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The National Association of educational broadcasters presents another in the series of transcribed programs on the Jeffersonian heritage of the United States starring Thomas Jefferson. The end of my life. In my mind.
We could not see much as yet through the telescope trained on the young foundations far away Campbell and I. So we sat in our own twilight and spoke of the light rising slowly in the academical village I had planned. It is good Mr. Jefferson is very good. So your dream come true. It is good to see good dreams come true Mr. Campbell. It's a deal to watch them materialize from you build where I must build better. Down there you do. And for the ages I hope so I try. Can you doubt it after the long and useful life you given your country and yet I say so the world when I die I want this inscription graven on my stone. Here was Barrett Thomas Jefferson author of the Declaration of
American independence. The statute of Virginia for religious freedom and father of the University of Virginia. These are not offices or honors all our services. Man I should be content. The university is the last of my mortal Kaz and the last service I can render my country that institution rising there. The hobby of my old age will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. Rick sprawl and expose every subject susceptible to its contemplation. I should be content. You should indeed. I shall die in the hope that light and liberty are on steady advance. We have seen once when the records of history a complete eclipse of the human mind continuing for centuries by swarms of barbarians. This may
come again from time to time but the art of printing alone and the vast dissemination of books will maintain knowledge where it is and raise the barbarian to the level of the Concord instead of degrading the to their Congress. You are troubled Mr. Jefferson. No no. Is it criticism or criticism. I deplore most of the critics who brand you as an heiress to Korat interested in his conservative and sedentary old age only in higher education neglecting the masses for the more air is to credit and wealth you. I answer these critics as I answer General Breckenridge. I wrote him that nobody could doubt my zeal for the general instruction of the people who first started such an idea. They forget or they contrive to forget your fight for the bill for the more general diffusion of knowledge.
Forty years ago before my proposal the idea of such free and general education that had never been suggested here I have never proposed the sacrifice of the primary to the ultimate grade of instruction I have always kept my eyes steadily on the whole system. In a generation men forget. That I remember. Yeah in the 1779 when I was only 36. I grew up there which I sort of like to attach to my time. Not until six or seven years later I was even 18 by the legislature of my state and then I was far away in Frons by my friend James Madison who spoke for me.
As an old man. I would take the liberty of reconstructing that scene freely. And reading from my cherished. Eye candy put to my eyes the struggle in the hopes of a lifetime. Which again. Oh oh that is desired of those persons whom nature and genius should be rendered by a liberal education whether to receive an able to God rights and liberties of their fellow citizens and that they should be granted such learning without regard to whether accidental circumstances. The bill is submitted and proposed by Mr. Jefferson the honorable delegate from the county of Alabama and a member of the committee on the advice of the laws. The
detail of the provisions of his bill. Mr. Speaker the Hon. delegate from West Point and counter the I am to late at this early moment hands save time. That the bill for the dissemination of Greek and Latin among farm boys may have virtue if it does not give them aspirations beyond their station. But there is much more urgent business before the assembly. I submit that the left being at that language will remain a long time dead as the saying has it can wait until we conveniently arrive at it. May I say before everything else that I consider this bill for the more general diffusion of knowledge as being on a motto Never. With a bill for establishing religious freedom and even with the Declaration of Independence. Yes. What if a nation expects to be ignorant and free expects what
never was and never will be. There is no safe deposit for the liberty and property of the people but with the people themselves. Nor can liberty and property be safe in their hands without information. Mr Jefferson is debating his bill before properly detailing it to the legislature. He is out of order as well as out of sequence. I ask your pardon simply gentleman. My bill proposes to lay off every county into districts five or six miles square to be called hundreds in each of these districts. We are to establish a school for teaching reading writing and arithmetic. And what about your Greek and Latin Mr Jefferson. They will be patient in death if you will in life so. The tutor will be a publicly supported and all persons in each district will be entitled to send their children to the school
for three years gratis and as much longer as they please. Paying for it with a letter makes sense. The former does not. Each year the best student in each school of those parents too poor to give him further education will be sent forward to one of the grammar schools which I propose 28 to be erected in the state for teaching Greek Latin and geography. Thus the 20 best students will be selected and instructed at the public expense. So far as the grammar schools go. At the end of six years half of these will be sent for three years to study such sciences as they should choose at the College of William and Mary which is to be enlarged as further proposed in my bill. The philosophical gentleman Attempts to the ultimate result of this whole scheme of education would be the teaching of all the children of the state reading writing and common Earth protect
and turning out annually a smaller number of superior geniuses well taught in Greek Latin geography and the higher branches of authentic turning out annually. Others have still superior mental gifts. We shall have added such of the sciences as their genius shall have led them to the furnishing to the wealthier part of the people. Convenient schools at which their children may be educated at their own expense. The details let's get on with them. Continue Mr. Jepson. My concern is to broaden the educational base of society and at the same time to search out the best talent and genius of our citizenry. The general object of this law are to provide an education adapted to the to the capacity and to the condition of everyone rich or poor and directed to their freedom and happiness. Specific details are not proper for the law. They must be the business of the officials
