Posts tagged ‘Thomas Jefferson’

Thomas Jefferson as Virginia’s Governor.

Today started off as has been the norm for the past week or so – got to the Library slightly late, dug into some e-mails, and the cracked open some books to start my research for the day. I also began double-checking for holes in the outline for my essay, and sure enough – I had overlooked a big one. I had neglected to include the establishment of the Law school (then called the school of Law and Police) at William and Mary, with his good friend and mentor George Wythe as its first professor. This is essential, as it shows that FINALLY Jefferson had gotten some sort of improvement into the College. Awesome. So I dove into the TJPortal in search of further information, and found practically nothing. I had tried JSTOR, and I had already read the articles of interest that they had to offer.

Then it hit me – perhaps I should try the Princeton volumes of TJ’s papers. Jefferson said it himself somewhere (I remember reading it at some point…but I can’t remember where… the researcher’s dilemma :P) that his biography was contained within his letters, so into the volumes I went. So far, I’ve only found a letter to a Mr. James Madison singing the praises of what George Wythe was doing with  the law school. Based on what Jefferson had written, it seems like there were quite a few debates and mock trials taking place with lots of participation by the students and other Williamsburgians. Sounds pretty sweet.  However, I then had read somewhere (Gah!) that Wythe had later left his post, as the College was once again brewing with mischievous behavior in both the faculty and the students. A sad ending to something that had so much promise… 😥

I am now sitting here still doing my research, and hopefully I’ll find more tasty tidbits for posting by the time my day at the Library is over. So that’s all for now, more to come later! : )

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July 30, 2009 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Doing Some Hardcore Research at UVa.

Last Thursday, I was flipping through a few of my sources looking for more tasty tidbits to include in my time line when I stumbled across a footnote in H.S. Randall’s biography of TJ that pointed to a memoir written by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. This had instantaneously sparked my curiosity, as TJ Randolph was to some extent raised by ol’ grandpa TJ back in the day.

So I had set off to Google books to find a copy  of this work, but to no avail. I then tried various other means to see if it might be in print somewhere, but again no such luck. Was it just me? Was there something that I was missing? I referred back to the endnote, and sure enough it was not a published book but a manuscript deep within the Special Collections library at the University of Virginia. Awesome. Since I had made this discovery fairly late in the day on Thursday, my research had to be put on hold until Monday.

Monday began with a surge of excitement, as I absolutely LOVE going to the special collections section of libraries. I love everything about it – I love the strict procedures for viewing materials, the musty, finely aged smell of the old documents, and that feeling of scholarly officialness when I’m doing my research in these places. It just feels awesome.

As soon as I had checked in, made my requests, and sat down in the chair closest to the bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Awesome! 🙂 ), the friendly librarian brought me my first box of documents to have a look at. As I was leafing through, I couldn’t help but read what TJR had written as a fragmented book of hilariously awesome and sometimes random anecdotes. One story that had caught my eye in particular was the one about the Bishop James Madison (president of William and Mary College, and cousin to the US President, I think) not being able to receive Thomas Jefferson in Staunton at some point, so Bishop Madison’s father received him instead and apparently there were a few others at the place engaged in a heated round of cards in one of the rooms. While those people were playing, the Bishop’s father walked around the room while very discretely leaving a trail of black powder behind him. No sooner than when TJ  and the father left the room that someone inside had said something about sinning and hell, and the father lit the trail on fire with all of the now very alarmed card players  surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke and fire. I found that both hilarious but also very dangerous at the same time, as building fires were a huge problem back in those days.

After I had finished up at UVa,  I unfortunately had to leave immediately due to parking in the Central garage and not having enough cash on hand to stay for another hour to explore the grounds. So I don’t have any good photos of campus to post here just yet, but perhaps I will return before I leave for Massachusetts next week to see the Rotunda and the academic village. However, I am happy to say that I had a good time at UVa and gathered many tasty tidbits to include in my essay, which was pretty awesome since my last visit to a Special Collections yielded nothing that wasn’t available to me via databases already. スゴイ!

Picture of the Day:

Ah! A cute lil cicada outside my window this morning.

Ah! A cute lil' cicada outside my window this morning.

July 28, 2009 at 11:00 am 1 comment

Mundane Mondays.

