|"Educating the common people" is the only "sure foundation...for the preservation of freedom and happiness."||
Thomas Jefferson considered the founding of the University of Virginia the last great accomplishment of his life. He had first proposed the idea in 1779, as part of a public education system that would give all Virginians the opportunity to advance from grade school through college. Over the decades, Jefferson encouraged others to have his plan implemented, for he believed that "educating the common people" is the only "sure foundation...for the preservation of freedom and happiness."
Finally, when he retired from the Presidency in 1810, Jefferson was able to champion the cause of education himself and eventually found support for a new state university - really a new kind of university, one that would teach students to search out new knowledge rather than instruct them in the lessons of the past.
His university, Jefferson wrote, would be "based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind to explore and to expose every subject susceptible of its contemplation." And it would be open to all with a mind to begin that exploration, regardless of rank or religion.
To house this new kind of university, Jefferson invented the first college campus, believing, as he said, that "a University should not be a house but a village." For nearly eight years Jefferson directed construction of this academic community, designing individual homes where the college professors would both live and teach, and linking these with dormitories for the students along the sides of a great lawn, with a massive domed library at one end and an open view of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the other.
Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia, 1818