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Honorary Degrees and Memberships

Thomas Jefferson received a number of honorary degrees and memberships over his lifetime. These include:

  • Honorary law degree from College of William and Mary (1783)
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Yale College (1786)
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University (1787)
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Princeton University (1791)[1]
  • Honorary member of the British Board of Agriculture (1797)
  • Honorary member of the American Academy of Languages & Belles Letters (1821)[2]
  • 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..."[3]

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."[4]

1788 September 24. (Joseph Willard to Jefferson). "I embrace the favorable send your Excellency a Diploma for a Doctorate of Laws, which was conferred by Harvard University, in this place, more than a year ago..."[5]

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..."[6]

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..."[7]


  1. General Catalogue of Princeton University, 1746-1906 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1908), 402.
  2. William S. Cardell to Jefferson. 11 January 1821. Library of Congress.
  3. PTJ, 6:221-222.
  4. Ibid, 10:385-386.
  5. Ibid, 13:637.
  6. Library of Congress.
  7. Library of Congress.
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