Quotations on the University of Virginia

1800. "we wish to establish in the upper & healthier country, & more centrally for the state an University on a plan so broad & liberal & modern, as to be worth patronising with the public support, and be a temptation to the youth of other states to come, and drink of the cup of knolege & fraternize with us."[1]

1820 Aug. 14. "...an establishment which I contemplate as the future bulwark of the human mind in this hemisphere."[2]

1820 Dec. 26. "This institution of my native state, the hobby of my old age, will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind, to explore and to expose every subject susceptible of it's contemplation."[3]

1820 Dec. 27. "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."[4]

1821 Feb. 15. "I had hoped...that we should open with the next year an institution on which the fortunes of our country may depend more than may meet the general eye. The reflections that the boys of this age are to be the men of the next; that they should be prepared to receive the holy charge which we are cherishing to deliver over to them; that in establishing an institution of wisdom for them, we secure it to all our future generations; that in fulfilling this duty, we bring home to our own bosoms the sweet consolation of seeing our sons rising under a luminous tuition, to destinies of high promise."[5]

1821 Mar. 9. "It is the last act of usefulness I can render, and could I see it open I would not ask an hour more of life."[6]

1825 Mar. 25. "I hope [the University of Virginia] will prove a blessing to my own state, and not unuseful perhaps to some others."[7]

Footnotes

  • 1. Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, January 18, 1800, in PTJ, 31:320.
  • 2. Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, in L&B, 15:264.
  • 3. Jefferson to Destutt de Tracy, in Ford, 12:181.
  • 4. Jefferson to William Roscoe, in L&B, 15:303.
  • 5. Jefferson to Gen. James Breckinridge, in L&B, 15:314.
  • 6. Jefferson to Spencer Roane, in L&B, 15:326.
  • 7. Jefferson to Edward Livingston, in L&B, 16:115.

Discussion

says

Lately I've been transcribing correspondence from 1823, which is full of references to the founding of the University of Virginia. Here's a quote from a letter I worked on this morning: I shall recieve, with high pleasure, your visit in the autumn. when the time approaches, we must secure a concert between that and mine to Bedford to which all times are indifferent.—our University is now compleat to a single building, which, having seen the Pantheon, your imagination will readily supply, so as to form a good idea of it’s ultimate appearance. you must bequeath it your library, as many others of us propose to do. TJ to William Short, 28 Mar. 1823 (original of recipient's copy at College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia)

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