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Portrait of Jefferson...
Pavilion No. X (East)-Doric of the Theatre of Marcellus...
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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
BUREAU OF EDUCATION,
Washington, D C., December 9, 1887. The Honorable THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, D. C. SIR: The interest awakened by the history of the College of William and Mary, prepared by Dr. Herbert B. Adams, of Baltimore, and published by this Bureau as Circular of Inforination No. 1, 1887; and the Study of History in American Colleges and Universities, also prepared by Dr. Adams, and published as Circular of Information No. 2, 1887, justifies a further inquiry into the history of higher education in the State of Virginia, and in other States of the American Union. The work should be done gradually and methodically. Without attempting to cover the entire field at once, I have thought it wise to encourage the preparation by Dr. Adams of a special monograph concerning Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia, with brief historical sketches of the various colleges in that State. Jefferson's work was of fundamental importance in the establishment of the University of Virginia, which is the historical successor of the College of William and Mary. The connection of the two institutions has been clearly traced by Dr. Adams in Jefferson's projects for educational reform. The first idea of the University of Virginia was the proposed transformation of the old colonial college into something higher and broader. But this idea failed of realization by reason of sectarian opposition to an Epis. copal establishment. The present University of Virginia is an interesting illustration of the possible union of religious interests in the support of higher education by the State.
Jefferson was the first conspicuous advocate in this country of centralization in aniversity education, and of decentralization in preparatory and common schools. He was a thorough believer in the concentration of State aid upon higher educational interests, and in the snpport of primary and secondary education by local taxation and private philanthropy. In his judgment, local government and common schools should have been established together and concurrently in the State of Virginia. He would have subdivided the counties into “hundreds" or "wards,” corresponding to the militia districts, and have made the district school-house the place of local assembly and primary education. The training of every community to good citizenship and self-help by active participation in local affairs, such as the support of schools, roads, and bridges, was the ideal of popular education in the mind of Jeffer. son. He proposed that the children should be taught not merely reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography, but also through reading books the history of the world and their own country. Such an educational ideal, at once sound, sensible, and thoroughly democratic, is worthy of reconsideration after the lapse of more than a century since it was first proclaimed.
Jefferson devised an ingenious plan whereby the boys of best talent, the sons of the people, might be discovered and sent forward, although poor, to preparatory colleges, and finally to the University of Virginia. Such a plan is now in practical operation in the State of New York, in connection with Cornell University, which accepted the agricultural college land grant upon the condition of free education to talented graduates of local high schools and academies, and also prevails in many other States, where young men receive the benefits of the higher education, without charge for tuition, at the State universities and agricultural land-grant colleges. Natural selection and the survival of the fittest are great needs in American schools, colleges, and universities. Jef. ferson's ideas, if they should ever be realized throughout the country, will deliver us ou the one hand from the over-education of mediocrity, and on the other from the under-education of genius. It is the duty of democracy to evolve from itself the highest talent, not only for government and administration, but for the advancement of science and the arts.
The idea is far too prevalent that the American people have done their whole duty in everywhere instituting common schools by State authority. Popular education in this form is indeed a recognized necessity, and, generally speaking, it is an accomplished fact; but there is a higher form of popular education, to the necessity of which the people as a whole have not yet risen. That form is university education in the interest of good government and the promotion of science in these United States.
Washington had this higher form of education in mind when he said to Congress that “a flourishing state of the arts and sciences contributes to national prosperity and reputation," and when he advocated a national institution in which the primary object should be “the education of our youth in the science of government."
Jefferson had it in mind when he was urging the State Legislature to establish the University of Virginia, and when he thus defined the objects of the higher education :
“To form the statesmen, legislators, and judges, on whom publio prosperity and individual happiness are so much to depend; to expound the principles 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 wellinformed views of political economy to give a free scope to the public industry; to develop the reasoning faculties of our youth, enlarge their minds, cultivate their morals, and instil into them the precepts of virtue and order; to enlighten them with mathematical and physical sciences, which advance the arts and administer to the health, the subsistence, and the comforts of human life; and, finally, to form them to habits of reflection and correct action, rendering them examples of virtue to others and of happiness within themselves. These are the objects of that higher grade of education, the benefits and blessings of which the Legislature now propose to provide for the good and ornament of their country, the gratification and happiness of their fellowcitizens."
Jefferson's views upon the relation of the State to university educa. tion are so striking and so timely in these days, when some Legislatures are treating State universities in a grudging, short-sighted, and parsi. monious spirit, that I can not refrain from quoting still further from that remarkable report which decided the establishment of the University of Virginia:
“Some good men, and even of respectable information, consider the learned sciences as useless acquirements; some think they do not better the condition of men; and others that education, like private and individual concerns, should be left to private, individual effort; not reflecting that an establishment embracing all the sciences which may be useful and even necessary in the various vocations of life, with the buildings and apparatus belonging to each, is far beyond the reach of individual means, and must either derive existence from public patron. age, or not at all. This would leave us, then, without those callings which depend on education or send us to other countries to seek tho instruction they require.* # Nor must we omit to mention the incalculable advantage of training up able counsellors to administer the affairs of our country in all its departments, legislative, executive, and judicial, and to bear their proper share in the councils of our National Government; nothiug more than education advancing the prosperity, the power, and the happiness of a nation.”
While the present monograph describes, for the encouragement of the friends of higher education, the triumph of what was called in Virginia the “holy cause of the University," after nearly fifty years of arduous struggle by Jefferson with popular indifference and local jealousy and ill-advised opposition, the study is not without its interest for the friends of primary education, which Jefferson had quite as much at heart as university education.
He believed in aiming at the highest, as did the founders of Harvard and William and Mary Colleges. He believed that with the opening of mountain sources of learning, the lower valleys and broadening plains