Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson’s Bill to Establish a University, [between 19 November and 14 December 1818]

Thomas Jefferson’s Bill to Establish a University

[between 19 Nov. and 14 Dec. 1818]

A Bill for the establishment of an University.1   

Be it declared by the General assembly of Virginia that the conveyance of the lands and other property appur[t]aining to the Central college in the county of Albemarle which has been executed by the Proctor thereof under authority of the subscribers and founders, to the President and Directors of the literary fund, is hereby accepted, for the uses and on the conditions in the sd deed of conveyance expressed.

And be it enacted that there shall be established on the site provided for the sd College, an University, to be called ‘the University of Virginia’; that it shall be under the government of [7.]2 visitors to be appointed forthwith by the Governor with the advice of council, notifying thereof the persons so appointed, and prescribing to them a day for their first meeting at the sd University, with supplementory instructions for procuring a meeting subsequently, in the event of failure at the time first appointed.

The sd Visitors, or so many of them as, being a majority, shall attend, shall appoint a Rector of their own body to preside at their meetings, and a Secretary to record attest3 and preserve their proceedings, and shall proceed to examine into the state of the property conveyed as aforesd, shall make an inventory of the same, specifying the items whereof it consists, shall notice the buildings and other improvements already made, and those which are in progress, shall take measures for their completion, and for the addition of such others from time to time as may be necessary.

In the sd University shall be taught the Latin, Greek & Hebrew l[an]guages, French, Spanish, Italian, German & Anglo-Saxon, the different branches of Mathematics pure and Physical, Natural philosophy, the principles of Agriculture, Chemistry, mineralogy including Geology, Botany,4 Zoology, Anatomy, Medecine, Civil government, Political economy, the Law of Nature and Nations, Municipal law, history, Ideology, general grammar, Ethics, Rhetoric and Belles lettres, which branches of science shall be so distributed, and under so many Professors, not exceeding ten, as the Visitors shall think most5 proper and expedient.

Each Professor shall be allowed the use of the6 apartments & accomodations provided for him, and those first employed such standing salary as the visitors shall think proper and sufficient, and their successors such standing salary, not exceeding [1000]7 Dollars, as the Visitors shall think proper and sufficient; with such tuition fees from each student as the visitors shall from time to time establish.

The sd Visitors shall be charged with the erection, preservation and repair of the buildings, the care of the grounds and appurtenances and of the interests of the University generally: they shall have power to appoint a Burser, employ a Proctor and all other necessary agents; to appoint and remove Professors, two thirds of the whole number of Visitors voting for the removal: to prescribe their duties & the course of education, in conformity with the law: to establish rules for the government & discipline of the students, not contrary to the laws of the land; to regulat[e] the tuition fees, and the rent of the dormitories occupied; to prescribe and controul the duties and proceedings of all officers,8 servants and others, with respect to the buildings, lands, appurtenances & other property and interests of the University; to draw from the literary fund such monies as are by law charged on it for this institution; and, in general, to direct and do all matters and things which, not being inconsistent with the laws of the land, to them shall seem most expedient for promoting the purposes of the sd institution; which several functions they shall be free to exercise in the form of bye-laws, rules, resolutions, orders, instructions, or otherwise as they shall deem proper.

They shall have two stated meetings in the9 year, to wit, on the first Mondays of April and October, and occasional meetings at such other times as they shall appoint, or on a special call, with such notice as themselves shall prescribe by a general rule; which meetings shall be at the University; a majority of them constituting a Quorum for business; and on the death,10 resignation of a member, or failure to act for the space of one year, or on his removal out of the Commonwealth, or by the Governor with advice of Council, the Governor with like advice shall appoint a successor.

The sd Rector11 and Visitors shall be a body corporate, under the style and title of the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, with the right, as such, to use a common seal; they shall have capacity to plead & be impleaded in all courts of justice, and in all cases interesting to the University, which may be the subjects of legal cognisance & jurisdiction; which pleas shall not abate by the determination of their office, but shall stand revived in the name of their successors; and they shall be capable in law, and in trust for the University, of recieving subscriptions and donations real and personal, as well from bodies corporate, or persons associated, as from private individuals.

And the sd Rector and Visitors shall at all times conform to such laws as the legislature may from time to time think proper to enact for their government; and the sd University shall, in all things, and at all times, be subject to the controul of the legislature.12

The sd board of Visitors, or some one or more members13 thereof by nomination of the board shall, once in every year at least visit the sd University,14 enquire into the proceedings and practices thereat, examine the progress of th[e] students, and give to those who excel in any branch of science there taught such honorary marks and testimonies of approbation as may encorage & excite to industry and emulation.

On every 29th day of February, or, if that be Sunday, then on the next or earliest day thereafter on which a meeting can be effected, the Governor & council shall be in session, and shall appoint Visitors of the sd University, either the same or others, at their discretion, to serve until the 29th day of February next ensuing, duly and timely notifying to them their appointment, & prescribing a day for their first meeting at the University; after which their meetings stated and occasional shall be as herein before provided.

