“Mr. Jefferson Goes to Williamsburg” Case 1

“Mr. Jefferson Goes to Williamsburg” Case 1
Virginia Lawyers
Image by Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library
Shown here is the Case 1 layout for the exhibit "Mr. Jefferson Goes to Williamsburg," on display from October 2010-January 2011 and located in the Read & Relax area of Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. This exhibit commemorates the 250th Anniversary of Thomas Jefferson attending the College, and explores the College and Williamsburg while Jefferson was a student there.

Below are the exhibit labels for Case 1:

Mr. Jefferson Goes to Williamsburg

This year marks the 250th Anniversary of Thomas Jefferson attending the College of William and Mary. In 1760, Jefferson set off from his rural estate in Albemarle County, Virginia to Williamsburg in order to further his education. After he graduated from William and Mary in 1762, Jefferson continued his education by studying the law for five years under George Wythe, lawyer and future professor of law at the College. Williamsburg helped to shape the mind of the future author of the Declaration of Independence and President of the United States of America. This exhibit contains letters, photographs, and other material documenting Williamsburg during the period Thomas Jefferson was a student there. 

In the 1760s, the College was divided up into four schools: the Grammar School, Indian School, School of Philosophy, and Divinity. The Grammar School was preparatory school made up of boys, usually ranging from 10 to 15 years old, who would study Latin and Greek. At 15, before the students could enter the School of Philosophy, they would have to pass an oral examination. The Indian School, created from the Brafferton Estate, was set up to teach Native Americans basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, along with religious instruction. The School of Philosophy was made up of two disciplines: Moral Philosophy, which taught rhetoric, logic, and ethics; and Natural Philosophy, which taught physics, metaphysics, and mathematics. Those students who completed two years in philosophy were eligible for a Bachelor of Arts. Students in the Divinity School were taught Hebrew, the Old and New Testaments, commonplaces of divinity, and controversies with heretics.

Thomas Jefferson, Monticello to Thomas McAuley, 14 June 1819.
In this letter, Jefferson acknowledged that he was a member of the F.H.C. Society, a secret society founded in 1750 at William and Mary and a forerunner to fraternity life at the College.

Photograph print of an engraving found in the Bodleian Library in England showing the three College buildings (l to r): the Brafferton, Wren Building, and the President’s House, circa 1740.

Thomas Dawson, Williamsburg, to Lady Gooch, widow of Sir William Gooch, Governor of Virginia (1727-1749). January 1758.

This letter was written by Thomas Dawson during his tenure as President of William and Mary from 1755 to 1760. Dawson, like other William and Mary presidents in the Colonial period, was an Anglican clergyman who was also Rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg. He was president when Thomas Jefferson came to the College in 1760. 

William and Mary’s Bursar’s Book, 1761-1762. The entry for Thomas Jefferson lists his expenses while a student at the College. Traditionally, students would pay their expenses on for the previous year on March 25th, Lady Day or Feast Day, which was the start of the New Year during the Colonial period.

Photograph print of a miniature of Goronwy Owen, Grammar Master at William and Mary from 1758 to 1760.

Excerpt from Extracts from the Itineraries and other Miscellanies of Ezra Stiles, D. D., LL. D., 1755-1794, with a Selection from his Correspondence. New Haven. 1916. The May 31, 1762 entry describes the College shortly after Jefferson graduated.

An account from the Brafferton Indian School for Doctors James and William Carter for their medical services from 1765-1766.

From the Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. See swem.wm.edu/scrc/ for further information and assistance.

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