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Legal Knowledge Podcast Episode - S1E1

A Library Podcast

Legal Knowledge

Release Date: March 29, 2023

1. The Jeffersonian Vision for Legal Education 

Legal Knowledge 

Episode 1 Interview 


Interview published: March 29, 2023 


Transcript created: October 24, 2022  


Host: Meggan Cashwell, Arthur J. Morris Law Library, University of Virginia  


Guest: David Konig, Emeritus Professor of Law and History, School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis 


—Musical Introduction— 


Meggan Cashwell  00:11 

This is Legal Knowledge, a podcast that chronicles the two-hundred-year history of the Law School at the University of Virginia. I'm your host Meggan Cashwell. In this inaugural season, I'm sitting down with a group of scholars to discuss the first hundred years of UVA Law, from Thomas Jefferson's founding vision for the Law School in 1819, to coeducation in 1920. Each of these scholars is writing a chapter for the Law Schools forthcoming volume on legal education at UVA, for which I'm an editor. In every episode, I'll chat with one of our authors to find out the approach they've taken in their chapter and the stories they've discovered along the way.  


Last year, I spoke with Dr. David Konig, of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, about the nature of early legal education in the US and Virginia. David is an expert on Jefferson, and he brings many important insights to this topic. As David points out, Jefferson desired for UVA Law to train leaders and lawyers to serve the new nation. And he carefully crafted a law curriculum to achieve this ambition. But how could this curriculum balance the teaching of ideals with on-the-job skills? As David explains, the first law professors grappled with Jefferson’s vision amid a student body perpetually calling for more practical training, and as new, proprietary law schools competed with UVA for students. In this environment, and in the shadow of Jefferson, these early professors created an academic law program they simply hoped would survive the shifting legal landscape of the nineteenth century. I hope you enjoy this first episode of Legal Knowledge. 


Meggan Cashwell 01:57 

David, we are thrilled to have you here. 


David Konig  02:00 

Well, thank you Meggan. In fact, I'm thrilled and honored to be part of this project. It's a terrific combination of scholars on a subject that's near and dear to me. And I couldn't ask for a better working environment than to immerse myself in Jefferson.  


Meggan Cashwell  02:15 

Well, that is wonderful to hear. And my coeditors and I are simply honored to have you write the first chapter of the book. And I, of course, am excited to have you be my first guest on the podcast. So, let's go ahead and get started by laying the legal landscape for our listeners. In 1819, when UVA was founded, apprenticeship was still the primary method of learning the law. Could you tell us more about the context for legal education in the early 1800s, and how law schools were faring in both Virginia and the broader US?  


David Konig  02:46 

Well, by 1819, many law schools had been started by universities, that is to say many universities had introduced courses on legal and political philosophy as part of their curriculum. This was really for a common purpose, in the wake of the revolution, to train a generation of legal scholars to teach the foundations of republican government to legislators and judges. This is what I call the creation of a republic of law, resting on what John Adams called government of laws, not men. So, Jefferson may have actually been more comfortable, because of his radical inclinations, with the way Thomas Paine expressed the process by which the authority of law was wrestled away from a sovereign monarch. And I'm quoting Paine here, because Jefferson followed Paine, and I think this could have been written by Jefferson. Paine wrote, “In America, the law is king. For as an absolute government, the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished and scattered among the people whose right it is.” Which is to say, sovereignty belonged to the people, the legal system belonged to the people, and the reform of a legal system had to take that into account. Problem is that the law schools which established these courses on legal and political philosophy found them to be a dismal failure. Students stayed away in droves, and almost all of them closed within years. Truth of the matter was students cared very little for political and legal philosophy, for whatever reason, in a new nation with a new and rapidly expanding economy. The only university programs or coursework in law were those of William & Mary, in Virginia, and Transylvania, on the fringes of settlement in Kentucky, because those two actually had programs that graduated students directly into the profession and trained them to do that. The landscape was one in which there was no shortage of lawyers. In fact, there were plenty of lawyers ready and able to file lawsuits to collect debts in an economy awash in financial failure in the wake of the revolution. Jefferson was annoyed at this alteration of the legal profession by what he called a swarm of, and I'm quoting Jefferson, "ephemeral insects of the law,” who swarmed the county courthouses seeking to exploit indebted farmers. The result was a situation of hostility towards the legal profession, and a legal profession that was inundated with semi-skilled practitioners. So, that's only part of the story, because by the time Jefferson turned to the founding of a law school, it had been fifty years since he had practiced law. And the only sector of the economy that really mattered at this point for creating a new legal curriculum was that as a new economy in which merchants and entrepreneurs had new financial relationships that required better trained lawyers who could navigate the complex economy and steer clear of errors, or that they could draft the more complicated new transactional arrangements that could withstand criticism and challenge on appeal. So, we have a legal world with a shortage not of lawyers, but of lawyers adequate to the needs of the times.  


