ALS (polygraph copy),
Pages: 4p, with TJ docket "Taylor Genl. Robert. May 16. 20."
Note: At the bottom of page one TJ wrote "Genl. Taylor Mr. Johnson."
Note: On 17 May TJ wrote James Madison concerning this letter: "As the measures which were adopted at the last meeting of our visitors were of a very leading character I have thought it proper to inform our absent colleagues of them; and have delayed the communication only until I could add what has been done under the resolutions of the board. as this latter information has not been received by you, I inclose you my letter to General Taylor for perusal and pray you, when read, to stick a wafer in it and put it into the post office. you will excuse this economy of labor, as from the stiffening of my wrist, writing is become slow & painful. I have moreover such another letter to write to mr. Johnson, and a good part of it to Genl. Breckenridge. My general health is mended, altho' I do not gain strength. I am obliged to continue bandages, altho' under their pressure the swelling is kept down, yet it returns on omitting them" (DLC:JM). An ink-blot renders uncertain the number "5," but TJ elsewhere says that "if we are to repay the loan from our own funds, the buildings will be shut up for five years" (TJ to Thomas B. Robertson, 26 August 1820).
* Transcriber: Frank Grizzard