Dabney Carr (1773-1837)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Dabney Carr (1773–1837) was the son of Thomas Jefferson’s sister Martha Jefferson (1746–1811) and his close friend Dabney Carr (1743–1773). Following his father’s death, Carr spent a great deal of his early life at Monticello under the care of Jefferson. Prior to his departure for Europe in 1784, Jefferson entrusted Carr to the care of his friend, James Madison, who enrolled the young man at Hampden-Sydney College. Carr attended the school from 1786 to 1789, but did not take a degree, instead entering the Reverend Matthew Maury’s boarding school in Albemarle County in 1790 to expand his knowledge of Greek and French. Three years later Carr decided to study law and Jefferson gave him full access to his library, suggesting numerous legal texts to him. Carr was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1796 and set up practice in Charlottesville. From 1801 to 1811 he served as commonwealth’s attorney for Albemarle County. In March 1811 Carr was appointed a state judge on an interim basis but he failed to win confirmation from the general assembly. He was appointed and confirmed as a judge of the new chancery court at Winchester in January 1812. In April 1825 Jefferson hoped to convince Carr to oversee instruction in law at the fledgling University of Virginia, but in February 1824, Carr had been elected a judge on the Virginia Court of Appeals and he served in that capacity until his death. [1]


  1. ANB; DAB; “Register of St. James Northan Parish, Goochland County” William and Mary Quarterly, 1st. ser., 15 (1906): 119; Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara R. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1950–), 9:520, 16:88–99, 24:578, 25:544; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 2 (1894–95): 223; Thomas Jefferson to Dabney Carr, 3 April 1825 and Dabney Carr to Thomas Jefferson, 30 April 1825 (DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers); Richmond Whig & Public Advertiser, 10 January 1837.