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Legal Knowledge Podcast Bonus Content - S1E1

A Library Podcast

Legal Knowledge

1. The Jeffersonian Vision for Legal Education

Bonus Content

As Professor David Konig discusses in this episode, Thomas Jefferson held a clear vision for the legal curriculum. But those who took the reins adapted their pedagogy according to their own legal principles as well as the changing needs of the student body.

John Tayloe Lomax, 1826-1830

The first law professor, John Tayloe Lomax, agreed with Jefferson that studying law entailed studying government and politics.  According to the University of Virginia 1825 Enactments, Lomax offered law students a general survey on “the common and statute Law, that of the Chancery, the laws Feudal, Civil, Mercatorial, Maritime, and of Nature and Nations; and also the principles of Government and Political Economy."

The texts Lomax chose for the curriculum included those selected by Jefferson and the Board of Visitors as well as several key additions of his own. 


Jefferson's Selections

Lomax's Additions

John  Locke, “Of Civil Government” (1689)​

William Blackstone,  Commentaries  (Joseph  Chitty ed.,  1826)​ 

Algernon Sidney,  Discourses Concerning  Government  (1698)​

William Cruise,  Digest of the Laws of England  Respecting Real Property  (last American  edition, 1827)​ 

The Declaration of Independence (1776)

William Selwyn,  Abridgement of the Law of  Nisi Prius  (by Henry Wheaton, 1823)​ 

Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James  Madison,  The Federalist (1787 and 1788)​

Henry Maddock,  A Treatise on the Principles  and Practice of the High Court of Chancery (by Thomas Huntington, 1827)​

James Madison, The Virginia Resolution  (1799)​

Samuel Toller,  Law of Executors and  Administrators (originally published 1800)​ 

George Washington, “Farewell Address”  (1796)

Henry John Stephen,  Principles of Pleading in  Civil Action (originally published 1824)​ 


Samuel March Philips,  Treatise on the Law of Evidence (originally published 1814) 

Could you pass Lomax’s exam?

Below is a portion of a law school final exam published in The Virginia Literary Museum and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences &c., September 9, 1829.

John A.G. Davis, 1830 - 1840

When John A.G. Davis succeeded Lomax in 1830, he made some additions to the curriculum, but he largely maintained the structure put in place by his predecessor which included extensive use of Blackstone’s Commentaries.
In the course catalogue for 1832-33, Davis offered an explanation of his curriculum and pedagogy:  

In this school are taught the Law  [of] Nature and Nations, the Science of Government, Constitutional  Law, the Common and Statute Law, Equity and Maritime  and Commercial Law. 

The school is divided into two classes. The text-books  studied by the junior class, are Vattel's Law of Nature and  Nations, the Federalist, the Virginia Report of '99, and  Blackstone's Commentaries. Those studied by the senior,  are Coke upon Littleton, (Thomas's edition,) Stephen on  Pleading, Starkie on Evidence, (the first vol.) Toller on Executors,  Chitty on Contracts, Bayley on Bills, Fonblanque's  Equity and Mitford's Pleadings; to which it is proposed to  add a treatise on Commercial and Maritime Law. 

On these books, prelections are delivered by the Professor,  in which it is his object to supply what is deficient and explain  what is obscure in the text, to refer in connection with  it to the leading cases and authorities, American and English,  illustrative of the topic under consideration, and generally, to  offer such comments as he deems necessary to its thorough  understanding. In these prelections, the statute law of  Virginia and the United Stats, and its effects on the pre-existing  law, are particularly explained. Each prelection is  preceded by an examination on the last together with its text.

Student Notebook

We invite you to explore John W. Stevenson’s 1832-1833 notebook, cited by David Konig in this episode. Stevenson’s is the earliest notebook housed by UVA Law Special Collections and serves as a prime example of Davis’ pedagogical model where he offered commentary on a certain text and made it applicable to Virginia law and culture.