Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert Ould to Thomas Jefferson, 23 February 1816

From Robert Ould

Lancasterian School Georgetown D.C. Feb 23rd 1816


Permit me to offer you for perusal an Epitome of Lancasters system of Education

Symptoms of a desire to promote general instruction seem to pervade a considerable number of individuals in the United States, but they are at a loss for a plan to direct their energies

Nothing more than a Teacher of the above establishment I have ventured to address1 you hoping that you will examine the enclosed little volume and tell me what opinion you have of it, and whether you think it best2 calculated for an elementary school for the inhabitants of this country

I am (as the enclosed will shew) an Englishman have been in this place more than four years, and have qualified Thirty Teachers who have gone to various parts of the United States to dispense a knowledge of the same

not[w]ithstanding these exertions a sanction is required to promote the object

I feel somewhat more zeal for the system and its founder from my being a pupil of his, therefore if I have in any way spoken of myself more than I ought I beg you will attribute it to a desire for the promotion of general instruction than for anything else.

I should have troubled you much earlier on this subject had I not remembered that a moment like the present would better suit the promotion of a philanthropic system of Education than any other.

I remain with great respect Sir Your obedt servant

Robt Ould

RC (DLC); corner chipped; endorsed by TJ as received 28 Feb. 1816 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Joseph Lancaster, The British System of Education: being A Complete Epitome of the Improvements and Inventions practised By Joseph Lancaster: to which is added, A Report of the Trustees of the Lancaster School at Georgetown, Col. (Washington, D.C., 1812; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 5 [no. 209]).

Robert Ould (1788–1840), educator, was born in London and educated there by Joseph Lancaster. A proponent of the Lancasterian model of instruction, which relied heavily on older students teaching younger ones, Ould was tapped late in 1811 by Lancaster himself to be the first of his protégés to relocate to the United States as a teacher. Ould agreed to the move provided that he could bring along Henry Ould, his younger brother and fellow teacher. Robert stayed at the Georgetown Lancaster school while Henry was soon running an academy of his own in Washington, also in the District of Columbia. The elder Ould was employed by the Georgetown school until at least 1821. In 1828 he introduced the Lancasterian system to an academy for Choctaw Indians in Kentucky. Ould died in Georgetown (Edson B. Olds and Susan S. Gascoyne Old, The Olds (Old, Ould) Family in England and America [1915], 318–9; Lancaster, British System of Education, 124–5, 128–30; John Clagett Proctor, “Joseph Lancaster and the Lancasterian Schools in the District of Columbia, with Incidental School Notes,” Records of the Columbia Historical Society 25 [1923]: 6–7, 18–20; Ronald Rayman, “Joseph Lancaster’s Monitorial System of Instruction and American Indian Education, 1815–1838,” History of Education Quarterly 21 [1981]: 403; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 11 Apr. 1821, 24 July 1840).

1Extraneous comma editorially omitted.

2Word interlined.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

 ※ Any views of your own on this matter would be received and duly appreciated.

Index Entries

  • education; books on search
  • education; Lancasterian model search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Lancaster, Joseph; The British System of Education search
  • Ould, Robert; educator search
  • Ould, Robert; identified search
  • Ould, Robert; letter from search
  • Ould, Robert; sends book to TJ search
  • The British System of Education (J. Lancaster) search