oct 6, 1817 - University of Virginia
A common theme and concern for much of Jefferson's private and public life is the idea of a well-educated people. In his personal life, Jefferson comes to own one of the largest personal collection of books in his time. When the British sack Washington D.C. during the War of 1812 and burn down the Library of Congress, with exception to the volumes he wants to keep Jefferson sells Congress his entire personal collection-- a total of 6,487 books-- to replenish the library and to help pay off the debt he had inherited from his father-in-law, John Wayles.
As a member to the Virginian House of Delegates one of the most significant bills he authors is the "Bill for a More General Diffusion of Knowledge" (1778), which will later be revised into and passed as the "Act to Establish Public Schools" (1796). [You can find a link to an electronic copy of Jefferson's "Bill for a More General Diffusion of Knowledge"on this timeline]
One of the most significant and clearest examples of his contribution and emphasis on the idea of a well-educated people is the establishment of the University of Virginia. In a letter to Dr. Joseph Priestley (January 18th, 1800), Jefferson imparts to Priestly his wish to establish a state university in Virginia.
[Here is a link to an electronic copy of the document: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-31-02-0275]
In December 1804, Littleton Tazewell, a member to the Virginian House of Delegates, writes to then President Jefferson regarding an interest by the House of Delegates in "the establishment of one great seminary of learning". In a letter back to Tazewell, Jefferson communicates his excitement of the news and discloses his ideas on the establishment.
[Here are a links to the electronic copy of both documents:
"letter from Tazewell to Jefferson" https://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/default.xqy?keys=FOEA-print-04-01-02-0891
"letter from Jefferson to Tazewell"
In 1810 the Virginia General Assembly makes appropriations for the "Literary Fund of Virginia"; a fund to be used for the furtherance of education in Virginia. Though the fund is created in 1810, it is not amended to the Virginia Constitution until 1867.
In the spring of 1814 Jefferson is elected to the Board of Trustees of Albemarle Academy, which becomes what some scholars call the "midwife" to the establishment of a state university. As a member of the Board of Trustees Jefferson quickly begins assisting the other members with making the plans for the academy and with drafting its rules of governance and funding proposals. In a letter he wrote to his dearest nephew on September 7th during this year, Jefferson divulges his vision for the future academy.
[Here is a link to an electronic copy of the document: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-07-02-0462]
On February 14th, 1816, the Virginia Assembly passes a bill for the chartering of Central College in the Albemarle County. (Jefferson suggested the name change from "Albemarle Academy to "Central College" to highlight the ideal geographical location of Charlottesville in Albemarle County.) The passing of the Central College charter is a rather unexpectedly long and arduous process due to a few of the provisions in Jefferson's draft namely the procuring of funds from the Literary Fund. With the persistent help and negotiating skills of a former member of the Virginian Assembly and a current member of the Virginian senate by the name of Joseph C. Cabell the charter for Central College is passed. Jefferson is then elected to the College's Board of Visitors along with James Madison, James Monroe, Joseph C. Cabell, Joseph Hartwell Cocke, and David Watson. Along with being elected to the Board of Visitors, Jefferson is also elected as Rector of the College.
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