Monday, May 9, 2011

Return Trip - Day 6 PM Monticello, VA

Stopping at Monticello was really a great idea. This was well worth the little detour. We really got a lot out of this visit.
The actual house is located on top of a small hill ( a Monti Cello, next to Monti Alta). There are shuttle buses that take you from the visitor center up the hill for the tours. We arrived about 3 pm in time to sign up for the 3:20 tour.

The house is very well furnished with much of Jefferson's actual propery. The house is the original house and even some of the windows are original. In the entry way there are many arifacts from the explorations of Lewis and Clark whose expedition of northwest was sponsored by Jefferson. The rooms have many of Jefferson's books, scientific equipment and artwork that he accumulated over time. He was very interested in education. He read most of his father's books at an early age and taught himself to read and speak a number of languages. (He read Don Quixote in Spanish on his trip to France where he would replace Ben Franklin as ambassador)

Although he died in debt and much of his possessions were sold off to pay the debt, the Society has been able to recover a lot of what was originally in the house.

Jefferson was a very interesting man. He was a farmer, inventor, architect and statesman. He was also a bit of a contradiction. As the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, he penned "all men are created equal", yet he owned over 600 slaves during his lifetime. He was convinced that all the work done by his generation to establish the country would be lost if the slaves were ever freed. At his death, he freed 5 slave who had learned some trades on his plantation (like making nails). He paid to allow these 5 to remain in Virginia. Otherwise, freed slaves had to leave the state within 1 year of being freed. Sally Hemmings, with whom he is supposed to have had a number of children, was not freed. She stayed with Jefferson's daughter who finally freed her.
The Jefferson's are buried in a plot not far from the manor house.

This was a very enjoyable and informative side trip. It is always fun to learn more about our history and see how intelligent and complicated our Founding Fathers were.

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