The first step in this business [creating a university in Virginia] will be for the legislature to pass an act of establishment, equivalent to a charter. this should deal in generals only. it’s provisions should go 1. to the object of the institution. 2. it’s location. 3. it’s endowment. 4. it’s Direction.
Thomas Jefferson to Littleton W. Tazewell, January 5, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Far-sighted leaders build a strong foundation first.
These four broad principles, in this case for a new university, could guide the establishment of any grand new endeavor:
1. Object – Why are we doing this? ”for teaching the useful branches of science”, not something for everyone
2. Location – Where will we do this? “the …[ ge]neral position, within certain limits,” rather than a specific spot, allowing for local input and control
3. Endowment – How will we protect the funding source? “bank stock, or public stock … should be immediately converted into real estate,” an appreciating asset rather than a speculative one
4. Direction – Who will provide oversight?” “in the hands of Visitors.” No more than five curators or trustees, men “of real science,” not political appointees. They were to be unpaid, but of such significance as to be “properly rewarded by honor, not by money.”