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Propaganda Campaign
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Propaganda Campaign

In late August, while still at Poplar Forest, Jefferson began a propaganda campaign to garner
favorable publicity for the nascent college. He sent Thomas Ritchie a "letter" written for
publication in the Richmond Enquirer. ("I read but a single newspaper, Ritchie's Enquirer,
the best that is published or ever has been published in America," Jefferson later said).[69]
The author (Jefferson), purporting to have recently passed through Charlottesville on his
way to the Warm Springs, comments on the "healthiness of the country, it's fertility, it's
central position with respect to the population of the state, and other advantages." The board
of visitors, the fictitious traveler writes, appointed by the "ex offico Patron of the
institution," the governor of the commonwealth, "have had two or three meetings, have
purchased a site a mile above the town of Charlottesville, high, healthy, & with good water,
have agreed on the outlines of their plan as a College of general science, & are now
proceeding on it's execution." The supposedly unknown tourist, obviously impressed with
the college, described the proposed buildings:

. . . the intention of the Visitors is, not to erect a single and expensive building,
which would at once exhaust their funds; but to make it rather an Academical
village. a small box, or Pavilion, is to be erected for each school and it's
professor separately, with chambers, or dormitories for the students, all united
by a covered colonnade, and arranged on each side of a lawn of 200. feet wide.
besides the security which this arrangement gives against fire and infection, it
has the great convenience of admitting building after building to be erected
successively as their funds come in, and as their professorships are subdivided.
one of these pavilions is now in progress, and will be ready, by the 1st. of April
next . . . a small mountain adjacent is included in their purchase, &
contemplated as a site for an astronomical observatory, and a very remarkable
one it will certainly be the whole purchase is of 200. a[cre]s. which, besides the
Observatory and building grounds, will afford a garden for the school of botany,
& an experimental farm for that of Agriculture. should I on my return learn any
thing further, and interesting, I will communicate it to you.[70]


69. Jefferson to William Short, 8 September 1823, DLC:TJ.


70. TJ's undated draft of the article for the Richmond Enquirer, and the polygraph copy of
the letter it was enclosed in, TJ to Ritchie, 28 August 1817, are in DLC:TJ.