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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 19. Thomas Jefferson

Of all the national leaders, Thomas Jefferson alone took a vital interest in education, held broad and progressive views upon the subject, laboured incessantly for their realization, and left a literary record of them. The two most elaborate presentations of these views are in proposed laws or codes, one of 1779, the other of 1816. The first, a bill for the general diffusion of knowledge, proposed for Virginia a reproduction with elaborations of the essential features of the New England school system which was never realized; the second eventuated in the University of Virginia, the first of the state institutions, now so characteristic of America, to achieve material form. Much of the voluminous correspondence of Jefferson relates to these projects. He wrote often to his friend and political and legislative representative, George Cabell, advancing arguments, answering objections. His correspondence with Professor Ticknor of Harvard, lately returned from European universities, reveals his interest in and knowledge of foreign institutions. From this source no doubt came the innovations regarding freedom of choice of studies, the divorce of these from degrees, the lack of a permanent administrative head, the democratic government of both students and faculties, and other features which made the University of Virginia unique among American universities.