Nothing too exciting today. The weekend went fairly well, got a lot of cleaning and laundry done. Today just seems to be an “Eh” kind of day. I haven’t been digging into anything terribly exciting, but more or less just reorganizing all of the material that I’ve amassed since starting my research. Which, now that I think about it,  is a good thing since my notes were starting to get a little sloppy and all over the place. 😛

However, I did find one little gem in my research today from a gentleman who had written to the President and Masters of the College of William and Mary in February of 1804 in reference to what Jefferson had written in his Notes on the State of Virginia:

“The College is a large, but rude building. The person, Sir Christopher Wren, who planned it, has not manifested an exquisite taste for  the beauties of architecture. Mr. Jefferson in speaking of it calls it a ‘rude, misshapen pile, which, but that it has a roof, would be taken for a common brick-kiln’. It is certainly not an elegant structure, but it is easily distinguishable from a brick-kiln” (Letter of William T. Barry, WMQ Second Series, Vol. 8, No. 4, pg. 247).

What a whiner! 😛

Picture of the Day:

View from the mountain trail near Monticello on my first walk with Anna and Susan. 🙂

July 20, 2009 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

Colonial Williamsburg = Pure Awesome.

Today started out like usual.  I woke up, did my daily routine, and walked out the door five minutes later than I should have. But today, I broke from the norm. Instead of heading up the mountain to Jefferson Library for some quality research time, I packed up my lil’ car and gunned it all the way to fabulous, Colonial Williamsburg.

Of course, the real reason that I was there was to check out the Special Collections archive at the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library for any tasty TJ tidbits and to have a look at the infamous Sir Christopher Wren building – the very same in which TJ attended his college classes. Talk about an “Oh my god!” moment for me – I have spent the past month or so digging into research about TJ and this very building, so it was amazing to finally see it in person. The interior reminded me a lot of Hogwarts, which was pretty cool.

The only thing (okay things) about today that I was sad about was 1) the places where the foundations for the TJ designed expansion weren’t marked and 2) I couldn’t go into the crypt where TJ mentor Peyton Randolph’s (and his misses and several other prominent people from W&M in the 18th century) remains are kept, and 3) I didn’t really find anything that I didn’t already know from another source in the Special Collections archives. However, I would like to note that the Librarians at Swem Library are fantastic, and were willing to help me in any way they could. I also learned how to use a microfilm to PC scanner for the first time today, so that can be added to the list of pluses. 🙂

After I was finished up at the College, I went to have a poke around good ol’ Colonial Williamsburg. First thing on my list was to buy something crazy for my two sisters (Jen and Kate! Look! I mentioned you! :P) back in Massachusetts (Erin – I didn’t forget you either, but you wouldn’t want what I got the other two. You’ll have a gift too though! :)), because what I wanted to get for  them isn’t sold at the Monticello gift shop, and also because I was really antsy to get a spectacular tri-cornered hat to share with Scott. Awesome! 😀

I then made my way to the Governor’s Palace, when I noticed large crowds of families flocking onto the lawn. Then, it seemed like the earth shook as the thundering of drums and sweet fife melodies accented by the sound of colonial marching crashed through the air. A large red-coated (but not THE redcoats, there IS a difference!) corps of Williamsburg’s finest marched their way across the lawn, leaving me stunned in awe in their wake. Listening to drum and fife music is one thing, but actually EXPERIENCING it is a completely different horse. I just stood watching even after they and their hordes of tourist groupies with video cameras had gone by, and one local (I could tell because he was dressed like Ben Franklin) looked at me and nodded as if to say,  I completely understand.

I continued to poke around the historic portion of the town for a little while longer, walking by the open air market stand where one can buy deluxe hand-made (and with Napoleon-esque ribbons!) tri-cornered hats (I settled for a poor man’s plain black one though :P) and floppy-doppy sunhats for the lady. There were also plenty of games, cookware, and writing utensils; so they certainly had something to offer for everybody.

Then six o’ clock came around, and I knew that my time at Colonial Williamsburg had expired. I had a two-hour drive ahead of me, and I sadly shuffled my way back to my trusty vehicle and sped off towards the Charlottesville sunset.

Picture of the Day (and others from today available to view on Flickr):

"Oh hey TJ, whatcha writin'?"

"Oh hey TJ, whatcha writin'?"

July 14, 2009 at 9:53 pm 5 comments

Happy Belated Independence Day.

