George Blackburn to Thomas Mann Randolph


Happening to make a short visit to Virginia with my children in search of health and exercise, I found several of my friends in this state interested for the fate of the contemplated University, & as I have long felt the importance and the necessity of such an institution I determined to seize the opportunity of conversing on the subject with Mr Jefferson & other gentlemen concerned, but have been disappointed, in a great measure. I learned in Lexington that it was probable I should not find Mr Jefferson at the springs and at Staunton I understood that you would most probably be at Montecello, and was confirmed in this by my friend Mr Girardin at Staunton, who gave me a note of introduction to you.

I have many matters to propose or to suggest that might prove extremely important in the progress of the system, and some of them perhaps essential to its final success. I am justified in this presumption by my great experience as a teacher, during seventeen years in America twelve of these in two important Colleges,—that of Wm & Mary & the So Car. College. I have thus acquired an intimate knowledge of the habits and manners of the Southern youth and the most judicious method of leading them onward in the road of Science.

It is I believe understood, in all the Southern states, that as a teacher precedence is given to me, as well for science as for the preservation of order and discipline.—This suffers nothing, as yet, from my age, and is improved by my experience. habit.

My exertions have, in one year, given such eclat to the system to which I am attached in Baltimore, that it has now two hundred pupils, Indeed I have some reason to deem myself a successful veteran in this sort of business, as no system has ever declined so long as I have been directly concerned in it.

I was lately invited into Virga under circumstances highly flattering. but upon viewing the place, I have thought proper to decline. I am however satisfied that the pupils, male & female would have been between 200 & 300.

I enclose you a note from Mr Girardin, which you will have the goodness to present1 to Mr Jefferson. Should it so happen, that my friends Should would ultimately propose my taking apart in this good work it might be useful together with other documents which should it be necessary I shall send on from Balre I have, amongst my former pupils, in this country, now grown up to manhood, numerous friends who have full confidence in me, and who do not forget the pleasure they had in hearing my lessons. I meet with them in every part of my rout;—I have no interest, now, in adulation; my bread and my water are sure in every part of these U.S. but, I confess, that to find so many who remember me, with esteem, after ten or twelve years absence, has confirmed those sentiments that I have for some years, long since imbibed, in favour of the mind of Virginia. I have made many movements, and with my eyes open, and I know that the youth of Virga with all their faults, (for they have some,) soar far above [. . .] those of any other state that I have visitted; my children, tho’ not natives, were partly educated here,—and here their first attachments were formed; they are now useful members of this great community, and they and my self agree, that if we could be eligibly situated, we would rather bestow our time and talents, here, than in any other place.

I send to you a magazine, and a news paper, containing a short expose of my own System and that of my daughters; It may seem a little strange that a man, circumstanced as I have been, should direct a methodist institution but this will not appear paradoxical when it is recollected that, tho’ I opposed cunning, artful, and intrigueing priests who have, by their fraudful artifices, ruined more than twenty American Schools and colleges, I never said or2 wrote, or felt a single word or sentiment that militated against true religion and piety,—I have sternly opposed that abominable monopoly, which shoves into office ignorant priests, on account of their sanctimonious garb and demeanour, to soothe [. . .] and conciliate, the good opinion of weak minds.

Thus has the dignity of learning been debased, thus has the reign of ignorance been perpetuated, and thus has low cunning, wearing the mask of virtue, triumphed over talents and genius, over truth and justice, I am glad to find that the Virginian University has no connection with sects or parties, that while its main object is real science it guards alike against, the wild and levelling principles, it & shuns the other extreme of priestly or religious domination.

Much remains to be done, Virga has made experiments enough to guide her future march,—She has had three Sectarian Colleges, none of them uniformly loving and beloved,—She wants a system of general benevolence,—and integrity,—a system that will embrace all the children of the state with equal affection without regard to Political opinions, or Theological polemicks. perhaps I say too much,—it is because I feel—

with great respect your obt humble sert
Geo Blackburn

Professor of Mathtics Philosy & Astron. Asbury Col.

George Blackburn taught an academy in Virga 4 years—was 7 or 8 years professor of Wm and Mary College. Was 3 or 4 years prof. of the So Car. Col. Has been one year prof. of the Asbury College Baltimore.—his present office.

RC (MHi); addressed: “Colonel T. Randolph Esqre Montecello.
1Manuscript: “to present to present.”
2Manuscript: “or or.”
George Blackburn
Date Range
August 16, 1818