Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson and Francis Walker Gilmer, 1814-1826

Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson and Francis Walker Gilmer, 1814-1826

Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson and Francis Walker Gilmer, 1814-1826

Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson and Francis Walker Gilmer, 1814-1826

Excerpt

The best picture of Thomas Jefferson still lies in his letters. Whether he is writing to his peers John Adams and DuPont de Nemours, to his nephews Peter and Dabney Carr, or to his rustic brother, Randolph, Jefferson always reveals much of himself. He also manages to draw out a good deal of the man to whom he is writing. Any portion of his correspondence, therefore, usually presents a double portrait.

The correspondence of Jefferson with Francis Walker Gilmer in this volume presents an exchange between two alert minds of broad interests. The letters cover the last twelve years in the life of each participant, one of whom died at the age of eighty-three and the other at thirty-six. Gilmer appears as the representative of the generation born a decade after Yorktown, though he was so unusual a representative that Jefferson referred to him as "the best educated subject we have raised since the Revolution." Gilmer is first the young man looking to his father's friend for advice or information, then the young lawyer exchanging ideas with the older on public affairs, and finally the trusted agent reporting to his chief on an important mission. Jefferson gives his advice carefully and shows his surprising confidence by selecting a man nearly fifty years his junior for a delicate mission in which his agent's judgment would largely determine the fate of his beloved university.

It is in this last capacity that Gilmer is most useful and the correspondence most interesting, for in it he brought to fulfillment one of Jefferson's great ambitions, the plan for securing in England an able faculty with which to open the infant University of Virginia.

Professors H. B. Adams, W. P. Trent, and P. A. Bruce, as well as the present writer have at various . . .

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