Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1817 to be a bastion of Enlightenment thinking and intellectualism, quickly became a school for rich white supremacists and misogynists, now a place to get a nice mint julep and a superiority complex.
The story of the University is the story of a man. Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 to a wealthy family. His father, Peter Jefferson, earned success through his own hard work as a surveyor, and marrying a Randolph, which was like marrying a HIlton today, but with a higher IQ and less of a sordid history in nightvision. Thomas showed promising signs of brilliance at an astoundingly early age, learning Greek and Latin before the age of ten and taking to the violin by natural inclination. By fifteen he was able to read fluently the old, dead languages of the classics, despite the fact that Greek is written in a completely different alphabet and has become idiomatically synonmous with "difficult" when somebody says, "It's all Greek to me."
Today most students forget Greek is a language. Or Greece a country, for that matter. "Unrest? What? Pass a Natty."
His father passed away when Jefferson was fourteen, forcing upon the young man a sense of self-reliance. He attended the University of William at Mary at the ripe age of sixteen, where he was known to study 15 out of every 24 hours, a respectable yet disgusting amount of time to be in books. A devout bibliophile, Jefferson would collect and tear through books at an alarming rate for the duration of his life, taking about as much time to finish a book as it does your average college-age female to read an issue of Cosmo. And that's skipping the horoscope (Jefferson is an Aries, and would hate it if you thought that meant anything). He was self taught in any-fucking-field-of-study-imaginable, from Astrony, Agriculture, and Architecture to Chemistry, Philosophy, and Law. When JFK invited a group of nobel prize winners to the White House, he told them "I think this is the finest collection of talent and of human intellect that has ever gathered at the White House at one time, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Which would put his IQ at about 1,749
Jefferson's intelligence and hard work was noticed quickly. He formed bonds with professors at William and Mary and ate dinners weekly with the governor of Virginia. He was known to be quiet and (surprise) a little strange, but very likeable.
In the build up to the Kicking of the British Ass war (the first official label of the Revolution, coined by Thomas Paine), Jefferson served on both of the Continental Congresses. It was there that he met and started a close friendship with John Adams, who was, in many ways, the opposite side of Jefferson's coin: he was a northener to Jefferson's southern heritage, an industrialist to Jefferson's outdoor agrarian lifestyle, loud and annoying to Jefferson's taciturn nature, short and stout to Jefferson's tall and lean frame...
Essentially this, except they killed fewer orcs.
Benjamin Franklin asked Adams to write the Declaration of Independence, who immediately passed that onto to Mr. Jefferson because he had, as Adams said, a "happy talent for composition," a wonderfully diluted euphemisim for "one of the most prolific writers of our time." Adams said that Jefferson had to do it because:
1. You aree a Virginian.
2. "I, John Adams, am disliked and obnoxious.
3. You are ten times a better writer than I."
Jefferson took the task upon himself and crafted the Declaration of Independence on his own, which went through several drafts. Early ones included holding King George responsible for allowing the slave trade to proliferate in the colonies, but some of the Southern states urged, "Mehhhhhhhh, maybe take that bit out." Jefferson did, however, write down the line "all men are equated equal" while keeping one of the largest slave inventories in the state of Virginia.
Oh, did--did you think we meant you, too?
The truth is, Jefferson was all about incongruities, and would be all his life. He's coined the "American Sphinx" because he's such a riddle (though some might say 'hypocrite'). After all, he tried to pass several bills that would immediately or gradually emancipate the slaves when he was governor of Virginia during the Revolution (but for some reason people really liked their free labor) while holding and never freeing slaves himself. He praised the self-sufficient yeomen farmer while owning a huge plantation. He hated politics but was very successful in it. He wanted the president to have limited power, and then took some constitutional liberties while in office.
"Yes, Please. I'll have that"
On the whole slave thing, Jefferson was very conflictred on the issue. He thought it a moral abhorrence, but didn't know how you safely end the practice without crumbling the economy OR how to let a group of people you've treated like animals into a society and hope that a "Welp. Sorry!" suffices. That's not to say he wasn't profoundly racist. He hypothesized that blacks secreted more from the skin then the kidneys, which gave them their 'unpleasant odor.' Yeah, maybe it's that. Or maybe it's that you work them all day and house them in squalor? He likened slavery to having a "wolf behind the ears." You sure as crikey-fuck don't want to be there, but once you are, how do you let go?
Jefferson eventually decided that the whole slave thing would have to wait for the next generation, but knew that it was going to be a terrible struggle. As to why he didn't free his own slaves, it turns out he was in crushing debt, both because he couldn't stop building and tearing down Monticello and because he inherited some from his father-in-law (along with more slaves). As to why there are accusations that he had children with one of his slaves--
Well anyway, the war breaks out between the colonies and King George. Jefferson, serving as Governor of Virginia, has to flee his home when the redcoats storm through Charlottesville. This act got him labeled a coward, because apparently the brave thing to do is to stand still and face death by hanging for treason. After all, it's unlikely they'd let out the guy who actually listed the grievances in the Declaration on good behavior. Jefferson was officially exonerated of the charge after the war, but was sick with politics and retired home to Monticello, where he wished to spend the rest of his years with his wife.