Independence Day weekend was pretty awesome. I didn’t attend any fireworks displays or anything (but I did accidently sleep in for the naturalization ceremony at Monticello 😦 ), but I still had a pretty good weekend.

Saturday I finally was able to sleep in little (but also slightly to my dismay since I missed the ceremony) and did some minor grocery shopping for sushi-making supplies. I got A TON of housework done as well – namely laundry and spiffing up my otherwise disgustingly messy room.  I also put my sushi-making skills (and freshly bought supplies!) to good use by making 4 rolls (each yielding about 7-8 pieces, from my estimate) of it and sending most of it off with my housemates to a cookout. It was a very productive day.

Sunday was pretty boring, so I won’t go there.

Today so far has been pretty good. I had accidentally stayed up too late last night, so I slept in a little this morning and came to the Library around noon. I’ve been working mostly on completing the details of my thesis outline and answering a good portion of the questions that I had posed on it with tidbits from Jefferson’s letters and legislative writings. So far so good, as most of these are all in print or PDF format. Sweeet. 🙂

I haven’t really been getting as much research work done as I’d like to lately, but I’m sure that it’s alright just for today. I plan on pulling up my bootstraps and getting a lot done tomorrow, as I’ll be in at the usual time of 9 AM to begin my days studies. Apart from the lag in work output lately, overall I feel as though I’m doing quite well. I’ve gotten a lot done – I’ve taken A TON of notes, read a bajillion books and articles on the subject matter, and have spent a lot of time and effort crafting an outline and bibliography for my final essay. I’m hoping that everything will turn out just fine and that I finish the essay just before the fall semester starts. So we’ll see.

Nothing else too interesting to report, so that’s all for now, more to come later!

July 6, 2009 at 4:27 pm 2 comments

Thomas Jefferson: Forgotten Legislator

Today has been pretty fascinating. Building off of what I had unearthed yesterday in a letter to TJ from Samuel Stanhope Smith in the second volume of the former’s papers, I had, I guess, re-discovered for myself that somewhere in the ginormous list of TJ’s life accomplishments that he once wrote a few bills for revamping the educational system of Virginia. I’m not sure that this tidbit in particular is part of the grade school history curriculum nowadays (or even in my day, some 15 years ago for that matter) but after I had realized this, a certain feeling of “Wow, how could you NOT know this?” came over me like a tsunami. I mean, I had worked pretty hard last semester on an entire presentation that speculated what TJ might have thought about the recent economic stimulus package (and going as far as to bring in copies of two of the bills from the Senate Printing Office to show the class just how big and nasty those puppies were at 400+ pages a pop) , and for me NOT to have remembered that he wrote some of his own legislation dealing with some economic matters in his day just kind of made me feel like there was egg all over my face.

However, this metaphorical (?) egg was quickly mopped up from my forehead as I had the victory of FINALLY stumbling across the text of his bill on revamping the College of William and Mary into a university (and also a few bits on revenue for the College). The endnotes to Mr. Smith’s letter pointed me to TJ’s Bill no. 79 in the appendix, so I quickly flipped a few hundred pages  to that bill first. This bill does allude to William and Mary becoming a university in an outline of the proposed educational system’s structure, however, no where in the text is the word “university” used. Nor does it mention other goodies such as making the College non-denominal or revamping the board of visitors as I had read that it did in other materials. Crap.

So after huffing about not finding any pot ‘o golden information at the end of that rainbow, my eyes suddenly darted to the next bill – no. 80, which is titled “A Bill for Amending the Constitution  of the College of William and Mary, and Substituting More Certain Revenues for Its Support”.  DING DING DING! I knew I had a winner, but I also felt like a total idiot for not noticing it earlier. Honestly, how can several modern scholarly articles mention one “act” or “bill”, all heralding about the same magic content, and then somehow I can’t find it? Wow. Don’t get me wrong though – I’m ecstatic that I did find it, but just a little disappointed that it was in a roundabout way.  I guess we all have our off days though. 😛

So I had finally found my pot o’ gold, and I’m currently pouring over it and gobbling up all of the glittering details. One thing that I’ve noticed is that TJ’s bills are almost like legislative poetry, giving the reader a synopsis of the College’s history and the major figures involved before getting to his point –

“And, whereas the experience of near an hundred years hath proved, that the said College, thus amply endowed by the public, hath not answered their expectations…”

OH SNAP! There he abruptly ends the serene poetry and throws down the gauntlet right in the College’s face for all of the state to read (well, had the printer actually printed and distributed the bill like he was supposed to, but that’s a different story). It is especially tasty to have read that considering that the governance of the College (the board of visitors, the rector, president, trustees?, even the archbishop of London, etc. etc.) had done almost nothing but bicker at each other since the first president, James Blair, had left; and since then there was A LOT of chaos and student (and sometimes even faculty) rioting that had been going on at the College even while TJ was studying there.