entrusted with the execution of the law. Have you concluded your preliminary remarks to the proposal Mr Jefferson. I am prepared now to discuss it in this assembly so the meeting is open for discussion. Mr. Speaker the honorable delegate from Nelson County has the floor. Mr. Jefferson. Yes sir. Mr. Jefferson you say that if a nation expects to be ignorant and free it expects what never was and never will be. Yes. We're not freed now. We are. I do not know what we may be tomorrow or the next day if we can not be ignorant and free then we must be educated. And there is learning a great learning in such men as Dr. Franklin James Madison John Adams George with all people of your close acquaintance all living testimony of great sagacity and
learning the matter that is unquestionably true. Why then this bill for the general diffusion of knowledge based on an argument that knowledge is the power to secure Isaw freedom. When we have the knowledge and we have the freedom family in our grasp. That is learning in America yes but it is the great learning of the very few. Should this freedom lie at the mercy of the benevolence the Caprice the charity the easy digestion if you please of a few of the elite. What do you these few elect to seize power and turn desperate What then. Dr. Franklin Mr. Madison General Washington despots Come now Mr. Jefferson. Man change on the new pope. They thrice presented Caesar with the kingly crowd in which he did thrice refuse yet he turned desperate. Now sir this republic
must stand upon a rock and light in the many enlighten the people generally and tyranny and oppressions of the body and the mind or vanish like evil spirits of the dawn of day. And do you hold that the mass of people can be educated. I do not concur in a certain body of misanthropic belief that people are ignorant because they are stupid. They are not. I do believe in the edge of capability of the people that stable boys can be taught. Homer Plato. There is a certain period in life say 8 to 15 or 16 years of age. The reach by children in homespun and by children endeavor to like at this age the mind like the body is not firm enough for laborious occupation if applied to the young. Such labor exhibits in its tender subjects of whatever origin the flattering appearance of that being man while they are yet children. But ending
in reducing them to children when they should be men. Well my constituents they will be inclined to think it reduces them to sallow bookworms when they ought to be behind the plot. And if all those things let alone the cost I propose the free education of the young. Does the distinguished delicate propose in opposition the sweat and toil of the young. I propose nothing. I state plainly the sentiment of the people who elected me to this seat and to hold the view that education is not their responsibility. In a free state government it is the responsibility of government. That's different education is a proper function of the government education of all the people up to a point is necessary to safeguard their freedom and happiness. The education of persons of native ability to the highest degree is necessary to provide leaders and to advance knowledge. These should be selected on the
grounds of talent and virtue wholly without consideration of wealth and birth. On that Trinity I found my philosophy of education on that logic. I found my proposed that is a platform. Mr. Jefferson. Its logic remains to be decided. Mr. Jefferson is to speak up if I may put a question to you is not an aside. You say that you believe that the mass of the people can be educated convinced that on their good sense we mated I with the most security for the preservation of a Jew degree of liberty. Is that a new precedent for what you propose. It has never been suggested in this state somewhere probably since there is nothing new under the sun. Yes but has it worked anyway. I am only concerned that it must work in America. Educate a rappel I said the people.
And I say it can't be done. Why do you say so because it never has been done by that philosophy. Nothing should ever be attempted the first time and nothing therefore ever accomplished. I speak specifically of the proposal under discussion. Specifically I say that people have never been educated in the mass before and they cannot be know. I am not alone in being skeptical about it. No other competent observers think that it cannot be done without bringing education down to the level of the dullest the most stupid of the people so that nobody gets a good education. All will not be reduced to a dead level of mediocrity. We aspire rather to raise the lowest to more than he has been all at least to receive a better education. No alchemy or dream will change sols years into a silk purse. You cannot make virtue where there is none. I say that there is a natural at a stock prosy among men founded on
virtue and talents. There is also an artificial add a stock receive founded on wealth and birth without either virtue or talents that natural at a stop or say I consider the most precious gift of nature. But the instruction the responsibilities and the government of society a mongrel aristocracy of tradesmen clerks and landless tenants in the seats of power. Absurd and visionary. My plan is not indiscriminate. It provides for a system of selection based on ability that is very clear. Besides if anybody thinks that kings and nobles are good guardians of the people's happiness let them go to Europe where they have them. You just the best school in the universe to cure him of that folly. He will see there that those descriptions of man are an abandoned Confederacy against the happiness of the mass of the people. Mr. Speaker may I point out Mr. Jefferson that Europe is not America.
What about that Mr. Jeffs the people of England are less oppressed than those on the continent of Europe. But they are in danger too for nobility wealth and pump are the objects of their admiration. Mr. Speaker Mr. with I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied upon. But improving the condition promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of men. Yes ha. The church recognizes Mr. with man or men and base blood is the member of a masculine count as out of the prior in the preamble ever become the fine and the olive. Let's deal with the flaw. I call for a vote on Mr. Jefferson. Oh and it's called Mr. Jefferson's bed for the more general diffusion of knowledge. Second it. Mr Jefferson has not defended his proposal to the satisfaction of myself
or I fancy this whole assembly. Mr Jefferson entertains the belief that briars and brambles can indeed be transformed into vine and Olive but a substantial element here has a different view. The bride can never become vine and Olive but the spirit is and rudeness is maybe softened by culture and that property has improved to usefulness that this bill be tabled for future consideration while we go to our electors for a mandate from them. Seconded. Second. I walked out of the assembly hall in Georgia with my old aunt teacher measure to stand beside my own.