Unfortunately, she would pass away in 1782. Jefferson was grief-stricken. She asked him not to remarry, and he never would. He kept a little love note they had written together on her deathbed for the rest of his life. Oh, little backtracking, his wife's half-sister was, in fact, mulatto slave Sally Hemmings.
Unsure what to do with his life, Jefferson served as Ambassador to France from 1784-1789. It was a healing period for him; he enjoyed the art, architecture, and wine. Lots of wine. And though he was not fond of aristocratic ways of Europe, he was drawn to the culture, because let's face it, living rich is fun for anybody.
He struck up a romance with a married artist Maria Cosway, and though we think it unlikely they, ahem, consummated (boned), they had strong emotional ties and would write letters as friends for the rest of their lives. Jefferson also rekindled his friendship with the Marquis de Lafayette, who was a Frenchman so bad-ass he sailed his own goddamn ship over to fight in the American Revolution for free, just cause Screw the British.
"So SHUT UP WITH THE WORLD WAR II JOKES ALREADY."
In repayment, we'll switch back to 'French Fries.'
Jefferson returned from France and served in Washington's regime as first Secretary of State. He and the Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton did not become the best of friends. Jefferson thought the federal government was tearing power from the states and becoming its own sort of monarchy. When Washington stepped down from the presidency, he warned the nation against splitting into factions, because he thought it was detrimental to effective political practice.
But sure enough, faster than Washington could say "oh, fuck it all," two parties formed. The second presidential election saw the Democratic-Republicans (weird, right?!), led by Jefferson, faced off against the Federalists, led by his old friend John Adams (it's like History was just dying to say "Oh, snap!") We might like to think that mudslinging is a new phenomenon in America--turns out political campaigns were just as name-smearing then. Adams thought Jefferson was a demagogue, Jefferson thought Adams would betray every idea they helped bring about in the revolution. it was at this point that allegations of illegitimate slave children running around Monticello started to crop up. Newspapers picked sides and ripped each candidate to shreds. Adams won the race, and per the law at the time, runner-up Jefferson served as vice president. The two never interacted, their friendship completely disintegrated because of a bitter political rivalry.
Four years later, the same parties ran against each other again. Adams didn't have the votes (he made some controversial moves as president--like making it illegal to speak ill of the president), and the election actually went to the House of Representatives in a run-off between the two leading Democratic-Repuplican candidates, one being Thomas Jefferson. The House of Representatives was in turmoil. Federalists claimed that they would not support a Democratic-Republican president. Remember when Texas talked about seceding because of an Obama victory? It was kind of like that, except not retarded. They were serious about the matter. It wasn't until Jefferson's other rival, Hamilton, stepped in and told his Federalists buddies to peaceably elect Jefferson to White House that the bickering stopped. He said this because he thought the other candidate was a dangerous fanatic and feared what that man would do with the presidency. That other candidate was Aaron Burr.
Who was not pleased.
Jefferson took the presidency. Adams did not stay for any ceremonial passing of the garb, he was on his way home before Jefferson stepped foot in D.C. He served as president for two terms. He sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore America's new back yard, enacted some crippling economic policy, and passed some controversial foreign dictates, but somehow came out of the deal well liked.
In 1814, after the British burned down the Library of Congress (thanks, guys), Jefferson sold his personal library at a heavily reduced price to restock it, because he needed money to pay back that monstrous debt he owed. He immediately started buying more, saying he "could not live without my books," a phrase that has caused many a beat-down by schoolyard bullies. Jefferson's library would go to the University of Virginia, and to this day it serves as the backup should another tragedy befall the Library of Congress once more.
A few years after he stepped down from office, Jefferson got a letter from John Adams, and the two began a correspondance of reconciliation. Jefferson realized Adams grounded him, Adams realized he would burn in his cynicism if he didn't occasionally bathe in Jefferson's idealism. They would exchange letters with each other until the end of their twilight years, and even had a charming sort of gentleman's wager: who would die first?
It was in these twilight years that Jefferson, instead of playing chess or slipping blissfully into alzheimers, decided to found a University.
Jefferson had always pushed for a system of public education. He wanted it to start at the elementary level, where children could learn how to read, write, and do basic arithmetic (and where people would trick them into believing all three of those start with 'R'), and saw it going all the way through a college education, where young adults would learn law, science, and how to properly bong a beer. Jefferson thought education was essential for a government of the people to function and persist. The last fifteen years of his life would be devoted to founding an institution of higher learning, which he called his "last act of usefulness."
