UGA Founders' Day, Exhibit of Charter

The annual display of the UGA Charter will be January 23rd through 27 to mark Founders' Day on Jan. 27, the anniversary of the document's signing. To protect the ink of the parchment manuscript from further fading it is displayed to the public only once a year in the Hargrett Library of the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries.

Charles Bullock, Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science in the School of Public and International Affairs, will present this year’s Founders Day lecture, “The Highs and Lows of the 2016 Presidential Election," to celebrate the 232nd anniversary of the establishment of America’s first state-chartered institution of higher education, at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 23 in the Chapel. 

The Charter of the University of Georgia is one of the most significant documents in the history of America . Dated Jan. 27, 1785, nine years after the Declaration of Independence and two and a half before the Constitution of the United States, it marks the earliest American example of the putting into practice of the principle that education is the responsibility of the state and should be state controlled.

Written in ink on two faded and yellowed sheets of vellum, 19 ½ by 32 ½ inches, the Charter is kept in the Rare Books vault of the University of Georgia Libraries. About 1920 it was sent to the university from the State Capitol by Mr. S. G. McLendon, Secretary of State. Prior to that time its importance had not been recognized. From its preparation and signing in Savannah, it had gone with the state files to Augusta, Louisville, Milledgeville, and Atlanta, and it bears evidences of having been crumpled, soiled, and wetted. There is a legend that a little while prior to the Charter's being sent to the University, a custodian at the State Capitol had found it in a pile of papers to be burned, noticed its heavy texture, and brought it in to Mr. McLendon.

A transcription, with Abraham Baldwin's eloquent Enlightenment prose, is available at: http://www.libs.uga.edu/hargrett/archives/exhibit/charter/chartertranscription.html. Baldwin went on to become one of two Georgia signers of the U.S. Constitution. 

 

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