Category Archives: Jefferson legacy

TJC Must Reads

The Impious Attack on Thomas Jefferson / The American Conservative

Some UVa students seem to agree with the “United the Right” marchers that Thomas Jefferson is significant only inasmuch as he supported white supremacy.

Inside Student Activists’ Cancel Campaign against a Youngkin Appointee to UVA Board /National Review

University of Virginia alumnus Bert Ellis, who was recently tapped by Governor Glenn Youngkin to sit on the university’s Board of Visitors, was touring his alma mater’s campus with his family in 2020 when…

The Terrifically Terrible Tours of the University Guide Service / The Jefferson Independent

It’s finally spring break! You’re a junior in high school, touring prospective colleges and one of them happens to be the great and wonderful University of Virginia situated in beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia… or so you thought….

Unfounded Attacks Should Not Tarnish Boards of Visitors Appointment Process / The Jefferson Independent

Despite the misguided attacks against his appointment, Bert Ellis deserves his position on the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. Ellis has a demonstrated history of successful business operation and gratitude for the University we call our own….

Clement Defends Jefferson’s Legacy; Ryan Stays Mum

Silent Jim — President Jim Ryan during the UVa Board of Visitors meeting Friday

by James A. Bacon

Whitt Clement, rector of the University of Virginia, gave a brief defense of Thomas Jefferson and his legacy at the Board of Visitors meeting Friday.

“We are a University founded by Thomas Jefferson, and honoring his legacy and his contributions to our nation has, and will always be, an indelible part of what it means to live, learn and work here,” Clement said. “That is the policy and the position of this institution and it will not change under our leadership or that of President [Jim] Ryan or his team.”

Clement alluded to a statement made by Ryan two years ago regarding the decision to contextualize the Jefferson statue on the Rotunda plaza: “I do not believe the statue should be removed, nor would I ever approve such an effort. As long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.”

Seated next to Clement in the board meeting, Ryan did not expand upon the rector’s remarks in any way. But UVA Today, the mouthpiece of the administration, published an article summarizing Clement’s speech and repeated Ryan’s two-year-old quote. No other board members or university officials were given an opportunity to comment. Continue reading

A Letter to President Ryan on Jefferson’s Legacy

Lee Habeeb, Law School class of ’91, has given The Jefferson Council permission to republish his letter, first appearing in Newsweek, that we referenced in an earlier TJC post. — JAB

James Ryan
President
University of Virginia

Dear Jim,

I’m a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where I spent two of my three years studying the Constitution, property rights, contract law and federalism with you in Charlottesville. We studied important things that our Founding Fathers thought about and debated in the 18th century and that we’re still debating today.

I’ve been reading with great worry about efforts by students and faculty alike to remove the statue of Thomas Jefferson that stands in front of the Rotunda and remove all positive references in official university communications about the man who founded our beloved university. To your credit, you defended Jefferson’s presence. “I do not believe the statue should be removed, nor would I ever approve such an effort,” you wrote in UVa Today not long ago. “As long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.” It was a clear statement, but you didn’t go far enough.

Jefferson, to put it plainly, was one of the greatest political visionaries in human history. No less a visionary than Reverend Martin Luther King—himself a flawed man worthy of honor—thought that was true. “Never before in the history of the world has a sociopolitical document expressed in such profound, eloquent and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of human personality,” King declared on the Fourth of July in 1965 while speaking about the Declaration of Independence. “The American dream reminds us—and we should think about it anew on this Independence Day—that every man is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth.”

We are all heirs of the work Jefferson and our founders did in the 18th century. But like any inheritance, it’s easy to squander. Continue reading

Jefferson, a Man for All Time

Lee Habeeb

Lee Habeeb, best known as host of the “Our American Stories” podcast network, graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1991. Newsweek has just published his letter to President Jim Ryan defending Thomas Jefferson’s legacy. The Jefferson Council cannot republish the letter here without permission, but we recommend it to you. Read the letter here.