Meggan Cashwell  06:16 

Within this broader framework you just discussed, one where lawyers, at least in Jefferson's view, were not well trained, how did this impact his approach to creating a law program? And what did he hope this program would accomplish 


David Konig  06:31 

Jefferson believed that the courts had to be trusted, that the rule of law had to be trusted, and that people would not feel victimized by government in the way they had been by the Crown. Most of the lawyers who, therefore, he encountered in the Law School, in fact, in most of the law schools across the new states, were actually already practicing lawyers, they had already been admitted to the bar. And they saw a need for a way to obtain the imprimatur of legitimacy. And a university training, to Jefferson, was the way that a lawyer could obtain the functional expertise that would have the respect of the people, but also have a philosophical approach to government that the people would be confident in. 


Meggan Cashwell  07:18 

Earlier you mentioned that Jefferson was an attorney in his own right. He studied with George Wythe at William & Mary. How do you think this experience as a law student, and then as a lawyer in Virginia, shaped his thinking on the role of law in society?  


David Konig  07:33 

Oh, it was a profound impact on Jefferson, and it's one of the most neglected periods of his life, the years between 1767 and 1774. In that space of time, he handled hundreds of cases. And although he had an appellate practice, he was able to see the actual operation of law as it affected his clients. So, Jefferson represented a broad range of people who looked to the courts for some kind of justice, who looked to the courts for the certification of their property rights. He handled cases that we really don't think of when we think of Thomas Jefferson in the stereotyped way of the aloof intellectual above the fray. Remember, Jefferson lived in Albemarle and he, although he didn't practice in the county courts, he took many, many appeals from people with problems in the courts. His client base involved people suing for slander. In fact, to look at his records, you have a great account of what obscenities that people used in Virginia at this time. And in fact, he even became an advocate in more than—in a small handful of cases of enslaved Virginians who actually went to the court seeking their freedom in the court that they had been illegally enslaved. And this is, again, another part of his observations of the role of the courts, to give people their due, whether that due was their freedom, or that due was their farm that they were working on. 


Meggan Cashwell  09:01 

I mean, if you could practice without a formal law degree, why enroll at all? 


David Konig  09:07 

It's a very good question. And that's a question that the law schools themselves had to answer because they realized that they did not attract students that they would go belly up, that they would not have the tuition dollars to keep in business. In fact, one sees a lot of resonance between law schools then and law schools now, with regard to being driven by tuition. But those who went to law school, in fact, one should say back to the study of law, after practicing it, were seeking several things. Mainly, they were seeking a kind of prestige. They were seeking a kind of certification of their additional skills. We might look at law as a kind of postgraduate education at that time, where lawyers would go for the expertise in the new financial instruments that were being sued on in law. They looked to gain connections, which is another important reason that law schools served their students. A law degree, in fact, allowed people to be called esquire rather than mister. And we must say this again, question we started with, about what impact did his years of practice have upon him. He knew that clients had to be attracted, they had to come to you. And they therefore had to have a reason to go to you and the association with a distinguished judge, for example, was something that gave, we might say crassly, a veneer of erudition to their practice—that they were actually learned individuals who could be trusted, both in their character and in their knowledge base. So, law school offered several things that were of great use to a practice: they offered expertise, but they also offered prestige. And those two together were not available, necessarily, in the apprenticeship system, unless you were an apprentice to a very distinguished judge, or a very eminent lawyer. 


Meggan Cashwell  10:52 

And I think at this point it's a good time to transition to the law program at the University of Virginia, and what Jefferson's particular vision for the law program was at this moment in 1819. 


