Elementary School Act

The Elementary School Act of 1817 was not an official act of the Virginia (or any other) legislature, but was a piece of proposed legislation that Thomas Jefferson sent to Joseph C. Cabell on 9 September 1817 with an accompanying letter. The recipient copy of the letter and enclosure are located in the Cabell Papers at the University of Virginia. It should be noted that portions of the text of the enclosure were scratched out by Jefferson in the copy he sent to Cabell, so the polygraph copy, located at the Library of Congress, contains text not found in the recipient copy.

Part of the text that appears in the polygraph copy, but not in the recipient copy, is frequently quoted: "No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination."

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