The charter being granted & the Visitors named, these become then the Agents as to every thing else. their first objects will be 1. the special location. 2. the institution of professorships. 3. the emploiment of their capital. 4. necessary buildings. a word on each…
Thomas Jefferson to Littleton W. Tazewell, January 5, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders provide guidelines then let the experts work.
Once the legislature had authorized a university in Virginia and painted its mission in broad strokes, specific planning would be turned over to gifted, knowledgeable and unpaid trustees, to be known as Visitors. As the legislature had four broad directives, the Visitors would have four narrow ones:
1. A specific location – “needs no explanation,” he wrote.
2. Professors – He went into great detail, insisting on the best men to teach only the most useful sciences. They were to be multi-disciplinary scholars, so that each might teach several subjects, lessening the number required. Their salaries “should be very liberal.” This would bring the brightest scholars, give the university high status from the very beginning, and attract young men from all the states.
3. How to best use their endowment – Here Thomas Jefferson did something rare for him, deferring because “on this subject others are so much better judges than myself.”
4. The campus itself, the subject of the next post.