David Konig  11:08 

It's important to recognize that the law department is one of the eight departments that were established by the Rockfish Gap Report. And those eight departments were seen as interrelated to one another. The Law School was not a freestanding, isolated institution that happened to be on the campus of a university. Rather, it was integrated into the curriculum and students took programs that allowed themif you look at the courses they took, law was only one of the courses they might have been taking at the time. They could take courses in moral philosophy. Some of them took courses in chemistry, some of them took courses in mineralogy. All of these things were a part of the idea of law, that it was, that it could not be separated from the world that it was in, intellectually or practically. So unlike, for example, Harvard at this time, whose law school was set up separately as a freestanding institution, UVA was not. It encouraged interdisciplinary interchange. And it's interesting to see, when Jefferson talked about the hiring of a law professor, one of the negative facets of somebody who was suggested was that he was too narrow, too narrowly educated, that he could not converse productively with his fellow faculty members, that that kind of faculty interchange was important. I think the other thing is that we have to realize that, you know, Jefferson, one of the things he reacted against, was the religious affiliation of other colleges that were being established. If there's one single foundational principle of Jefferson, it is that truth is not obtained from revealed religion but from rational inquiry. He was training informed individuals who would seek justice and who would look at the world critically, rather than taking revealed religion as the gospel truth, literally. 


Meggan Cashwell  12:58 

So, Jefferson had this very particular interdisciplinary vision for education. And that really brings me to Jefferson's library and the particular texts and volumes he selected for students. So, let's take a quick break, and when we come back, we'll talk about the legal curriculum, and the legal treatises that Jefferson wanted students to read. 


—Musical Break— 


Rebecca Barry  13:28 

Want to learn more about the history of the University of Virginia School of Law? Consider stopping by the Arthur J. Morris Law Library, located within the Law School in Charlottesville, Virginia. Explore the library and check out our rotating exhibits or come to the Special Collections reading room to dig deeper into some of the sources we reference in our episodes. You can also visit the Special Collections website at, where you'll find digitized archival material, oral histories, and online exhibitions covering topics like UVA’s first law library, the Scottish Court of Session papers, law student activism during the 1970s, and student organizations, including Virginia Law Women and the Black Law Students Association. Again, that's 


—Musical Break— 


Meggan Cashwell  14:22 

Welcome back to Legal Knowledge. I'm here with David Konig, and we are about to delve into the law curriculum that Jefferson and the Board of Visitors devised. Now David, when I look at this curriculum, in many respects I see what I would expect to: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Resolutions, the Federalist Papers. But I also see two very key legal theorists, and that’s Sir Edward Coke and Sir William Blackstone. Would you please tell our listeners why Jefferson selected these two theorists, and also why he preferred one over the other? 


David Konig  14:55 

What stood at the apex of his library, or the apex of a reading in law, was the first volume of Sir Edward Coke’s Institutes of the Laws of England. His first Institute was known as Coke upon Littleton, because Coke had taken a fifteenth century real property treatise by Littleton and made it the basis of his legal Institute. It was something that he recommended unerringly whenever he was asked to suggest a source. But what's also interesting, and we really have to acknowledge this when we look at Jefferson's setting up of the library, is that there were many editions of the various texts that he used. Coke was an icon in legal education, but his work was terribly difficult to read. It was tortuous to students. But his work had a special appeal to Americans. And the reason for that is that he was able to tie his treatment of real estate law, of property law, into a kind of course on liberty, on personal liberty. That property for Coke was the basis of one's independence, this is sort of the central to republican theory. But he also saw it, and this is something that gets intothe breadth of his connection of the law to the world around it, is that property law was inseparable from personal liberty, that no one was secure, unless they were secure in their property. Coke wrote his work for an agrarian society. Of course, Jefferson wanted Virginia to remain an agrarian society. But it omitted so much about property and so much about the use of the law, that it really was incomplete. So, if you look at his letters on the reading list that should be followed, he was already having reservations about Coke. Not for its content, but for its impenetrable style. It was impossible to read, he called it a jumble. When he first encountered it as a student himself, in 1762, he had written to his friend John Page, his best friend, he says, "Page, I wish the devil had old Coke, for I am sure I never was so tired of an old dull scoundrel in my life.” But he was also shrewd enough to understand that there was a reason his mentors were assigning. So, Coke was a kind of a trophy that people could claim to have mastered. So, Coke had this iconic status. And Jefferson had this odd fascination with Coke, because he saw Coke as an intellectual challenge, as a puzzle, as a mystery for him to penetrate. And in fact, he believed that anyone who could master Coke would be a great lawyer. Not everyone could. That's the problem. So, this is what this dependence on Coke Littleton was something that led anyone who taught law to greet the publication of Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England with delight.  


