Drama Review: Educating Thomas Jefferson: Philosophy, Law, and the Enlightened Mind
Based on public and private writings of George Wythe and Thomas Jefferson, this presentation explores ideas in governing one’s life and one’s country. Colonial Williamsburg (CW) re-enactors pack a lot of information and entertainment into an hour. The program displayed the brilliance and the blindness of the Enlightenment and how it contributed both to the American Revolution and to today.
The presentation posits two meetings between Thomas Jefferson and his teacher and mentor (and fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence) George Wythe. The first days before Wythe’s death when Jefferson was president; the second one thirty years earlier when Jefferson is governor of Virginia. Laden with historic and personal quotes and epigrams, it’s almost too much to take in. Education made real and fun.
Wythe is under lauded in current history and unknown outside it. He, as much as Benjamin Franklin, was the philosophic father of Independence and the early republic. He taught law to Jefferson, Madison, Munroe, John Marshall and later Henry Clay. He was the first professor of the first law school on the continent and practically invented American jurisprudence.
Worth not just an hour, but a trip to Williamsburg. (Admission to CW required.) But that’s not all. This is just one of a dozen offerings each week by CW in the Hennage Auditorium ranging from debates between Jefferson and Patrick Henry to solo presentations by free blacks in Williamsburg to the thoughts of Martha Dandridge Custis as she becomes Mrs. George Washington. All well done and worthwhile.
And, I’m sorry to say, all under promoted by Colonial Williamsburg. It’s difficult for someone who doesn’t already know about this series to find them, even on the CW website. It’s a shame because CW and the re-enactors obviously put a lot of effort into the series. And CW is not supported by a cent of tax money; they have to earn the utilities, wages, construction and other expenses.
I have been visiting Colonial Williamsburg for over fifty years. I loved it the first time; I love it more today. It gets better and better. And, for many Virginians, it’s a short drive and the small expense of an annual pass away.
Check it out.
(I have been remiss in not reviewing earlier presentations. I will try to correct my omissions.)