Experiencing Jefferson

Monticello

Monticello

If “you gotta be there” ever applied, it would certainly be when we’re discussing Thomas Jefferson.  I’ve read and heard a lot about the 3rd President of the United States, but it wasn’t until I toured Monticello that I really grasped the genus of the man.  Taking pictures inside the house is a not allowed, which is why I have to tell you about, instead of showing you, his cutting edge technological achievements such as a copying machine on his desk.  It hooked up two pens so that he could have a copy of everything he wrote.

Tour group standing on a portion of one of the concourse wings which expand Jefferson's home, making it much larger than it looks.

Tour group standing on a portion of one of the concourse wings which expand Jefferson’s home, making it much larger than it looks.

Standing there in front of his neoclassical home, which he designed, I could almost feel his presence.  Our tour guide told us that he wanted the house to look smaller than it really is.  It appears to be a one-story structure, but it has three floors.  It also has concourse wings which house, among other things,  the kitchen, storage areas, a stable,

Original dormatory rooms and faculty homes at the University of Virginia, designed by the school's founder Thomas Jefferson.  They are still being used.  Only oustanding students are allowed to occupy the dorm rooms, and some professors still live in the faculty homes.

Original dormitory rooms and faculty homes at the University of Virginia, designed by the school’s founder Thomas Jefferson. They are still being used. Only outstanding students are allowed to occupy the dorm rooms, and some professors still live in the faculty homes.

As our guide told us, Jefferson was a great promoter of democracy and equal rights,  the founder of the University of Virgina, where he planned for educational opportunities to be available for not just the wealthy; however,  only free white males who owned property were accepted.  The principal writer of the Declaration of Independence who proclaimed liberty for all, owned up to 200 slaves, and freed only a handful during his life and none in his will.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virgina.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia

Someone asked me, “Did your guide mention Jefferson’s affair with Sally Hemmings, the slave who historians now assert bore up to six of his children?”  Definitely.

Yes, he was human like the rest of us, but he was anything but ordinary. He was an original thinker,  an inventor, architect,  diplomat, the first Secretary of State, speaker of five languages, Governor of Virginia, Vice President and President of the United States.  All of this has even greater meaning when you visit Monticello.  I’m really glad I got to see it and, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you do.

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