Thomas Jefferson

The Declaration of Independence

What kinds of people settled the new lands of America? They had their own ideas about laws, religion, and what makes a good government. They were, in a word, independent.
In 1776, England was faraway, and people on this side of the Atlantic were heartily sick and tired of paying taxes on top of taxes to finance England's empty treasury. They were tired, too, of losing money by having the Crown interfere with their trade overseas. The men in the assemblies shouted that King George was a tyrant, so the King's men stopped the assemblies. When they still protested, the King brought in the army, making the colonists put them up in their houses. Any crimes the soldiers committed against the colonists were handled in the King's court by the King's judges.

The Louisiana Purchase

In 1800, the land held by the new United States was small compared to what was called Louisiana. Louisiana was named for King Louis XIV. It was part of a large claimed area in the New World called New France. It stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains.

The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine by Dave DeWitt

The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized Ame

The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff.  Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization.  Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.

Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role.  At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged.  Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.

"A Rich Spot of Earth" Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello by Peter J. Hatch

"A Rich Spot of Earth" Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello by

“But tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

—Letter from retired President Thomas Jefferson to famed portrait painter Charles Willson Peale

Author Peter Hatch has been the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello since 1977.  When Annie Leibovitz came to historic site, she chose to photograph his hands, which have spent decades re-envisioning and recreating Jefferson’s beloved garden.  “A Rich Spot of Earth” is a stunning visual and verbal tribute to both the historic gardens and their careful recovery.  Follow these links to learn more about Monticello’s historic gardens and its Center for Historic Plants.

The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine

By Benjamin Wallace

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"It was the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold. In 1985, a 1787 bottle of Chateau Lafite Bordeaux--one of a cache unearthed in a bricked-up Paris cellar and supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson--sold at auction for $156,000. The discoverer of the bottle was pop-band manager turned wine collector Hardy Rodenstock, who had a knack for finding extremely old and exquisite wines. But rumors soon arose. Why wouldn't Rodenstock reveal the exact location where it had been found? Was it part of a smuggled Nazi hoard? Or did his reticence conceal an even darker secret? Author Wallace also offers a history of wine, complete with vivid accounts of subterranean European laboratories where old vintages are dated and of Jefferson's colorful, wine-soaked days in France. This tale of what could be the most elaborate con since the Hitler diaries is also the debut of a new voice in narrative non-fiction."

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"Negro President"--Jefferson and the Slave Power

By Garry Wills

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Wills argues that the U.S. Constitution's three-fifths clause for slave "representation" in Congress and the Electoral College gave slave holders the edge in winning most presidential elections, controlling the federal government, and maintaining slavery by throttling personal liberties.

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Jefferson’s Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy, by Boynton Merrill, Jr.

Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

They say every family has its black sheep.

Jefferson’s Nephews, by Boynton Merrill, Jr., tells of a vile murder mostly forgotten, which played out in the hinterlands of a new Kentucky settlement in the early 1800s. Two brothers had come away from their family’s land in Albemarle County, Virginia, to try to make a fresh start. But Isham and Lilburne Lewis brought with them bitter hearts and slave labor—a combination that was to prove lethal. The gruesomeness and cruelty of their crime rocked the nearby community of Livingston County. Perhaps more shocking to the white citizens was the brothers’ blue blood pedigree.
 

The Pleasure Gardens of Virginia: From Jamestown to Jefferson

By Peter Martin

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A scholarly look back at gardens of the past. Gardeners recorded their efforts from the settlement of Jamestown on. Both Jefferson and Washington were avid horticulturalists and left detailed note of their plants.

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The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello

By Peter J. Hatch

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The story of the restoration of Jefferson's fruit trees is brought to life by the horticulturalist's recollections and period illustrations from Andrew Jackson Downing's Fruit Trees of America (1845), and pages from Jefferson's original orchard plans.

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Jefferson's Garden

By H. Peter Loewer

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Noted plantsman Peter Loewer profiles Thomas Jefferson as gardener and landscape architect, focusing on the gardens at Monticello, with descriptions of the annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, and vines that Jefferson grew. Insights on each plant from Jefferson, the writers he admired, and those who admired him are combined with Loewer's unique perspective, gardening hints, and stunning line drawings.

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