Wilson Cary Nicholas (1761-1820) was a U.S. congressman, U.S. senator, governor of Virginia, and political protégé of Thomas Jefferson. Born in Williamsburg, he studied at the College of William and Mary until he joined the Continental army during the American Revolution. By 1784 he had joined his mother in Albemarle County and was elected in that year to the House of Delegates, serving until 1789. He befriended James Madison and consulted with Jefferson on the Kentucky Resolutions. Nicholas was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1799 and became a prominent Jeffersonian. He resigned in 1804, but Jefferson asked him to return to Congress. He won a House seat in 1806, serving only one term due to ill health. In 1814, he was elected governor of Virginia and served through the end of the War of 1812. He was a strong supporter of education and helped Jefferson with his plan for the University of Virginia.

Nicholas's ties to his mentor, Jefferson, continued later in their lives. Jefferson stopped at Nicholas's house, called Mount Warren, on his trips back and forth to Poplar Forest.[1] His daughter Jane married Jefferson's grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph in 1815. Nicholas and his brother George were heavy land speculators and as a consequence of the Panic of 1819, he defaulted on a $20,000 note, which had been cosigned by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was left with the responsibility for repaying the debt, worsening his own economic situation. Nicholas died the following year, and was buried in the Jefferson family graveyard.

Further Sources


  1. ^ S. Allen Chambers Jr., Poplar Forest and Thomas Jefferson (Forest, Va.: Poplar Forest Foundation, 1993), 140.