Friday, December 16, 2011

december 16, 2011 (mon.)

Around 4 o'clock this morning Mr. Jefferson awoke to the shaking of an earthquake. But it wasn't a local quake, as the one in 1774 had been. This one was from 700 miles west, just across the Mississippi River.

2011 note: This was the first major shock of the New Madrid series of earthquakes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

november 22, 2011 (fri.)

Growing old is such a bother. The simplest things become inconvenient and complicated. Eyesight dims, spectacles become necessary for reading, but they're so easily misplaced. Fortunately, Martin, a house servant, has found them. Mr. Jefferson gave him 45 cents in gratitude.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

nov. 15, 1811 (fri.)

In October, Melatiah Nash, a teacher, librarian, and grocer in New York, wrote concerning a book he is writing, to be called The Columbian Ephemeris and Astronomical Diary. The work is to be a sort of combination of a common and a nautical almanac, as well as a simple introductory textbook of astronomy.

This morning Mr. Jefferson replied, giving his encouragement and some advice, including a method by which readers in places other than where the book is published can calculate their own local time of sunrise "with scarcely more trouble than taking it from an Almanac" --
"add the Log. tangent of the [sun's] declination:
taking 10, from the Index, the remainder is the Sine of an arch which, turned into time and added to VI. Hours
gives Sunrise for the Winter half
and Sunset for the Summer half of the year."

2011 note: There appears to be no free, publicly-accessible, online copy of The Columbian Ephemeris and Astronomical Diary, for the Year 1812, but several university libraries have a print copy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

sept. 25, 1811 (wed.)

Time to look over the accounts and tally up what is owed to David Higginbottom & Co. in Milton. (Well, perhaps a bit past time. These are the outstanding debts from August of last year to August of this year.)

A plantation like Monticello is largely self-sufficient, but of course it's necessary to import iron and salt, and tropical products such as coffee, tea, sugar, and molasses. And some things such as candles, whiskey, and cloth for the slaves' clothing are more convenient to buy than make in the quantities needed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

september 19, 1811 (thurs.)

An annular solar eclipse was visible at Monticello a couple of days ago, on Tuesday, the 17th, the annulus (the bright ring of the sun around visible behind the moon) showing from 1:53 to about half minute past 1:59 in the afternoon, by Mr. Jefferson's slightly slow clock. Of course Mr. Jefferson went out to see it and of course he observed it carefully and took meticulous notes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

september 11, 1811 (wed.)

The Rev. Charles Wingfield, a neighbor who is a Presbyterian minister, held a simple funeral -- a few short words and prayers -- for Mrs. Carr today at the cemetery at Monticello, just down the hill from the house.

This summer has been a rough one. In addition to Mrs. Carr's illness and death, Mrs. Randolph, who had spent three months at Edgehill, had been quite ill for awhile in July, then lost the baby she was carrying, and all of her children had been sick, too. Here at Monticello, Mr. Jefferson's rheumatism was so bad that he was nearly bedridden, and had to postpone what should have been an early July trip to Poplar Forest until mid August.

Let us hope that we have seen the last of these troubles for awhile.

Monday, September 5, 2011

september 5, 1811 (thurs.)

Martha Jefferson Carr was buried today in the family graveyard here at Monticello, just down the hill from the house, beside Dabney Carr, her husband, and good friend of her brother, Thomas. In fact, Mr. Carr was the first person to have been buried in that cemetery, back in 1773. Mrs. Carr's funeral will be at noon this coming Wednesday, the 11th, at the graveside.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

september 2, 1811 (tue.)

Martha Jefferson Carr, Thomas Jefferson's sister, of Carr's-brook, just north of Charlottesville, has died. She had been ill for the past couple of years, toward the end being bedridden, and eventually becoming completely unaware of her surroundings and not recognizing those caring for her. She was 65 years old, three years younger than her brother, Thomas. The two were quite close, and she had married his boyhood friend, Dabney Carr. When her husband died young, she moved with her children to Monticello. Sister Lucy died just last year, in Kentucky, and with Martha's passing, only three of the ten siblings from Shadwell remain: Thomas and the twins, Randolph and Anna.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

july 2, 1811 (tue.)

Today Mr. Jefferson received a letter from his good friend in Philadelphia, the learned Dr. Benjamin Rush, who is currently engaged in an epic struggle against what he sees as one of this country's most serious health threats. It is, he writes, "a greater enemy to the prosperity and liberties of the United states, than the fleets of Britain and the Armies of Bonaparte." He's referring to strong drink.

The good doctor is not against cider or wine as part of a wholesome meal, but believes intemperance begins at the level of strong punch.

For his nationwide educational campaign against the evils of intemperance, Dr. Rush is sending a pamphlet he wrote a few years ago, A View of the Physical, Moral, and Immoral Effects of Certain Liquors upon the Body and Mind of Man, and Upon His Condition in Society, to friends such as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, in various parts of the country, in hopes that they will see that the pamphlets are posted and distributed in their respective communities.

Monday, June 27, 2011

june 27, 1811 (thurs.)

Finally! The saga of the trouble-plagued wheat is over. Mr. Jefferson's cousin, George, was able to sell the last 54 barrels of it in Richmond.

Monday, June 20, 2011

june 20, 1811 (thurs.)

When Mr. Jefferson likes something, or finds it useful, he spreads the word around his wide network of family, friends, and correspondents. He does this not just for grand ideas, like his thoughts on liberty and nation-building, but also for small, everyday things.