Meggan Cashwell  17:54 

So, why was Blackstone easier to understand for the average law student? 


David Konig  17:59 

This was a reorganization. This was an elegant repurposing of Coke. So, Blackstone was, we want to sustain the metaphor that Coke came from the devil, as Jefferson said, he would have said Blackstone is a godsend to law students for its clarity, its elegance, and really in many ways its penetrating analysis. So, this made it a great addition to legal education. Blackstone didn't like to alter English law. Blackstone was considered a bedrock of complacency, a bedrock of the status quo, and a bedrock apologist for England in its hierarchy, and in its maintenance of such a society that Jefferson found distasteful. Making Blackstone, again, even more problematical to Jefferson is the fact that Blackstone believed in parliamentary omnipotence. Blackstone was an apologist for Parliament, in fact, during the Stamp Act crisis, saying that whatever Parliament did was law and that there was no recourse beyond Parliament. So, this is something that gave Jefferson second thoughts about Blackstone, and it points us to look at his other prescriptions for studying law with a different eye, that we see it through the lens of someone who was interested, indeed, devoted to making the law accessible, to making the law meaningful, for the republican lawyer. Jefferson, surprisingly, did not choose the most popular edition of Blackstone available in the United States, and that's the edition made by St. George Tucker, which was a kind of republicanized version. So, what makes Tucker's Blackstone very interesting and very useful is that, like Jefferson, it criticized what the accepted wisdom was. Tucker believed in what we regard now as judicial review, that a judge had the authority, had the power, to intervene and to construe or interpret laws of Congress in a way that Jefferson found to be reminiscent of English judges. And for that reason, he asked for an edition by Edward Christian, a man who is otherwise known to history only for the fact that he was the brother of Fletcher Christian, from Mutiny on the Bounty, but Edward Christian’s version of Blackstone was more palatable. It was something that allowed Jefferson to assign Blackstone with comment, with criticism, and so on, but not to allow into American law what he believed to be the nefarious undermining of liberty by a judicial elite. So, we now have Coke and Blackstone adapted for legal education. We see that these are books that encouraged a critical response by students. These are books that were filled with footnotes that criticized what the so-called iconic texts said, and this is something that I think made his law program a success. 


Meggan Cashwell  21:14 

Well, we now have a curriculum in place. Trouble is, we still don't have a law professor. David, would you tell us about the search for the first law professor, and why this was such a long and protracted process? 


David Konig  21:27 

[Laughter] It was Jefferson's fault. It's important again to put this in context, for Jefferson in his life, and in what's going on in Virginia, and what's going on in the nation. The University was his last great project, it dominated the last years of his life. And he almost willed himself to live until the Law School opened. Jefferson saw the nation as under the thrall of federalists, of consolidationists. For Jefferson, there were no two ways about this. He could not escape his fears of an incorporation of a federal common law that would bring with it the authority of revealed religion, which is why he went so off the rails when this issue about Christianity and the common law came up. I mean, if Christianity was part of the common law, and if the common law became federal, then we were all in big trouble, and he did not want that to happen. But he saw it happening. And he insisted, as he wrote to Madison, and as he wrote to many others, that we must be strict in this. We must pick someone whose principles are truly, truly Whig. So, that's something that dictated his selection, as we've seen, of a reading list in law, but it also became something that led him to insist on a kind of a litmus test for the first professor of law. And it was a hard position to fill. Law professors were paid very poorly at the time. And if he wanted to have a professor who had the stature of a judge, which of course is what attracted students, he made sure that every professor that was nominated satisfied the strictest of Whig states rights philosophy. And given the fact that these judges were of the stature that they could command rather lucrative fees in their private practice, they did not want to give it up. Several of the men that he begged to become professor of law said, okay, I'll do it if I can keep my law practice, or I can keep my judicial seat while I do this. And Jefferson was adamantly opposed to that. He did not want part-time faculty. He wanted full-time faculty who would be committed to this mission. So, when we look at the men that he approached, this is always an issue. It was an issue certainly, I think, with his favorite. If we want to pick someone who would have fit his demands most closely, was Thomas Cooper, who was teaching in South Carolina at this time. But Cooper did not want to give up the position he had. Jefferson tried to sweeten the pot by saying, okay, we'll appoint you as professor of law and also a professor of chemistry at the same time, so you'll have two salaries. This was still not enough. The same issue came up with Henry St. George Tucker, who in 1831 had opened his own law school in Winchester, a proprietary law school, that Jefferson feared if he allowed Tucker to do what Tucker wanted to do, which was stay in Winchester part of the year, that the Winchester law school would siphon off UVA Law students. So, it became a kind of revolving door. I mean, poor Jefferson. Here he is in his old age, begging these men to come to Charlottesville. 


