Tag Archives: William Small

How else can mentors help?

He [William Small] returned to Europe in 1762, having previously filled up the measure of his goodness to me, by procuring for me, from his most intimate friend G. Wythe, a reception as a student of law, under his direction, and introduced me to the acquaintance and familiar table of Governor Fauquier, the ablest man who had ever filled that office. With him, and at his table, Dr. Small & Mr. Wythe, his amici omnium horarum [Latin: friends all hours], & myself, formed a partie quarree, & to the habitual conversations on these occasions I owed much instruction. Mr. Wythe continued to be my faithful and beloved Mentor in youth, and my most affectionate friend through life.
Autobiography, 1821*

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise mentors bring in more mentors.
The previous post listed the qualities Jefferson attributed to his revered college professor, Dr. William Small. His instructor didn’t keep his student to himself but introduced him to others who could guide him, as well.

First among those was lawyer George Wythe, who directed Jefferson’s five-year study of the law. Wythe moved from mentor to “my most affectionate friend through life.” Next was Lieutenant Governor Francis Fauquier, the King’s representative in colonial Virginia.

Together, Small, Wythe and Fauquier, ages 36, 44 and 56, took the 17-year-old Jefferson into their company. The impressionable teenager learned much by observing these men, listening to and participating in their conversations.

Fauquier died in 1768 at age 65, Small in 1775 at age 41. Wythe lived until age 80, believed to be poisoned by a mulatto grandnephew in 1806. The relative was charged with the crime but not convicted. Courts did not accept the testimony of blacks, the only witnesses to the crime.

*This link is to the entire autography. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.
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What qualities make a good mentor?

[I] then went to Wm. and Mary college, to wit in the spring of 1760, where I continued 2. years. It was my great good fortune, and what probably fixed the destinies of my life that Dr. Wm. Small of Scotland was then professor of Mathematics, a man profound in most of the useful branches of science, with a happy talent of communication, correct and gentlemanly manners, & an enlarged & liberal mind. He, most happily for me, became soon attached to me & made me his daily companion when not engaged in the school; and from his conversation I got my first views of the expansion of science & of the system of things in which we are placed.
Autobiography, 1821*

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders-to-be need skilled mentors.
Jefferson was almost 17 when he continued his education in college at Williamsburg. He came into the orbit of Dr. William Small, the only faculty member who was not an Anglican clergyman. Because of upheaval within the school, Small became Jefferson’s only professor, teaching all of his classes.

Sixty years later, Jefferson would cite the qualities that made Small extraordinary:

  1. “Profound,” which Webster’s 7th New Collegiate defines as “intellectual depth and insight”
  2. Devoted to the “useful branches of science,” wisdom relevant to everyday life
  3. “a happy talent for communication,” an engaging and effective classroom teacher
  4. “correct and gentlemanly manners,” proper and polite
  5. “an enlarged and liberal mind,” willing to consider all the possibilities
  6. “made me his daily companion,” taking young Jefferson under his wing
  7. “from his conversation,” verbal interaction with a high purpose

I’ve begun re-reading Jefferson’s Autobiography. I may take posts from it for some time.

*This link is to the entire autobiography. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.
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