- Oct 2017
It was the degree of centrality to the white population of the state which alone then constituted the important point of comparison between these places: and the board, after full enquiry & impartial & mature consideration, are of opinion that the central point of the white population of the state is nearer to the central college, than to either Lexington or Staunton by great & important differences, and all other circumstances of the place in general being favorable to it as a position for an University, they do report the central college in Albemarle to be a convenient & proper part of the State for the University of Virginia.
These lines bring up the obvious issue of slavery, which was a core part of society in the South for many years. At the time, education was reserved only for white men, and in a state like Virginia, with a large slave population, it was necessary to make a distinction between between the central population, and the central white population. Additionally, the location and centrality of the University was important because of how slow transportation was. A distance that could take a few hours to drive now could have easily lasted multiple days back then, so Jefferson wanted to make sure that it was accessible as possible to all people in Virginia.
Some good men, and even of respectable information, consider the learned sciences as useless acquirements; some think that they do not better the condition of men; and others that education like private & individual concerns, should be left to private & individual effort; not reflecting that an establishment, embracing all the sciences which may be useful & even necessary in the various vocations of life, with the buildings & apparatus belonging to each, are far beyond the reach of individual means, & must either derive existence from public patronage or not exist at all.
During Jefferson’s time, higher education was something reserved for a few, namely the rich and the elite. Thus many thought that any form of higher education was frivolous, and not necessary for a trade such as agriculture, etc. And to be fair, Jefferson’s critics had a good point. Most people during his time would have learned a trade or vocational skill, and only a few people would have really need a higher education. But with the industrial revolution and the shift of America to an information/technology based economy, (from a manufacturing economy), the percentage of people pursuing higher education has increased dramatically. Today, public education is the norm and in many places, it is an expectation that one will attend a university or receive a higher education of some sort.