Meggan Cashwell  24:49 

I would not want to be on that search committee, I have to say. But of course, we know that Jefferson does eventually land on a law professor after he considers a dozen or more candidates, and that person was John Tayloe Lomax. Why did Jefferson select Lomax in the end? 


David Konig  25:07 

Lomax was, you know, way down the list. Lomax turned out to be a great success as a teacher, but at the time he was unknown. He was a young man, he was a practitioner, he did not have a high judicial profile like the others. And in fact, some of the Visitors who voted on this said that, well, you know, Lomax doesn't have a big name yet, he doesn't have the stature that's going to attract students. Nevertheless, Jefferson gave in, he agreed on Lomax. And in fact, it's really hard to disentangle his feelings about the Lomax appointment from the fact that he used the term, “We are desperate, we are desperate for a law professor.” The University started many years after this whole process began. And in fact, it actually opened its doors in the other seven departments in 1825. Pavilion III was vacant when the University opened because there was no law professor, not even a law professor in the pipeline. And eventually, they even had to postpone the opening of the Law School to 1826. The Law School did not open with the rest of the University. July 1826 is Jefferson's death on the fourth. Lomax was actually not appointed, did not accept, until July 1st, and this was even mid-semester. So, Lomax becomes the professor of law. He brought with him great enthusiasm for what he did. It turns out, he was becoming quite an expert and even published a treatise, on real estate law, on real property law, which was going to be central to the curriculum at this law school as it was at others.  


Meggan Cashwell  26:45 

Well, now that we have our law professor in place, let's take one final break, and when we come back, we'll talk about Lomax and his successor, and whether or not they adhered to Jefferson's vision.  


—Musical Break— 


Meggan Cashwell  27:04 

If you're enjoying Legal Knowledge, we've got more content for you on our website, including short interviews, field recordings, photographs, and some of the archival materials we discuss with our contributors. For instance, you can read UVA Law student notebooks from the 1830s and explore early reading lists and exams, all at Now back to the episode.  


—Musical Break— 


Meggan Cashwell  27:37 

We are back with David Konig, and we’ll now talk about Lomax's curriculum and that of his successor. But I'd first like to provide our listeners a bit of context here. So, Lomax took up his post as the first law professor in 1826, as David mentioned, but he resigned just a few years later in 1830. And then John A. G. Davis took over as law professor, serving until his untimely death in 1840. David, it's been my observation, looking through the reading lists of Davis and Lomax, that they really largely stuck to Jefferson's curriculum, although they do make a few additions. And of course, there is a greater emphasis on Blackstone in this curriculum. What do you make of that? 