Thus, it has been speculated, based on what TJ has said in his Autobiography and in his letters (I currently have a migraine and thus can’t think of any specific letters in particular at the moment, but may come back to fix it later), that a good part of the reason he wanted to revamp William and Mary was because he had so much distaste for the chaos that had occured there in his day. Delicious.

Pictures of the Day (a twofah! :)) –

Today was a pretty rainy, stormy day.

Today was a pretty rainy, stormy day.

This cute lil' booger attacked my leg today when I was putting his bed to proper DDR usage.

This cute lil' booger attacked my leg today when I was putting his "bed" to proper DDR usage.

July 1, 2009 at 4:16 pm 2 comments

What a Riot – Studying the Happenings of William and Mary During Jefferson’s Student Years.

This morning, I decided to dig into the last and largest of 5 articles that I had printed out yesterday for background reference. At a whopping 38 pages, Mark Wenger’s 1995 article from the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography — Thomas Jefferson, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Virginia — does not fail to disappoint. As is the norm with a lot of historical writings, the first page or few can be quite dry, as was in this case. However, when the author began to delve into the tensions of the mainly clerical-led faculty and board of visitors (of which TJ mentor Peyton Randolph was a member), it seemed like all colonial hell broke loose.

The article outlines a melee and all-out war over control over the proceedings of the school and clerical outrage over the Two Penny Act. The clerical faculty of William and Mary wanted president Dawson to allow them to convene and make a case to the Archbishop of London in the event of their suffering heavy financial losses due to the Act. Dawson refused, and there was a lot of unrest among the college faculty. There then was a fight involving a faculty member’s student brother which resulted in none of them testifying due to their dissatisfaction with the president’s and the board of visitor’s influences over how campus happenings were run. Most of the faculty were expelled, and within the new crop of professors came William Small, TJ’s much admired academic mentor and Jacob Rowe, who (ironically) was appointed the professor of moral philosophy.

Rowe turned out to be a bad choice for the college, as he was given to bouts of public drunkenness and instigating large fights with the Williamsburg townies. This gem from Wenger’s article gives the reader a tiny, tasty morsel of dirt on what was only a fraction of the debauchery:

“…Rowe had involved himself in the ensuing dispute [as a result of a second wave of the Two Penny Act] and was hauled before the House of Burgesses for publicly suggesting that certain members should be hanged and for vowing that he would deny any burgess (sic?) applying to him for the sacrament. To secure his own release, Rowe had to submit a written apology and pay a fine.”

But wait, it gets better:

“Within a short time… Rowe… became notorious for public drunkeness, outbursts against the authorities, and ‘horrid oaths and execrations in their common conversations…’ [Rowe was] accused of trying to ‘destroy the regular authority of the President of the college, and to create and keep up Differences and Parties between the President and Masters.’ ”

On this incident, then Lieut. Governor Fauquier (who later as Governor was known for his outrageous gambling habits) let Mr. Rowe go. Rowe had promised to be a good egg and reform his behavior, but as is with most “badasses” this pledge didn’t last very long. Rowe incited a large-scale fight between townies and college students which resulted in Visitors’ Board member Peyton Randolph confronting him about the incident. This immediately resulted in Rowe shoving a loaded pistol to Randolph’s chest, and resolving to “[threaten] the lives of all who obstructed his efforts to redeem William and Mary’s honor”.

Then, Wenger gets to Rowe’s fate, in which he apparently “suffered immediate dismissal [from the William and Mary faculty]  for his part in this adventure and returned to England in disgrace”. To add salt to the wound, the man who carried out his censure and expulsion was Lieut. Gov. Fauquier. Awesome.

Pictures of the Day (another two-fer!)

My feet, Monticello, April 2007.

My feet, Monticello, April 2007.

The Reprisal - June 2009.

The Reprisal - June 2009.

June 23, 2009 at 12:31 pm 3 comments

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