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Symposium Talks & Tours

How Jefferson’s Presidency Began
by John Ragosta 

Thomas Jefferson called it the “Revolution of 1800,” as real a revolution in the spirit and direction of America as was the American Revolution of 1776, he insisted. Jefferson came close to losing that election and only won after abandoning some of his more aggressive, partisan positions. What led to that important election result and how did the crisis of the 1790s affect Jefferson’s presidency? While conventional wisdom often sees hypocrisy in Jefferson’s actions as president, perhaps more was at work.

Aaron Burr, John Marshall, and Thomas Jefferson 
by John Ragosta 

A Confused Contest: Aaron Burr’s western conspiracy continues to be one of the most confusing episodes in American history. Was he simply trying to liberate Mexico from Spanish rule as part of a filibuster supporting a potential U.S. war with Spain (as he later claimed)? Was he planning to rip western states from the United States to be part of his new, Mexican empire? Or did he simply plan to seize New Orleans (temporarily, of course) to aid the filibuster? For Jefferson, Burr’s failed treason trial, presided over by Chief Justice John Marshall in the Old Hall of the Virginia House of Delegates, would prove almost as frustrating as the conspiracy itself. This discussion will not resolve the question of what Burr was up to, but it will hope to show some of the complexity of the events and the trial that followed.

A Secular Government and a Religious People 
by John Ragosta 

Early in his administration, Jefferson famously insisted that the First Amendment required a strict wall of separation between church and state. Yet, Jefferson also often recognized that there would be a vibrant religion on the private side of the wall, outside of government influence. How did this work in practice in Jefferson’s administration?

“The Harmony Was So Cordial Among Us All:” Thomas Jefferson’s Cabinet
by Lindsay M. Chervinsky

Thomas Jefferson compiled one of the most effective, successful Cabinets in United States history. His Cabinet had very little turnover and served as a remarkable tool for public outreach, coalition-building, coordination with Congress, and more. This Cabinet success cannot be chalked-up to good fortune and partisan loyalty. Instead, Jefferson pulled from his experience as secretary of state in George Washington’s administration to carefully craft interactions to ensure comity in the Cabinet. This talk will explore Jefferson’s tactics from interior design to social entertaining and show how these tactics shaped the best moments of his administration.

“Impeachment Was But a Clumsy Engine to Get Rid of Judges:” Thomas Jefferson and the Impeachment Trial of Justice Samuel Chase 
by Lindsay M. Chervinsky

From the moment Thomas Jefferson took office as the third President of the United States, he was itching to reform the judiciary. He loathed many of the Federalists on the Supreme Court especially, and the poor conduct of Justice Samuel Chase offered an opportunity to place another Democratic-Republican voice on the Court. Jefferson and his Cabinet conspired with allies in Congress to bring forth charges of impeachment against Chase. After the House of Representatives passed the Articles of Impeachment, the Senate convened the trial. This talk will introduce the colorful characters in the room, follow the events of the trial, analyze the arguments, reveal the outcome, and explore how this event influenced the remainder of Jefferson’s presidency.

Slavery’s Expansion in the Jeffersonian Imagination
by Justene Hill Edwards

Historians agree that Thomas Jefferson held conflicting ideas about slavery.  From his role as a slaveholder to his writings on race and colonization, Jefferson represented both the anxieties and the investments that slaveholders made in American slavery. Additionally, his negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase in the midst of the rebellion in St. Domingue (modern-day Haiti) only heightened his struggle to contend with slavery’s expansion and the role of people of African descent in the new nation.  “Slavery’s Expansion in the Jeffersonian Imagination,” will discuss the ways in which Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 and the Haitian Revolution stoked his uneasiness about the expansion of slavery in the United States during the early-nineteenth century. 

Legacies of the Jefferson White House in the Administration of James Madison: The Case of Pell Mell
by Holly Cowan Shulman

This talk will begin with a discussion of Thomas Jefferson’s rule of “pell mell,” and why he chose to uproot the formal rules of social and diplomatic decorum. It will then discuss what this legacy meant to the Madison White House. It will include a brief overview of entertaining in the Madison White House (and Dolley’s efforts in the Jefferson White House) and a discussion of how the President and First Lady specifically dealt with the diplomatic protocols of dining in a republic. 

Memorial To Enslaved Laborers: Recognizing UVA’s History
by Kirt von Daacke 

Over the past decade, U.S. colleges and universities have begun paying greater attention to the historical role of slavery at their institutions. In 2013, the University of Virginia began a deeper dive into its (historical) relationship with slavery, exploring opportunities for recognition and commemoration. In 2016, after having spent substantial time investigating and interpreting significant buildings and sites related to slavery, UVA hired a design consultant to gather community feedback about a possible memorial. In 2020, the creation of the Memorial was completed. 

This tour will be led by Kirt von Daacke, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate College of Arts & Sciences, and Professor, Department of History, College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and Co-Chair, UVA President’s Commission on Slavery, University of Virginia. Mr. von Daacke is also Co-Chair of the UVA President’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation and Co-Founder of  Jefferson’s University—The Early Life project You will learn about the history of the enslaved laborers at UVA and the site significance of this Memorial that honors the lives, labor, and resistance of the estimated 4,000 individuals who built and maintained the University. Join us for this opportunity to learn about the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at UVA.

Pavilion X Slavery Exhibit: History of Its Former Residents
Self-Guided Tour of Exhibit

The names of many of the first University of Virginia professors are well-known—medical professor Robley Dunglison and law professor John B. Minor, both of whom lived in Pavilion X, for example. But what about Frances “Fanny” Gillette Hern and the father-and-son carpenters, “Old Sam” and “Young Sam?”

In its early days at UVA, many people who lived in or near the Academical Village cooked, did carpentry, gardened, and labored for faculty members and their families—and were counted as property. We open the doors for the Summer Jefferson Symposium participants. This self-guided tour will allow you to view a new exhibit installed in the cellar’s hallway that brings to light some of the former residents and conditions of the daily life of the enslaved workers and the white professors for whom they labored without freedom. Learn about their lives embedded in this place, the stories of the people, and how they interacted.