David Konig  28:20 

Lomax does not have the clout to depart very far from the Jeffersonian curriculum, and we see that he did not do so. Neither did his successor, John Davis, who became professor when Lomax left. In fact, Lomax left to start his own law school. But we have law notes of—from his successor’s classroom, and they show a close adherence to Jefferson. In fact, if we look at the notes by John Stevenson, that came from Blackstone's Commentaries, we see that he actually quotes Jefferson. And he does this on an issue that we really should confront, which is how the curriculum dealt with slavery. It's something that was central to Virginia, it's something that this volume will give much more attention to. But the shadow of Jefferson loomed large over the teaching of law at the University. It loomed large over slavery. And it actually is revealing, especially if we try, as some people do, to make Jefferson, you know, an unreconstructed apologist for the continuation of slavery. He certainly had his doubts about slavery. And he says, as we know, he wished that somehow it would go away. But the view that students got of slavery at the University was very much from Jefferson and from his Notes on Virginia, where he talks about the difficulty of ending slavery. And as Davis lectured to his students, in 1832, “In the language of Mr. Jefferson, we had the wolf by the ear and had to hold it or let it go. It would be attended with equal difficulty and danger.” So, I think it's important for us, if we look at Lomax and if we look at Davis, we see a not uncritical approach to much of the law of the time, and certainly not uncritical of the institution of slavery. 


Meggan Cashwell  30:25 

David, your explanation makes me wonder about the students that Lomax and Davis were teaching. Quite a few of these students came from wealthy families who enslaved people. And some of these students were enslavers themselves. Do you think these are the students Jefferson had in mind when he created the initial law curriculum?  


David Konig  30:45 

Just as William & Mary had come to be dominated by the offspring of slave owners, so too the UVA student body drew from that same pool. And the problem is that their view of law was not a repository of commitment to public service, if I might be euphemistic about it. They were students who came there from privileged backgrounds, and who insisted on the kind of privilege that they had had. Students lived large. They were told they couldn't bring firearms onto campus. They ignored that. They drank heavily. They abused faculty, they were really an unruly bunch.  


Meggan Cashwell  31:28 

Well, David, getting back to the classroom that was comprised, at least in part, of some unruly students, what were the core legal principles they were learning?  


David Konig  31:38 

We're fortunate enough that the final exams of 1829 and 1830 were actually published and that they were very practice-oriented for a male property-holding clientele. That is to say, the questions that they were asked, in these situations, were questions like: How old does a woman have to be before she can basically sign over her property to her husband? How old does she have to be to have certain other marriage rights? What sort of rights does the husband have over his wife? This was the sort of legal practice that a male-centered property holding society wanted to know. And it's pretty clear that this is what led them to the classroom in the first place. We know that Professor Davis, it was by his teaching that the term “commercial law” was put into the curriculum. This is exactly what was wanted, but it took more than a decade for it to get into the curriculum. And it's clear that he was responding to what was demanded or requested by the students. We also have an example, again, during Davis' tenure there, is encouragement of a law society, which was a group for forensic discussion in which the professor presided, and in which questions connected with their studies were discussed. 


Meggan Cashwell  33:08 

And this is really the beginning of the modern-day Moot Court, which is still a part of the student experience here at UVA Law. But let's go back to 1840. This is the end of Davis' tenure. How do you think Jefferson would have felt about the state of the law program, and the University as a whole, at this point? 


David Konig  33:26 

I think it's important to acknowledge that by 1840 now, which you know was fifteen years after its founding, the Law School was on firm ground, its enrollment was pretty steady, but at the same time Jefferson would take some pride in the fact that the University had become a bastion of southern nationalism, a bastion of Virginia's stature among the states, which he wanted to establish. He was always jealous of New England for its education, which he said gives it great power. He says look at Massachusetts, it's a fragment the size of Virginia, but in national politics, it's far more powerful. It's a testimonial, really, to a way of looking at law school, to a way of looking at legal education as a product of its time. Even such a giant as Jefferson could not bend it to his will. He tried meticulously, took great care, even in the architecture of the buildings. He even knew how many bricks were being used to build the University.  


Meggan Cashwell  34:27 

David, I just cannot thank you enough. You have given us such a wonderful foundation to continue exploring the history of the Law School and legal education. Before we close, I’d just like to talk for a moment about Professor Gordon Hylton. To provide some background for our listeners, Gordon, who graduated from UVA Law in 1977, became a member of the Law School faculty in 2015. Gordon was actually going to write this history of legal education, that Law Special Collections at UVA is now spearheading. Sadly, Gordon passed away in 2018. David, I was hoping you could talk a bit about your friendship with Gordon, and how you are incorporating portions of Gordon's work into your own chapter. 


