Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to the Trustees of the Lottery for East Tennessee College, 6 May 1810

To the Trustees of the Lottery for East Tennessee College

Monticello May 6. 10.


I recieved some time ago your letter of Feb. 28. covering a printed scheme of a lottery for the benefit of the East Tennissee college, & proposing to send tickets to me to be disposed of. it would be impossible for them to come to a more inefficient hand. I rarely go from home & consequently see but a few neighbors & friends who occasionally call on me. and having myself made it a rule never to engage in a lottery or any other adventure of mere chance, I can, with the less candor or effect, urge it on others, however laudable & desirable it’s object may be. no one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in it’s effect towards supporting free & good government. I am sincerely rejoiced therefore to find that so excellent a fund has been provided for this noble purpose in Tennissee. 50,000. Dollars placed in a safe bank will give 4000.D. a year & even without other aid, must soon accomplish buildings sufficient for the object in it’s early stage. I consider the common plan, followed in this country, but not in others, of making one large & expensive building as unfortunately erroneous. it is infinitely better to erect a small and separate lodge for each separate professorship, with only a hall below for his class, and two chambers above for himself; joining these lodges by barracks for a certain portion of the students opening into a covered way to give a dry communication between all the schools. the whole of these arranged around an open square of grass & trees would make it, what it should be in fact, an academical village, instead of a large & common den of noise, of filth, & of fetid air. it would afford that quiet retirement so friendly to study, and lessen the dangers of fire, infection & tumult. every professor would be the police officer of the students adjacent to his own lodge, which should include those of his own class of preference, and might be at the head of their table if, as I suppose, it can be reconciled with the necessary economy to dine them in smaller & separate parties rather than in a large & common mess. these separate buildings too might be erected successively & occasionally, as the number of professorships & students should be increased, or the funds become competent. I pray you to pardon me, if I have stepped aside into the province of counsel: but much observation & reflection on these institutions have long convinced me that the large and crouded buildings in which youths are pent up, are equally unfriendly to health, to study, to manners, morals & order: & believing the plan I suggest to be more promotive of these & peculiarly adapted to the slender beginnings & progressive growth of our institutions, I hoped you would pardon the presumption in consideration of the motive, which was suggested by the difficulty expressed in your letter of procuring funds for erecting the building. but on whatever plan you proceed, I wish it every possible success, & to yourselves the reward of esteem, respect & gratitude due to those who devote their time and efforts to render the youths of every successive age fit governors for the next. to these, accept in addition the assurances of mine.

Th: Jefferson

RC (THi, on deposit T: Tennessee Miscellaneous Files); addressed: “Mr Hugh L. White Knoxville Tennissee”; franked. PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “Messrs Hugh L. White Thomas MCCorry James Campbell Robert Craighead John N. Gamble Trustees for the lottery of E. Tennissee college.”

TJ’s ideas for an academical village expanded on those he laid out in 1805 and ultimately followed when designing the University of Virginia (TJ to Littleton W. Tazewell, 5 Jan. 1805 [ViU: TJP]; Richard Guy Wilson and others, Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village: The Creation of an Architectural Masterpiece [1993], 11–2).

Index Entries

  • Campbell, James; and East Tennessee College search
  • Campbell, James; letters to search
  • Craighead, Robert; and East Tennessee College search
  • Craighead, Robert; letters to search
  • East Tennessee College; letter to trustees of lottery for search
  • East Tennessee College; lottery to benefit search
  • education; TJ on search
  • Gamble, John N.; and East Tennessee College search
  • Gamble, John N.; letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; academic buildings search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; education search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; lotteries search
  • lotteries; East Tennessee College search
  • McCorry, Thomas; and East Tennessee College search
  • McCorry, Thomas; letters to search
  • schools and colleges; East Tennessee College search
  • Virginia, University of (Charlottesville); as academical village search
  • White, Hugh Lawson; and East Tennessee College search
  • White, Hugh Lawson; letters to search