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Thomas Jefferson on the purposes of a university, Part 1

… the Commissioners were first to consider at what point it was understood that university education should commence? … And this brings us to the … higher branches of education, of which the Legislature require the development; those, for example, which are,
To form the statesmen, legislators and judges, on whom public prosperity and individual happiness are so much to depend;
To expound the principles and structure of government, the laws which regulate the intercourse of nations, those formed municipally for our own government, and a sound spirit of legislation, which, banishing all arbitrary and unnecessary restraint on individual action, shall leave us free to do whatever does not violate the equal rights of another;
To harmonize and promote the interests of agriculture, manufactures and commerce, and by well informed views of political economy to give a free scope to the public industry; …
Report of the Commissioners of the University of Virginia, Aug. 4, 1818

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Jefferson wrote the report of these 21 commissioners, who met Aug. 1-4, 1818, at Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Commission had been charged by the Legislature to prepare detailed guidelines for a new public university.
The duties of the Commission were to recommend:
– A location (Charlottesville was chosen over Staunton and Lexington.)
– A design for the grounds. (The original design is still very much in evidence.)
– The curricula
– Qualifications of the professors
In-between the first two and last two was an explanation of the purposes of the University, our focus in this post and the next.
These first three purposes could be summarized:
1. To prepare leaders on whom the public can depend
2. To promote principles of sound government and an understanding of laws which
            – Govern international relations
            – Are necessary for local government
            – Protect individuals from unnecessary or arbitrary restraint
            – Leave individuals free to do whatever they wish, provided they don’t
infringe on another’s equal rights.

3. To promote a free market economy, based on balanced interests of agriculture,
manufacture and commerce.
Monday’s post (April 30) will detail the remaining three purposes.

Thomas Jefferson has a purpose for everything,
even your audience! Invite him to speak.
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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