Honorary Degrees and Memberships

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Jefferson received many honors such as honorary degrees or memberships over his life.

  • Honorary law degree by William and Mary College (1783)
  • Doctorate of Laws degree by Yale College (1786)
  • Doctor of Laws degree by Harvard University (1787)
  • Honorary board member of the British Board of Agriculture (1797)
  • Honorary member of the American Academy of Languages & Belles Letters in 1821[1]
  • Honorary member of the U.S. Society of Artists (1811)

Primary Source References

1783 January 20. "The president and professors of the university or College of William and Mary...know ye that we by the sole means in our power-the conferring gladly and eagerly of the degree of doctor in the civil law-bear witness to the high opinion we hold of Thomas Jefferson, Virginian..."[2]

1786 September 14. (Ezra Stiles to Jefferson). "I take the Liberty to inform you that, yesterday at the public anniversary Commencement of this University [Yale], the Senatus Academicus did themselves the Honor to confer upon you the Degree of Doctor of Laws."[3]

1788 September 24. (Joseph Willard to Jefferson). "I embrace the favorable opportunity...to send your Excellency a Diploma for a Doctorate of Laws, which was conferred by Harvard University, in this place, more than a year ago..."[4]

1797 June 21. (Sir John Sinclair to Jefferson). "I have much pleasure in acquainting you, that at the last meeting of the Board of Agriculture, you were admitted a Foreign Honorary Member of that Board, an honour to which your zeal for the improvement of agriculture so justly entitled you..."[5]

1812 January 8. (Jefferson to Thomas Sully). "I have duly received your favor of Dec. 22. informing me that the Society of Artists of the US. had made me an honorary member of their society. I am very justly sensible of the honor they have done me..."[6]


  1. William S. Cardell to Jefferson. 11 January 1821. Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page052.db&recNum=461
  2. PTJ, 6:221-222.
  3. Ibid, 10:385-386.
  4. Ibid, 13:637.
  5. Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page021.db&recNum=23
  6. Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page045.db&recNum=824