WITH one arm almost useless and the other in a bad way, Jefferson had not yet completed the chapter of his accidents. Barely had he been permitted by his physician out of the house when he went riding and was thrown, escaping by a miracle with no more than severe bruises. Undaunted, he rode again. This time the horse slipped in fording a river and his master, entangled in the reins and crippled, was almost drowned. Next came a fever that confined him to bed for three weeks. And, to cap the climax, a flash flood swept away the mill dam he was building, and he had laboriously to start all over again.1
Yet, through all these disablements and misfortunes, his beloved University remained ever in his thoughts. He wished to capture the public imagination for it; and to do this, he felt compelled to obtain teachers whose names possessed the glamor of distance. For all his incessant comments on the superiority of America to Europe, he sought his men abroad rather than at home.2 Oxford, Edinburgh, Cambridge--these were names to conjure with. Ticknor, in his grand tour, was to seek out their celebrities for shipment to Virginia; and later, a special emissary, young Francis W. Gilmer, was commissioned to do the same.
When Gilmer, in the following year, reported sorrowfully that the salaries demanded were far out of the reach of the still unopened institution. Jefferson wrote in great alarm that foreign teachers must be obtained, otherwise both the Legislature and the general public would think little of the University. He urged therefore "that if you cannot get men of the first order of science, it would be better you should bring the best you can get, altho' of a secondary grade. They would be preferable to secondaries of our own country, because the stature of these is known to be inferior to some in other seminaries; whereas those you would bring would be unknown, would be readily imagined such as we had expected, and might set us agoing advantageously, until we could mend our hold."3
In other words, practical considerations and the pressure of competition were forcing Jefferson into a position not too far removed from certain practices not unknown today. Fortunately, Gilmer was able finally to assemble five willing professors of better than secondary grade, pack them in triumph on board ship, and eventually land them in Virginia.
Jefferson's genius for compromise and moving backward a little in order to gain a more tenacious position later, was similarly in evidence when it came to meeting the fierce opposition of the sects. Dr. Cooper had been