The Elementary School Act, Thomas Jefferson's "Bill for Establishing Elementary Schools," was proposed legislation that Jefferson submitted to Joseph C. Cabell in September 1817. Jefferson's proposal was not an official act of the Virginia legislature, nor of any other legislature.

A comparison made between Jefferson's polygraph copy and the proposed bill received by Cabell indicates that Jefferson deleted certain portions of his original text. One of the deleted portions is frequently quoted: "no religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practised [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination."[1]Anchor

Further Sources

  • Wagoner, Jennings L. Jefferson and Education. Monticello Monographs Series. Charlottesville: Thomas Jefferson Foundation (2004). See page 109.


  1. ^ Bill for Establishing Elementary Schools, [ca. September 9, 1817], in PTJ:RS, 12:10-15 (transcription available at Founders Online); Jefferson to Cabell, September 9, 1817, in PTJ:RS, 12:15-16 (transcription available at Founders Online). See the transcription of the bill for differences between the two versions. Cabell's copy is located at The Thomas Jefferson PapersSpecial Collections, University of Virginia Library. Jefferson's polygraph copy is located at Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.