Jefferson thought his home town of Charlottesville was an ideal location for a University, since it was centrally located in the state of Virginia. When he founded it, in an inexplicable lapse of creativity, he named it "Central College." Construction began on the University on land purchased from James Monroe in 1817.
Jefferson had taken some of his complaints about his alma mater, and most other Universities for that matter, and decided his University would rectify them. As Governor of Virginia, Jefferson was very proud of a bill he passed: the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Jefferson, being an enlightened thinker, thought bickering between religions was foolish, and institutionalizing faith even more so. Jefferson's own faith was kept fairly private, but we think the fact that he took a razor to a bible and cut out any signs of the supernatural should tell us something.
You think Bible Defacement is part of their curriculum?
Most, if not every, Universities in the world at this time were founded with some sort of religious doctrine at its core. Jefferson would have none of this. Faith, if you had it all, came from within--it wasn't forced on you from without. His school would be, literally and physically, centered around his library. For good measure, it would be a scaled down version of the Pantheon in Rome, which is both a symbol of Classicism and a pagan temple.
Just in case they thought it could be a church...
Jefferson also didn't care for the physical layout of his alma mater. Almost all of the student's lives were encapsulated in one large building, where they would eat, sleep, go to class, do science labs, etc., etc. Jefferson saw a place where students would live next to their professors in what he called an "Academical Village," which would be a community based on intellectualism. How he did not notice that this would indisputably lead to, and reeked of, pretension... We're not sure. But he designed the school to allow such a neighborhood to exist. He then used that design as a sort of brochure, which any potential student of the day (read: white, landowning male) could purchas for a nickle.
...Totally worth the nickle.
He had student rooms right alongside the ten larger pavilions, which would be used for professor's housing and as their classroom space. When the first doctor of medicine learned that this meant he would be operating on cadavers in his downstairs living room, he kindly said "Fuck no," so Jefferson built him an anatomical theater to work in.
Whites, freed blacks, and slaves were charged with building the school. Jefferson did not start building at the Rotunda, he in fact saved that for last. He started in the middle of the lawn and would move to a new place before the first was completed, leaving it in seeming disarray. When private donors or, after Virginia bought the charter in 1819, state officials came to see the progress of the school and saw the chaos, they were quick to throw money Jeferson's way which he clearly and desperately needed. Misleading? Maybe. Unethical?...
The first class came in 1824, and Jefferson is quoted saying, "a finer class of men I've never seen assembled." It wasn't long until they revealed themselves to be the spoiled little shits of southern aristocrats. Jefferson gave his students immense freedoms, in the hopes that they would learn self-governence. Instead the kids learned how to drink, gamble, and ride their horses down the lawn shooting at the school's clock. They also wanted to bring their slaves to live on grounds, which Jefferson forbade. He wasn't a fan of the practice, recall, and also his European professors were appalled at the depravity of the slave labor they saw in the South. But the students still managed to keep their slaves just off University grounds and just close enough to still do their bidding. Things got out of hand, and Jefferson had to reprimand the boys, forcing rules on them he never wanted to, including a curfew, wake-up time, and a dress code. Out of respect for Jefferson, they obeyed. You know much it sucked when your parents told you they weren't angry, they were ashamed? That's kind of what it was like, except it was said by the author of the Declaration of Independence.
Meanwhile, Jefferson had been begging his friend from France Lafayette to come to America to see his University. Lafayette acquiesced, and made the voyage. Parades met him in Charlottesville, and he and Jefferson shared a tearful embrace on the porch of Monticello. They led a caravan of people down from Monticello to the University to have the school's first official dinner in the Dome Room of the Rotunda, which wasn't complete. To keep warm on the November evening, they drank champagne like it was oxygen. At the end of the night, Lafayette toasted Jefferson as "father" of the University of Virginia. This could have been a mistake of Lafayette's native french tongue. Inebriation might have made translating 'founder' a little tediious, but the word 'father' struck Jefferson deeply. Having lost 5 of his 6 (certain) children before they reached adulthood, being known as the 'father' of something meant a lot to the old man.
In 1826, Jefferson looked out at his University from the dome room for one last time. He was 83, unusually old for the time, and he returned to Monticello for the remaining weeks of his life.
On July 4th of that year, fifty years to the day of the signing of the declaration of Independence, Jefferson's friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend lay on his deathbed. Perhaps remembering his wager, his last words are said to be "Thomas Jefferson survives." Adams was the last founding father to die--Jefferson had passed six hours before on the very same day.
Jefferson had left explicit instructions on what was to be written on his tombstone. He wrote it out, and ordered not a word changed. He listed three things he was most proud of in his life. Things you won't find included on the list: Governor, Ambassador, Secretary of State, Vice President, President or, surprisingly, illigetimate father. He wanted it to read, "Here lies Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia," utilizing his friend's Lafayette's label of 'father.'
*sniff* It's to beautiful to even make a joke about
"I believe in the dreams of the future more than the history of the past."