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The Prince

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Thomas Jefferson

Born: April 13, 1743, Shadwell, Virginia

Died: July 4, 1826, Monticello, Virginia

Best known as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States. He was a man of many talentsÐ'--an architect, an inventor, a scientist, and a collector of books and artifacts of American history. He could read more than five languages and was the U.S. minister to France for several years.

Today I would like to tell you about Thomas Jefferson's dedication to higher learning and his love for books. Both of which occupied much of his time and resources for the majority of his life. Let's begin by looking at his passion for education.

It is safer to have the whole people respectably enlightened than a few in a high state of science and the many in ignorance.

Thomas Jefferson described the founding of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville as "the last act of usefulness I can render" to the new nation. After leaving Washington, D.C. in 1809, Jefferson resumed his advocacy for a cause that had occupied his thoughts since before the American Revolution, the implementation of a state-wide system of education in Virginia that would insure the education of the common man rather than just the elite of the state

Although the Virginia Legislature refused to fund a general plan for primary and secondary education, it finally approved $15,000 in 1818 to establish a state university. The governor appointed Jefferson to the Rockfish Gap Commission which was responsible for selecting a site for the university, choosing plans, and executing them. The Legislature named and chartered the University of Virginia on January 25, 1819. It finally opened on March 7, 1825, although construction on the Rotunda and other projects continued after Jefferson's death on July 4, 1826.

Although Thomas Jefferson did not begin the effort of designing the University of Virginia in Charlottesville until late in his life, the education of the common man had occupied his thoughts for decades. He believed ignorance to be the enemy of freedom, and he wanted to correct what he considered to be the defects of educational institutions modeled on European settings and curriculum. He imagined that an "academical village" clustered around a tree-lined lawn would provide an ideal setting in which to pursue higher education. The focal point of such a village would be the Rotunda that would house the university library.

When the Virginia Legislature authorized a state university in 1818, the retired U.S. President finally was able to dedicate his intellect, time, and energy to creating this new kind of educational institution. By the time he was finished with his design, Jefferson had invented a uniquely American setting for higher education: the college campus. Although he did not live to see the work completed, Jefferson was enormously proud of his contribution to Virginia's public university. When he wrote the epitaph for his grave marker, Jefferson omitted



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