Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson commented in an August 27, 1796, letter on the desirability of educating slaves. In 1779 and again in 1784 Jefferson had supported a plan “for the more general diffusion of knowledge.” His plan called for a state system of elementary schools, secondary schools, and colleges, as well as a state university. The plan included only whites and included white women only up to a certain level. Jefferson also advocated “providing for the instruction of the slaves.” Some instruction would be, Jefferson wrote, “more desireable as they would in the course of it be mixed with those of free condition. Whether, for their happiness, it should extend beyond those destined to be free, is questionable. Ignorance & despotism seem made for each other.”

Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress

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