David Konig 35:09 

Yea, well, doing this had the quality of a labor of love, because Gordon was a beloved friend. And I first met Gordon when he was a visiting professor at Washington University Law School, where he came into my office because I was the legal historian on the faculty. And we hit it off immediately. In every position he held, he was voted the best faculty member, he was voted the best teacher. It just doesn't happen. But for Gordon, it did. And when I started teaching property law, being not trained as a lawyer, Gordon was of inestimable help. He answered my stupid questions, he pointed out, you know, how these things should be approached. And I am forever grateful to him for that. I'm also grateful, therefore, to have the opportunity to build on his work. But Gordon's loss was untimely. And it was something that leads us all to miss him. 


Meggan Cashwell  36:02 

Well, we are certainly very grateful to Gordon for all the work he put into this project. And, of course, again, we are just so grateful to you for joining us today and for kicking off this podcast series. This was a real pleasure, David. 


David Konig  36:15 

It was a pleasure for me, but it was also a great privilege and an honor to be part of this project and to be included with such a group of extraordinary scholars. 


—Musical Break— 


Meggan Cashwell  36:35 

For more on today's episode, please visit our website,, where you'll find show notes, a transcript, and bonus content. We'd also love to hear from you. So, if you have thoughts on the show, feel free to reach out to us via our contact us page, also at I hope you'll join us for the next episode, as we continue to explore legal education at the University of Virginia. Thanks for listening. 


Rebecca Barry  37:08 

Legal Knowledge is a production of the Arthur J. Morris Law Library at the University of Virginia. The podcast is produced by me, Rebecca Barry, along with Meggan Cashwell and Addie Patrick. Special thanks to Loren Moulds for designing our website, Jane McBrian for assisting with transcription, and Randi Flaherty for supporting this podcast in countless ways. We also want to thank the staff at WTJU for use of their studio and the staff at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at UVA for use of their materials. Our theme song is Center of Gravity by Phutureprimitive. Please rate and review Legal Knowledge on your favorite podcast app and be sure to tell your friends about the show. We'll see you next time 


—Musical Outro— 

Show Notes

When the University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the institution faced significant hurdles to success. Many other law schools were struggling to establish a strong student base, and there was widespread mistrust of judges and lawyers among the Virginia populace. Jefferson desired for UVA Law to train leaders and lawyers to serve the new nation, and he carefully crafted a law curriculum to achieve this ambition. But how could this curriculum balance the teaching of ideals with on-the-job skills? The first law professors grappled with Jefferson’s vision amid a student body perpetually calling for more practical training and as new proprietary law schools competed with UVA for students. In this environment, and in the shadow of Jefferson, these early professors created an academic law program they hoped would survive and, someday, thrive.

Professor David Konig joins us to describe the shifting landscape of early nineteenth-century legal education. In this first episode, we discuss his upcoming book chapter on Jefferson’s vision for the Law School and the teaching methods of UVA’s first law professors, John Tayloe Lomax (1826-30) and John A. G. Davis (1830-40). 

Guest Bio

Professor David Konig is an Emeritus Professor of Law and History at Washington University in St. Louis. He studies Thomas Jefferson’s legal thought and practice, which is the subject of his current book project. He is the author and editor of several books, including his most recent Jefferson’s Legal Commonplace Book, which he co-edited with Michael P. Zuckert and others for the Papers of Thomas Jefferson Second Series (Princeton University Press, 2019).

Select Bibliography

Below are links to records for select special collections materials featured in this episode.  

Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections, University of Virginia 


We invite you to explore other legal texts from Thomas Jefferson’s library via the 1828 Catalogue Project: The First Law Library of the University of Virginia, a digital initiative curated by the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. The University of Virginia published the first Catalogue of its library in 1828, nine years after the school’s founding. Among the roughly 8,000 books in this collection were 369 law titles, shelved along the walls of the Rotunda dome room. Throughout the nineteenth century, UVA’s original law books were dispersed, moved, and some lost to the 1895 Rotunda fire. In the 1980s, the UVA Law Library began to reconstruct this historical law library. The Law Library has recovered some of the original Rotunda books and acquired exact duplicate editions of others. The physical copies of the 1828 Catalogue Collection are housed within the Law Library’s rare book room and form a part of the Library’s broader collection of roughly 10,000 rare books.