The Jefferson Society
FoundedJuly 14, 1825; 198 years ago (1825-07-14)
University of Virginia
MottoHaec Olim Meminisse Iuvabit
Colors  Pink,   Gray, and   Blue

The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society (commonly known "Jeff Soc") is the oldest continuously existing collegiate debating society in North America, having been founded on July 14, 1825, in Room Seven, West Lawn.[1][2][3] Named after founder of the University, Thomas Jefferson, the society regularly meets on Friday evenings at Hotel C in the Academical Village, referred to as "Jefferson Hall", "Jeff Hall", or simply "The Hall".

Members have included several Presidents of the United States, a British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, alongside governors, senators and congresspeople. The society also counts itself as the second oldest Greek-lettered organization in the United States, after Phi Beta Kappa. The Society's Greek-letters are Phi Pi Theta - ΦΠΘ, initials for Φίλοί, Πατρίς, θεός (philoi, patris, theos, or "brotherhood, fatherland, divinity"). Its Latin motto, Haec Olim Meminisse Iuvabit, is taken from Virgil's Aeneid and roughly translates to, "In the future it will be pleasing to remember these things." Room Seven, West Lawn, is also maintained by the Jefferson Society, selecting a Fourth Year student to live there. The Society hosts several events throughout the year including its Distinguished Speaker Series,[4] for which it invites prominent scholars and speakers across disciplines to address students. The Society also hosts formal social events including Wilson's Day, the Restoration Ball, and Founder's Day, first held in 1832.

Jefferson Hall, Hotel C, West Range


Membership in the society grew rapidly in the early years after its founding. By 1855, the University of Virginia was the second largest university in the nation after Harvard University, enrolling 645 students. That school year, the society admitted 155 new members: nearly a quarter of the student body of the university.

In the hotheaded antebellum years, the society could become raucous. Its elections were condemned by the faculty for "such turbulence as to degrade the reputation of the University."[5] An especially coveted honor was to be selected as "final orator," a post apparently comparable to that of a valedictorian today.

The society played a key role in establishing student journalism at the University, founding the University Magazine as early as 1856.[6] Later known as the Virginia Spectator, the paper played a major part in University life for a century, with its profile ranging from high seriousness to satire, until being shut down by the president of the university in the late 1950s for obscenity.[7] The Jefferson Society sponsored the magazine for many decades.[8]

Society Members on the Lawn

Also in 1856, the society expressed its approval of the caning of Charles Sumner by sending Preston Brooks a new gold-headed cane to replace his broken one.[9]


Notable members

Honorary members

Thomas Jefferson turned down an invitation for honorary membership in an August 12, 1825 letter, citing his need to avoid altering his relationship with the University and its students.[21]


Notes and references

  1. ^ Shubow, Justin (2013-01-30). "Speaking in Front of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society at UVA 2/1". Justin Shubow. Retrieved 2022-12-03.
  2. ^ "The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society". The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society.
  3. ^ "University of Virginia - Learn Our Traditions and Lingo". Archived from the original on May 10, 2009.
  4. ^ "Speaker Series". The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. April 15, 2018.
  5. ^ Dabney, p. 12
  6. ^ More, John, History of the Jefferson Society, 1825–1957, noting that the magazine was first mentioned in the Society's minutes in 1865
  7. ^ Dabney, pp. 552, 606
  8. ^ Dabney, p. 181
  9. ^ Puleo, Stephen (2012). The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing LLC. pp. 102, 114–115. ISBN 978-1-59416-516-0.
  10. ^ Harrison, James Albert (1903). The life of Edgar Allan Poe. T.Y. Crowell & Company. pp. 60–61. edgar allan poe jefferson society.
  11. ^ Kraig, Robert Alexander (2004). Woodrow Wilson and the Lost World of the Oratorical Statesman. Texas A&M University Press. p. 42. ISBN 9781585442751.
  12. ^ Education, United States Congress House Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Postsecondary (1975). Sex Discrimination Regulations: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education of the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, Ninety-fourth Congress, First Session : Review of Regulations to Implement Title IX of Public Law 92-318 Conducted Pursuant to Sec. 431 of the General Education Provisions Act, Washington, D.C. ... U.S. Government Printing Office.
  13. ^ Miniturn, Molly (2016). "The Jefferson Curating Society: At long last, the oldest student group on Grounds agrees to share a treasure trove of UVA history". Virginia Magazine. Retrieved 2022-06-11.
  14. ^ Wharton, Amy. "Law Library Guides: Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Scott, Hugh D., Jr., 1922". Retrieved 2022-06-11.
  15. ^ a b c d "Jefferson Society Famous Members (Revised)" (PDF). University of Virginia Board of Visitors. 2013-11-14.
  16. ^ "UVa President John Casteen Discusses School History with Students". 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2014-10-06.
  17. ^ "Virginia is for Lovers: Romance at the University". UVA Magazine. Retrieved 2014-10-06.
  18. ^ Gunay, Defne (2004-10-20). "Cavalier Royalty". The Cavalier Daily. Archived from the original on 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2006-11-09. I played varsity volleyball, I was in the Jefferson Society, A Chi O sorority, U.Dems and I was also an honor advisor.
  19. ^ Lindenfeld Hall, Sarah (Spring 2019). "On the Beat: UVA grads find success in journalism". Virginia Magazine. Retrieved 2022-02-10.
  20. ^ "Meet Barbara and Mike Lynn, Dallas' legal power couple". Dallas News. 2014-04-26. Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  21. ^ a b c d HNAI Long Beach Hard Times Tokens Auction Catalog. Ivy Press. 2007. p. 95. ISBN 9781599670744.