Habeeb has been keeping up with the Jefferson bashing that occurs at UVa, and he makes a powerful case for continuing to honor his legacy. Defining Jefferson by his status as a slave-holder devoid of any historical context is a huge mistake, he says.

“Millions of men around the world in our founders’ time owned slaves; only one authored the Declaration of Independence,” he writes. “This doesn’t make Jefferson’s slave ownership less odious or hypocritical; it makes Jefferson a man of his time. The declaration, however, made him a man for all time. A man ahead of his time.”

President Ryan on Thomas Jefferson

Jim Bacon, vice president-communications for The Jefferson Council, has received the following communication from University of Virginia spokesman Brian Coy. In the spirit of open dialogue, we publish it here for the benefit of our readers.

As you may have seen, there has been some recent media coverage about Thomas Jefferson’s place in the University community.

In case it is useful, I wanted to share a message from President Ryan, first published in October of 2020, which conveys his position on the matter and the University’s policy. Below is a relevant excerpt from his longer statement:

Some members of our community have called for the removal of the statue. This idea gained greater urgency in light of the recent protests across the country this summer.

I do not believe the statue should be removed, nor would I ever approve such an effort. As long as I am president, the University of Virginia will not walk away from Thomas Jefferson.

Continue reading

Letter to President Ryan and the Board of Visitors

August 29, 2022

Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia
President James E Ryan
The University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904

Dear Members of the Board and President Ryan,

As you know, on August 11 the Editorial Board of the Cavalier Daily published an article entitled: To create “citizen leaders,” U.Va. must do more. The Editorial Board states: “There is a reason why Charlottesville’s local Klu (sic) Klux Klan Chapter hosted its inauguration ceremony at Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. There is a reason why white supremacists gathered with torches around Jefferson’s statue on the north side of the Rotunda. There is a reason why they felt comfortable marching through Grounds. Our physical environment — from statues to building names to Jefferson’s overwhelming presence — exalts people who held the same beliefs as the repugnant white supremacists in attendance at the “Unite the Right” rally. These buildings must be renamed and memorials removed.”

One of the four core pillars of The Jefferson Council is to “preserve the Jefferson Legacy.” This legacy has been under assault continuously since the events of August 2017, events which had absolutely nothing to do with the University, much less Thomas Jefferson. Student leaders on the Student Council and Cavalier Daily have relentlessly conflated the assault on the Lawn by out-of-town racists with the University and Mr. Jefferson. Now in the editorial above, they are clearly calling for the total eradication of Thomas Jefferson from the history of the University he founded. Continue reading

As Anti-Jefferson Rhetoric Swells, Ryan Stands Silent

by James A, Bacon

Here is what passes for logic at The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, a university once reputed for the excellence of its education:

We reject how the University’s physical environment — one that glorifies racists, slaveholders and eugenicists with statues and buildings named in their honor — upholds an enduring culture of white supremacy. There is a reason why Charlottesville’s local Klu Klux Klan Chapter hosted its inauguration ceremony at Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. There is a reason why white supremacists gathered with torches around Jefferson’s statue on the north side of the Rotunda. There is a reason why they felt comfortable marching through Grounds. Our physical environment — from statues to building names to Jefferson’s overwhelming presence — exalts people who held the same beliefs as the repugnant white supremacists in attendance at the “Unite the Right” rally. These buildings must be renamed and memorials removed.

Follow the syllogism: White supremacists rallied at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello tomb. White supremacists are evil. (Unstated but necessary to complete the syllogism): Ergo, Jefferson is evil. Therefore, buildings and memorials to him and other white supremacists must be removed.

The CD editorial writers use the rhetorical device of guilt by association to tar Jefferson. Notably, this particular circumlocution holds Jefferson guilty by virtue of association with the Ku Klux Klan, which did not exist in Jefferson’s time, for activities undertaken some 200 years after he lived! The mystic chords of White supremacy, it seems, transcend space, time and causality. Continue reading