For instance, today he's sending a bottle of Benni (sesame) oil to Peter Minor, because Mr. Jefferson likes the taste of it as a salad dressing, even better than olive oil. (And he's had better luck growing sesame plants than olive trees. Well, this year's crop won't be very good, but it's just because the seeds got planted too deep.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

may 26, 1811 (sun.)

Today Mr. Jefferson is sending his married granddaughter, Anne, a novel she wanted to read, The Modern Griselda, by Maria Edgeworth. In general, he doesn't approve of girls or young women reading novels, but Mrs. Edgeworth's books teach important moral lessons.

He and Anne have long shared a love of flowers, and he reports on which ones have been and are now blooming at Monticello, "the hyacinths and tulips are off the stage, the Irises giving place to the Belladonnas ...." He writes whimsically, showing a side which would surprise those who know him only as a writer of grand political prose. (And, yes, he writes without using capital letters at the beginning of sentences.) "the flowers come forth like the belles of the day, have their short reign of beauty and splendor, & retire like them to the more interesting office of reproducing their like."

Friday, May 6, 2011

may 5, 1811 (sun.)

"... [S]ober interest tells me I should leave off buying books," Mr. Jefferson wrote a few days ago in response to a friend suggesting another title to add to his library of thousands.

Yeah. Right. This has all the credibility of a drunkard swearing off rum.

Well, today's mail brought yet another offer, this time a subscription to the Edinburgh Encyclopedia. He has declined, graciously, citing a surfeit of encyclopedias on his shelves already.

He's being responsible. For now.

Monday, May 2, 2011

may 1, 1811 (wed.)

Moving is never simple. It seems that one always leaves something or other behind. When Mr. Jefferson moved out of the President's house in Washington, D. C. two years ago, he left a some pictures on the wall of the sitting room -- an easy to understand oversight. His friend, Mr. Latrobe, the artist who made one of the prints, rescued them at that time, and now they're finally on their way to Monticello via another friend, Mr. Coles.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

april 13, 1811 (sat.)

It's Mr. Jefferson's 68th birthday, but that's not what's on his mind. Instead, he's thinking about the political state of South America.

Last fall he received a book from his friend, Alexander von Humbolt, a German scientist living in Paris, but because of the unstable political situation in France, he hasn't been able to send his thanks until now. The book was a volume of Humbolt's work about his recent travels in Latin America, Voyages aux regions du nouveaux continent, fait en 1799, 1800, 1802, 1803, et 1804.

Now he ponders the futures of those South American countries. New Granada, Uruguay, and Argentina are currently in the struggle for freedom, and other colonies are surely soon to follow, as all the world seems to be following the examples of the United States and France in throwing off the chains of monarchy.

"What kind of government will they establish? How much liberty can they bear without intoxication? Are their chiefs sufficiently enlightened to form a well guarded government, and their people to watch their chiefs? Have they mind enough to place their domesticated Indians on a footing with whites?"

Heaven knows these problems have been, and continue to be, difficult enough here on the northern continent.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

april 5, 1811 (fri.)

When Mr. Jefferson came back to Monticello from Bedford County about a month ago, he found the that the plants he'd started in the greenhouse had died during his absence. And he still didn't have his flour. The miller said he'd send it as soon as it was ground. It's not here yet, but should be coming soon, and some of it can then be sold, with the money going toward paying down debts.

Monday, February 21, 2011

february 21, 1811 (thur.)

This business trip to Poplar Forest keeps dragging on. Nothing is resolved. Mr. Jefferson's wheat is still at the mill, still unground. The mill dam has broken a second time, and then, as a result, Mr. Calloway, the miller, went bankrupt. Now someone else owns the mill, but he still has to fix it. Mr. Jefferson, usually a cheerful man, is beginning to feel rather glum. Because of the unexpected nature of the situation, and the fact that it's in the worst time of year for traveling, he's here alone. (Except for the enslaved servants, who are, of course, ever present, but don't provide true companionship.)

He thinks of his grandson, Francis, staying at Monticello, because his papa, a U.S. Representative from Virginia, thinks that the family should wait until after the winter to travel to Washington, D.C. What a shame to be stuck here, wasting precious time he could be with the boy.

He thinks of his granddaughter, Anne. She and her husband are thinking of moving to land they have here in Bedford County. It would be nice to have them nearby. Mr. Jefferson would like to plant some asparagus, gooseberries, and raspberries for her, but with temperatures dipping down below freezing at night, this hasn't been possible. It was below freezing during the day a couple of days ago, too, and even when it's not that cold, it's been hovering at that wet, chilly temperature that gets into the bones and feels miserable. Repeated snows, and melted snow, and half-melted slush have made the roads impassible.

Add to the isolation the fact that the post from Lynchburg to Milton, near Monticello, goes out only once a week. He'll write Martha again when it does, in a few days. No sense in writing any letters now. He shifts in his chair so that the waning firelight falls on the open pages of his book.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

february 9, 1811 (sat.)

Mr. Jefferson is back at Poplar Forest. He had to return unexpectedly last week because of some business there. He had left his wheat to be ground at Mr. Calloway's mill, but the mill's dam has broken. It was supposed to have been fixed yesterday, but now it looks like the mill won't be able to start up again until the day after tomorrow. In the meantime, Mr. Jefferson's wheat, and that of several neighbors, languishes in limbo.