Only down the road toward a tavern and some inspiriting I sought an immediate vote. Mr Jefferson you will readily understand why don't you. The opponents of my bill return to their techno refreshed by the opinions of their constituents armed with fresh arguments where I have scarcely any but my faith. Youre not beaten yet Mr. Jefferson. And even if you should be this time time will fight for you. I find myself on saying logic and plenty realities of human nature and behavior with undocumented subtleties of conviction of personal instinct. What can I do Mr. with. One cannot argue this question one knows it is so. An auditor can coat sentiment and emotion with a glittering arm. Not how I am nor it I cannot move the blood in man with words.
You did serviceable enough with your Declaration of Independence on paper then at least I had the marriage of fact and the testimony of history in support of what I argued. Now there is hypotheses instant conviction. I cannot prove my proposal is economically sound on the next and final attack will emphasize economy. Yet we know the proposal is sound we know it. I cannot point to any instance in history where everybody has been educated. I can only argue in that thin element between the heaven of the earth. That a republic cannot survive and that freedom cannot have root in ignorance. Examples they cry unjustly I suppose is taught in evidence and they demand facts not prophecy. I knew some way to help you. If you cannot help it you can hear after
preach. My idea of a crusade against ignorance established and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against oppression and that the texts which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what we're being paid to kings princes or nobles who will rise up among us. If we leave the people in ignorance. But again these are speculations. So is independence a speculation a dream a kind mother. You see us now. If only we could win. What a plan to give stability and solid glory to the republic. My bill came up later. My weapons were no more formidable than
before. There was heavy and independent of the arguments of the opposition but the masses of people that intellect was the property of the well-born that is to say the wealth of the poor. And we're not interested in education. Not my scheme. Would be too costly. Furthermore if there is real genius among the poor as Mr Jefferson It will be such as to prevail over poverty such will see going to achieve the education they merit by their own effort and native genius and leave the discovery of such method to chance or to its own struggles. I say seek out this worth this genius from every condition of life rich as well as poor. Prepare them by education for defeating the competition of mere wealth and birth.
But public trusts. Is there not genius enough for those trusts and such men as yourself Mr. Jefferson. It must be sought wherever it is. Like Graham metal who may wear silk and wise men rank and quite the other way about. Have you given thought to the monstrous cost of such an adventure in general education. I have given and fearful thought to the cost of no such enterprise. The most effectual means of preventing the Potion of Power into tyranny is to illuminate the minds of all the people. You ask the wealthy to assume the stupendous burden of educating the poor. The wealthy will be as much the beneficiaries of the general enlightment as the poor. Well we have done well enough without available genius. And I say this with special affection and regard for yourself Mr Jefferson. I thank you.
But the Gothic idea that we are to look backward instead of forward for the improvement of the human mind and to refer to our ancestors for protection and government and learning is not an idea which this country will enjoy by Enjoy I mean survive. Mr Speaker the member from Nelson County. Mr. Jeffs while there is merit in our opposition there is merit in at least some of the theory of education that you present. Now I I should not be hostile to a modified bill providing that a say only for elementary schools. And I would rather that in the modified provide for the cost of each county to execute the act the local magistrates are mostly rich men. They would be unwilling to incur the cost of educating the poor. This is not executing the law or gentleman but executing sentence on the law. And the
sentence would seem in this case to the death. Might be for the more general diffusion of knowledge did not then pass. Never joining my long life time in my own state except my full plan. A system of general instruction. Which should reach every description of our citizens from the richest of the poorest the latest of all the public concerns in which I took interest. As it had been the earliest. I was not tenacious of the form in which it should be introduced. I was content in my own time to take a part when I could not get the whole of the university which they gave me as the crown of the incomplete educational edifice was my joy and my pride.
I could not fail to add it to my epitaph. My own pastor there I believe was a prophecy a prophecy which my own state and all the other states in the American Union would fulfill someday in their own way. This was my prayer. Give us a universal system of public education and was seen for this in estimable. A thanks of the young and the blessings of the old. Through all our generations. There. You have just heard the University of the United States another in the series on the
The Jeffersonian heritage
University of the United States
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program dramatizes the creation and construction of the University of Virginia.
Other Description
This series dramatizes the ideas of Thomas Jefferson, which are"the enduring possessions of all Americans and all free peoples," while being "authentic in historical spirit" and "imaginative in form."
University of Virginia.
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Actor: Rains, Claude, 1889-1967
Advisor: Malone, Dumas, 1892-1986
Composer: Schmidt, Karl
Conductor: Solinsky, Vladimir
Director: Papp, Frank, 1909-1996
Producer: Papp, Frank, 1909-1996
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Subject: Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826.
Writer: Geiger, Milton
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-23-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “The Jeffersonian heritage; University of the United States,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 12, 2022,
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APA: The Jeffersonian heritage; University of the United States. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from