not having written any three lines of this without interruption it has been impossible to keep my ideas rallied to the subject. I must let these hasty outlines go therefore as they are. some are premature, some probably immature; but make what use you please of them except letting them get into print.
Thomas Jefferson to Littleton W. Tazewell, January 5, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know attribution can be a liability.
Jefferson was nearing the end of a long letter, describing in both grand terms and lesser ones his vision for a top-notch university in Virginia. Some letters he answered as time permitted. This one he answered immediately.
He had read Tazewell’s letter the evening before, on a subject dear to his heart and responded the next day, squeezing it in among his presidential duties. As such, he said he hadn’t written more than three lines at a time “without interruption.” He claimed he couldn’t keep his thoughts clear on the project.
Still, he was so eager to contribute to the debate, he would let his thoughts go out immediately, jumbled or not, well-thought-out or not. Tazewell could pick and choose as he liked.
The only thing he insisted on was anonymity, not wanting to give his political foes more to use against him or the university-to-be.