Thomas Mann Randolph to Joseph C. Cabell

Dear Sir,

I ventured to postpone sending your Books to you while Correa de Serra who arrived 48 hours after me, this visit, should remain with Mr Jefferson. The imperfect copy of Wildenow+

+It ends with Monaecia; to which it is entire.

which you lent to Girardin, and afterward to me, is to him, while among our mountains, such a treasure as you, no doubt, find the Encyclopedie. And after all; not having it in my power to send a Cariole, as I intended, I have been confiding enough, from long experience of your goodness, to venture to retain Wildenow’s species plantarum 8. V. 8vo, and Cuviers Anatomie 5 do do untill I can send again. The trunk would not have, conveniently and safely, held [. . .] 21 volumes more than the 3 vols of sinclairs report, 5 of La Metheries theorie de la terre, and 1. v. 4:to, translation of the Nomenclature. I have put these into it, making 9 vl; and with the hope of contributing to the agreeable occupation of Mrs Cabell, I have added 1 vol of the Town and Country Magazine for 1776: 1 vol. of Langsdorfs Voyages. 1. of Leghs travels in Egypt, Aarons Burrs trial, as he is again made interesting by misfortune long partially unfolded, and was then represented as the intended Victim of Mr Jeffersons vengeance; the Botanic Garden; Homme des Champs; Gerard on taste, and memoirs of Prince Eugene. I am sorry that the volumes are in such condition as to require her to use a reading desk with them. I will send Wildenow and Cuvier upon the first notice from you, as soon as it is received. I cannot refrain from repeating my thanks to you for this rare favor you have done me.

I am sorry to feel the inclination to express to you my disappointment at some parts of General Cockes plan for the Bremo Seminary. I object not to morning and evening prayers, allthough I know that too much, and too frequently repeated, ceremonial, has an inevitable tendency to render religion purely scenic, and to make the young, who may profess it warmly, first Actors, and next Hypocrites. He will excuse me for giving my opinion that a Visitor of the University of Virginia might have been expected to propose rather to limit religion to the cultivation of the Moral Faculty, and the admiration of the Creator in the study of the immutable Laws by which he governs nature. Ceremonies, Rhetoric, Music, earnest entreation to change the laws of Nature, as old as the Universe itself, in favor of the most importunate creatures; Theology, which experience has sufficiently demonstrated can never be improved, and which must for ever be a department of the imagination in the view of all bold and profound thinkers; none of these make part of the Religion of a Philosopher, who feels conscious of nothing in common with the Creator but the moral Faculty itself. I should object much more as a parent to corporeal punishment, which I deem totally inadmissible in a Republic at this enlightened period. Excite emulation, infuse true taste, and create enthusiasm for learning by rousing and stimulating curiosity. If one set of teachers fail to do it, procure another, and do not sufferr the first to charge the consequences of their own indolence, incapacity, and want of attention to the phenomena of mind, upon the innate depravity of human nature. Crimes should be punished by the magistrate only: faults proceed from bad taste; and vices from ill directed energy in a few, and the influence of that example in a the great number. As for obstinate inattention, I should as soon think of keeping a child awake by slaps, rather than by operating on its fancies, as attempt to cure it that by punishment of any kind whatsoever. I am fully convinced that the pledge required to give information against companions, who may be engaged in, or meditate, any combined resistance to the school, authorities, or any frolicksome mischief, to be done in a body, will not be well received by parents in general, or redeemed by the youths who are compelled to give it. such schemes are invariably first suggested in a [groupe]; and the majority determines to execute, or neglect, the proposition. The minority are free to continue refusal of concurrence; any individual may go out honorably and divulge, in the moment itself of disclosure by the contrivers and proposers, the intention or proposal; but if he wait to hear all that is said on the subject, and to discover the whole plan and object, he is manifestly under the influence of indecisive motives, and is ultimately prevented by timidity, from becoming an Accomplice; for his mind did not instantly revolt at the violation of principle proposed; or he is a spy. The regulation proposed for the Bremo Seminary supposes a discovery after a time, or an actual execution, or at least attempt to execute the scheme; and the informer in such case would stand [. . .] too nearly on the footing of what is called states eviden[. . .] Americans are not accustomed to consider systematic[. . .] combined resistance to injuries as a crime; not even if in the end it they prove imaginary, for that distinction never could be made, if those who inflict were allways alone to decide. Mischievous frolicks are allways the result of idleness, which proceeds from the inability of teachers to excite the mind of their pupils by the proper display of the fascinations of learning. And in the case of crimes, he who lets any time pass before he divulges criminal intention in others runs the risk of escaping from being charged as accessary, by turning states evidence only.

I have written as fast as my pen could move, and have thought while I have been writing; therefore have to apologise for more crudity, and perhaps inaccuracy of conception and of logic than I know of, for I cannot d read over, or ever shall know, as I have no copier. It is my misfortune to be able to write in no other way. My difficulties in life have long since taken from me all power of commanding attention, and I cannot think upon any subject I wish, when it is most suitable for me to do [so.] There must be an enthusiastic movement or I cannot do it at all. such thoughts are allways hurried, too warm, and too often perplexed.

I wish General Cocke had not stipulated and advantage for “his own family” in such a formal way. It is really so small that his possessing it would never have been noticed, and the distinction sounds somewhat aristocratical. most respectfully yours

Th: M. Randolph
RC (NcD: Thomas Mann Randolph Papers, Sec. A Items 1-16 c.1); damaged at seal and fold; addressed: “Joseph C. Cabell Esqr at his seat near Warminster Nelson County”; endorsed by Cabell: “T. M. Randolph Aug: 5. 1820. ansd 15.”; with the following list of books in Cabell’s hand:
1— 1 vol: of the town & Country magazine for 1776.
1. 1 vol of Langsdorf’s voyages. 1 vol. oct.
1 Legh’s travels in Egypt—1 vol:
1 Burr’s Trial. 1 vol:
1 Botanic Garden. 1 vol:
1 Hommes des champs. 1 vol:
1 Gerard on taste. 1 vol:
1 memoirs of Prince Eugene. 1 vol:
1 Anderson’s Hebrides. 1 vol:
1 Transactions of the american Philosophical socy 1 vol:
1 St Clair’s Revenue wh I returned by the servt having it already.
3 vols St Clair’s Report
5. La methrie.
1. 4o Nomenclature.
8. Wildenow.
5. Cuvier.
32– Total no sent by the servant.
Joseph C. Cabell
Date Range
August 5, 1820