Saturday, March 27, 2010

march 30, 1810 (fri.)

Mr. Jefferson arrives at Poplar Forest.

The house is red brick with white trim like Monticello, but smaller and shaped like an octagon. Even the necessaries are octagonal.

It's a refuge from the crowds at Monticello, a quiet place to read and study and relax. Well, relatively quiet and relaxing. Even though building began four years ago, it's still under construction, with the sounds of hammering and sawing nonstop in the background. But this is pretty much par for the course with Mr. Jefferson. After all, Monticello took forty-one years to "finish." The walls are still unplastered, there is only the bare minimum of plain furniture, and the roof often leaks, especially around the skylight in the dining room.

Still, the view is gorgeous, and Mr. Jefferson has brought plenty of books. What more could a man want?

march 27, 1810 (tue.)

Mr. Jefferson started off to visit Poplar Forest, his farm in Bedford County, today. On the way, he'll stay at Warren, home of his friend, Wilson Cary Nicholas, then down the road at Flood's (sometimes spelled "Fludd's") Tavern, leaving early and taking his last breakfast on the road at Hunter's Tavern.

The ninety-three-mile trip takes about three days or so. Two hundred years later, it will take about an hour and three-quarters (a bit longer if you get confused in Lynchburg).

Friday, March 26, 2010

march 26, 1810 (mon.)

In spite of today's rain and snow, it's been generally dry lately, and the river is down to where it's not easily navigable.

There was a heavy frost a couple of nights ago, but fortunately the peaches aren't fully in bloom yet, so there was no major damage to them, although some of the neighbors' fruit trees, and an apricot here that bloomed early, weren't so lucky.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

march 21, 1810 (wed.)

Mr. Jefferson started planting trees in the new nursery. (Slaves are doing the actual planting, of course. Any time a plantation owner talks about doing any farm work, it means his slaves did it.) Almonds, filberts, apples, peaches, and apricots are being planted. Some of the apples are from Detroit. Michigan is already, by 1810, a source of apples.

Earlier this week other trees -- almonds, apples, cherries, pears, peaches, "plumbs" -- were set out in the orchard. Some of the peaches came from Mr. Jefferson's Italian friend, Philip Mazzei.

And it's not just about food. Monticello's Southern beauty is being enhanced by magnolias and Kentucky locusts, and rhododendrons planted around the four corners of the house.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010: off-topic blog biz

The following is a bit of 21st century business, necessary to register this blog with Technorati.


Mr. Jefferson may have had to put up with slow mail, but he did have the advantage of just being able to write a straightforward letter to do business -- no passwords, no pin numbers, no captchas. He didn't have to jump through nearly as many petty hoops for each business transaction as we do. Almost makes it seem worth spending each day from dawn to midmorning breakfast writing with a pen dip't in ink.

Monday, March 8, 2010

march 8, 1810 (thurs.)

Eli Alexander, who rents a parcel of Thomas Jefferson's land at Lego, across the river, just west of Shadwell, seems to have been interpreting the terms of his lease rather broadly, while Mr. Jefferson insists that the wording is clear and means just what it says. So Mr. Jefferson is meeting him over there this morning with a couple of neighbors who can act as arbitrators to determine whether the terms of the lease have been broken as regards to which land was to be used for farming and firewood gathering, whether it was cleared and improved properly, and that it was properly fenced in.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

2010: scooped

Looks like the (official) Monticello folks have the same idea I had.

This showed up yesterday on Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Facebook page and is also mentioned on Monticello's Twitter feed.

"... next week we're planning on starting a Twitter account that we can use to tweet 'as' Thomas Jefferson, writing each day about what he was doing 200 years prior (e.g. things he bought, letters he wrote, places he was visiting, etc.) ... "

It sounds like they're planning on using the same sources I do, too: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, Vol. 2 (and later, 3, etc.) and Jefferson's Memorandum Books, Vol.II.

Of course, there will be differences. For one thing, they're real historians at the real Monticello and have access to every kind of documentation that survives. I'm a private individual who has been studying Thomas Jefferson for thirty-seven years, using materials available to the general public (which in his case is quite a lot), but I have no official accreditation either as a Jefferson scholar or as a historian. The tweets will be in the first person. My blog's narrator is implied to be present at the time, but is nevertheless an observer, with the limitations and flexibilities that implies. Tweets are confined to 140 characters, but blog posts can explore (and sometimes bore) in more detail.

This should be interesting.

Friday, March 5, 2010

march 5, 1810 (mon.)

Politics will follow Mr. Jefferson, even into his retirement haven. But he keeps his optimism, and his serenity. To Walter Jones he observes that the difficulties and infighting of the U. S. government, compared to the difficulties of European nations "are the joys of Paradise."

As for the threat of Napoleon (Waterloo is, in 1810, still five years in the unknown future), it would seem logical that he would try to conquer Egypt, and India, and the rich countries of South America before even thinking about the relatively poor United States. So he's not an urgent problem, Jefferson writes to John Langdon, whom he has known since the days of the Revolution.

This letter also contains Mr. Jefferson's wonderful description of the degeneration of European royalty:

"Now, take any race of animals, confine them in idleness and inaction, whether in a stye, a stable, or a state room, pamper them with high diet, gratify all their sexual appetites, immerse them in sensualities, nourish their passions, let every thing bend before them, and banish whatever might lead them to think, and in a few generations they become all body and no mind: and this, too, by a law of nature, by that very law by which we are in the constant practice of changing the characters and propensities of the animals we raise for our own purposes. Such is the regimen in raising Kings, and in this way they have gone on for centuries. While in Europe, I often amused myself with contemplating the characters of the then reigning sovereigns of Europe. Louis the XVI. was a fool, of my own knowledge, and in despite of the answers made for him at his trial. The King of Spain was a fool, and of Naples the same. ... The King of Sardinia was a fool. ... The Queen of Portugal, a Braganza, was an idiot by nature. And so was the King of Denmark. ... The King of Prussia, successor to the great Frederick, was a mere hog in body as well as in mind. Gustavus of Sweden, and Joseph of Austria, were really crazy, and George of England you know was in a straight waistcoat. ... And so endeth the book of Kings, from all of whom the Lord deliver us, ..."