The Proctor, The University, and the Law (1825)
    by Catherine A. Creighton, Undergraduate Research Assistant (History Degree)

The Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia convened at the University for a regular meeting on October 7, 1825. Thomas Jefferson, as Rector of the Board, presided over this meeting. Also in attendance were: James Madison, James Breckenridge, Joseph Carrington Cabell, John Hartwell Cocke, Chapman Johnson, and George Loyall.


The main task before the Visitors at this meeting was to outline the roles and responsibilities of various University officials and authorities. One of the offices discussed in greatest detail was that of Proctor of the University. At a previous meeting of the Visitors, and in the text of the University Enactments, it was written that the Proctor of the University would be answerable to the Chairman of the Faculty and tasked with much of the day-to-day enforcement of student discipline at the University. At this meeting, it was also proposed that the Proctor additionally be charged with “the duty at all times” to act as “the Attorney in fact of the Rector and Visitors.”


The Visitors then proceeded to outline the additional responsibilities that would be asked of the Proctor in his service as Attorney for the Board of Visitors. Among these responsibilities were the duty to prevent “trespasses and intrusions” on both the real and personal property of the University. Should any property of the University be stolen, the Proctor would be charged with “recovering its possession” and initiating any “legal proceeding as may be proper” against the thief.


As an attorney for the Visitors, the Visitors also stipulated that the Proctor coordinate closely with local law enforcement officials in both Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The Visitors envisioned that this coordination would often take the form of communication between officials in both locations with the goal of “prevent[ing] and punish[ing] breaches of the peace, trespasses,” and “misdemeanors” within the precincts of the University. The Proctor was also asked to promise to communicate with civil authorities if University students committed crimes beyond the University precincts, and if students committed crimes within the precincts which also violated local laws.


Five months later, the Visitors reconvened in Charlottesville on April 3 and 4, 1826. Once more, Thomas Jefferson presided as Rector. Also in attendance were: Joseph Carrington Cabell, John Hartwell Cocke, Chapman Johnson, and James Madison. Although the date of this meeting followed the regular schedule of quarterly meetings of the Visitors, it was focused on responding to three instances of student misbehavior. How the Visitors chose to handle each instance significantly enhanced the responsibilities of the Proctor even further.


The first incident discussed by the Visitors involved two students, D.S. Mosby and Thomas Draffin, accused of frequently “tippling houses”[1] in Charlottesville. The Visitors requested not only that prosecutions be “instituted against” both students, but also that the Proctor might work dutifully to motivate civil authorities to revoke the “licenses” of the establishments.


Likely out of recognition that these additional tasks would prove time-consuming and burdensome in addition to the Proctor’s regular responsibilities, the Visitors empowered him to “employ counsel for the University” to assist him with carrying out the prosecutions against Mosby, Draffin, and the tippling houses. The Visitors stipulated that these additional counsel would receive “reasonable fees” for their work, and be expected to appear in Court on behalf of the University and the Proctor when necessary.


The next incident discussed by the Visitors concerned a former student of the University named Robert Beverly. Following his dismissal from the University Beverly had chosen to “abide for the time” in Charlottesville where he “habitually indul[ged] habits of intemperance and disorder.” Aside from being indecorous, Beverly’s habits “violat[ed] the laws of the land,” and were argued by the Visitors to “set an evil example to the Students, and sed[uce] them from their duties.” As a result, the Visitors hoped that Beverly might be punished and removed from such close proximity to the University.


Unfortunately for the Visitors’ plans, because Beverly was no longer a student at the University, the Proctor had no jurisdiction to punish these offenses and ensure his removal. As such, the Visitors entreated upon the Proctor to work jointly with the county “Attorney for the Commonwealth” to organize and initiate Beverly’s prosecution.


The final case discussed by the Visitors also concerned former students of the University. The two students in question, Philip Clayton and William L. Eyre, had been expelled from the University after perpetrating “violence” against “the house of Professor Emmet, and the wall of Professor Blaetterman’s garden.” As requested in the case of Robert Beverly, the Visitors once more sought the Proctor’s diligent cooperation with the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney to initiate prosecution and punishment against the gentlemen in the county court.


Although each of the three cases discussed by the Visitors was unique, all shared a common thread in that they pushed, and therefore exposed, the limits of the jurisdiction of the University Proctor. It is thus unsurprising that after discussing each case in detail, the Visitors spent the remainder of the meeting strategizing how to amend University policy so as to limit the contact of expelled students with those currently enrolled at the University. Consensus of the Visitors supported the passage of a resolution which “absolutely inhibited” expelled students from entering University precincts for five years after the date of their expulsion. Exception to this rule would only be granted with the “leave of some professor.” The Visitors charged the University Proctor with the enforcement of this new resolution. Should a student enter the precincts in violation of the rule, the Proctor was tasked with “warn[ing] him off.” Should the student refuse to leave, or appear again within the precincts, the Proctor would be required to consult with “the Attorney employed for the University” to take further legal measures to punish for the offense.


After agreeing upon this resolution, the Visitors discussed requirements and expectations of hotelkeepers within the University and business pertaining to several other students. Upon the conclusion of these discussions, the meeting was adjourned.




[1] Colloquial name for a tavern, or confectionery in which spirits and alcohol were served. The Enactments of the University forbade students from frequenting these establishments. 




University of Virginia. Board of Visitor Minutes. 7 October 1825: n.p.


University of Virginia. Board of Visitor Minutes. 3, 4 April 1826: n.p.


Cite This Entry


Creighton, Catherine A. "The Proctor, The University, and the Law (1825)." JUEL, June 18, 2015.


First published: June 18, 2015 | Last modified:  July 2, 2018


Minutes of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia, October 1825 Minutes of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia, April 1826