… having had more favorable opportunities than fall to every man’s lot of becoming acquainted with the best books on such subjects as might be selected, I do not know that I can be otherwise useful to your society than by offering them any information respecting these which they might wish. my services in this way are freely at their command …
To John Wyche, May 19, 1809
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders are helpful but not too helpful.
This was Jefferson’s closing in his response to news of a proposed county library in south Virginia. He had stated the importance of an educated citizenry, the value of a lending library toward that end, and the types of books that library should contain. Now, he limited his invovlement in their effort.
He did not endorse that particular library. He did not contribute to the capital campaign to establish it. Yet, acknowledging his good fortune when it came to books (his personal library contained over 6,000), he offered to advise them on what books they should acquire. He did not offer that counsel unsolicited; they would have to ask again.