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William Douglas (1708-1798) was a Scottish Reverend of St. James Northam Parish, Goochland County, and was the tutor of young Thomas Jefferson from 1752 until the death of the latter’s father in 1757. Jefferson was sent to the Reverend’s Latin school to study Greek, Latin, and French upon the return of his family from Tuckahoe to Shadwell.

Jefferson later wrote of his teacher in his Autobiography: “my teacher mr Douglas a clergyman from Scotland was but a superficial Latinist, less instructed in Greek, but with the rudiments of these languages he taught me French ....”[1] According to Henry Randall, Jefferson also had recollections “of mouldy pies and excellent instruction” at the Reverend Douglas’s school.[2] Regardless of his mixed reviews of his education under Douglas, Jefferson continued to keep in touch with his tutor until Douglas’s death in 1798.  No direct correspondence between them has survived, however.

- Abigail Bilbrey, 8/10

Primary Source References

1794 September 24. (Jefferson to Garrett Minor). “I had proposed ere this to have visited my antient tutor and friend Mr. Douglas: but I have been attacked by a rheumatism .... You are so near Mr. Douglas that I will trouble you with my affectionate respects to him, with an assurance that there is nothing I desire more than to see him once again ....”[3]

1840s. (Isaac Granger Jefferson).  “Mr Jefferson was living in the College (of Wm & Mary) Isaac & the rest of the servants stayed in the Assembly-house—a long wooden building. Lord Botetourt’s picture (statue) was there. The Assembly-house had a gallery on top running round to the College. There was a well there then: none there now. Some white people was living in one eend [sic] of the house: a man named Douglas was there: they called him Parson Douglas.”[4]

Further Sources


  1. ^ Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, January 6, 1821, in Ford, 1:3. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  2. ^ Randall, Life1:17-18.
  3. ^ PTJ, 28:167. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  4. ^ Isaac Jefferson, Memoirs of a Monticello Slave (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1951), 13-14.