Provided that nothing in this act contained shall suspend the proceedings of the Visitors of the sd Central College of Albemarle; but, for the purpose of expediting the objects of the sd institution, they shall be authorised, under the controul of the Governor & council, to continue the exercise of their functions, and fulfill those of their successors until the first actual meeting of their sd successors.15

PoC (ViU: TJP); entirely in TJ’s hand; undated, but composed sometime after 19 Nov. 1818 receipt of Joseph C. Cabell to TJ, 18 Nov. 1818, and before composition of Cabell to TJ, 14 Dec. 1818; faint. Dft (Vi: RG 79, House of Delegates, Rough Bills); printed text, with handwritten emendations in multiple unidentified hands. MS (Vi: RG 78, General Assembly, Enrolled Bills); in an unidentified hand, signed by Edward Watts as Speaker of the Senate of Virginia and Linn Banks as Speaker of the House of Delegates; at head of text: “An Act for the establishment of an University Passed January the twenty fifth 1819.” Printed in Acts of Assembly (1818–19 sess.), 15–8, with each paragraph numbered, and in Richmond Enquirer, 28 Jan. 1819.

1Rough bill here adds “Read the first and second time, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.”

2Brackets in original.

3Word interlined.

4Omitted comma at right margin is present in all other versions and editorially supplied here.

5Word not in enrolled bill or Acts of Assembly.

6Preceding three words interlined.

7Brackets in original.

8Omitted comma at right margin is present in all other versions and editorially supplied here.

9Word canceled in rough bill, with “every” interlined. Enrolled bill and Acts of Assembly: “every.”

10Omitted comma at right margin is present in all other versions and editorially supplied here.

11Richmond Enquirer: “proctor.”

12Keyed to this point in text, rough bill here adds in pen: “<Be it therefore enacted> And the Said Rector and visitors of the University of Virginia, Shall be, and they are hereby required to make report annually, to the President and Directors of the literary-fund, (to be laid before the legislature at their next succeeding Session) embracing a full account of the disbursements, the funds on hand, and a general Statement of the Condition of the said University.” Additions incorporated into enrolled bill and Acts of Assembly.

13Preceding five words canceled in rough bill, with “<three> a majority” interlined. Enrolled bill and Acts of Assembly: “a majority.”

14Omitted comma at right margin is present in most other versions (Acts of Assembly has semicolon) and editorially supplied here.

15Keyed to this point in text, rough bill here adds in pen: “And be it further enacted, That the additional sum of <fifteen> twenty thousand dollars, shall be and the same is hereby appropriated to the education of the poor, out of the revenue of the Literary fund, in aid of the sum heretofore appropriated to that object; to be paid in the same manner, and upon the same conditions in all respects, as is prescribed by the fourth section of the act, entitled, ‘An act appropriating part of the revenue of the Literary fund, and for other purposes’ passed the 21st day of February 1818.” The printed portion of the rough bill ends with “This act shall commence and be in force from and after the passing thereof.” Additions incorporated into enrolled bill and Acts of Assembly.

Index Entries

  • agriculture; collegiate education in search
  • An Act appropriating part of the revenue of the Literary Fund, and for other purposes (1818) search
  • anatomy; collegiate education in search
  • Anglo-Saxon (Old English) language; collegiate education in search
  • belles lettres; collegiate education in search
  • botany; collegiate education in search
  • Central College; as state university of Va. search
  • Central College Board of Visitors; obsolescence of search
  • chemistry; collegiate education in search
  • education; of the poor search
  • ethics; collegiate education in search
  • French language; collegiate education in search
  • German language; collegiate education in search
  • grammar; collegiate education in search
  • Greek language; collegiate education in search
  • Hebrew language; collegiate education in search
  • history; collegiate education in search
  • ideology; collegiate education in search
  • Italian language; collegiate education in search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Bill to Establish a University search
  • Latin language; collegiate education in search
  • law; collegiate education in search
  • mathematics; collegiate education in search
  • medicine; education in search
  • mineralogy; collegiate education in search
  • natural philosophy; collegiate education in search
  • political economy; collegiate education in search
  • politics; collegiate education in government search
  • rhetoric; collegiate education in search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); prints TJ’s Bill to Establish a University search
  • Spanish language; collegiate education in search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; bursar of search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; proctor of search
  • Virginia, University of; Administration and Financial Affairs; rector of search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; creation of search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; Bill to Establish a University search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; Central College Donors and Founders to the University of Virginia Commissioners search
  • Virginia, University of; Establishment; Conveyance of Central College Properties to the President and Directors of the Literary Fund search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; faculty compensation search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; organization of professorships search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; proposed curriculum search
  • Virginia; Literary Fund search
  • zoology; collegiate education in search