Look at what we found at a used book store today! An early-reader book that’s at the same time really bad, and really funny. It’s called Thomas Jefferson and the Ghostriders, and it is the wierdest bit of Jefferson I think I’ve ever come across. 

Here’s the plot:

An ‘Indian Burial Ground’ is marked on this map of Virginia, but Tom’s dad is all - “Don’t go there son! It’s Holy!” But then some friend of Tom and Dabney Carr tells them it’s haunted. At which point, Dabney is all “I dare you to come with me there tonight!” and Tom agrees. They go there, and find that the Native Americans who were visiting are pretty cool. Jefferson, of course, becomes best friends with the tribe, and learns that, hey, all men are created equal.

Reading the last couple of pages is really awkward, knowing TJ’s less-than-stellar record with actually considering all men equal.

(And I hope no kids took this thing to be historical fact.)

7.31.1788: “He is a good man too, but so much out of his element that he has the air of one huskanoyed.” —speaking of French Minister to the United States Anne-César, Chevalier de la Luzerne, to James Madison.

"huskanaw" or "huskanoy" is the ceremony or ordeal, formerly in use among the Indians of Virginia, of preparing young men for the duties of manhood by means of solitary confinement and the use of narcotics.

Read the full letter: 


"The culture of the vine is… a species of gambling, and of desperate gambling too"

7.30.1787: Paris. “We should not wish for their wines, tho they are good and abundant. The culture of the vine is not desireable in lands capable of producing any thing else. It is a species of gambling, and of desperate gambling too, wherein, whether you make much or nothing, you are equally ruined. The middling crop alone is the saving point, and that the seasons seldom hit. Accordingly we see much wretchedness amidst this class of cultivators. Wine too is so cheap in these countries that a labourer with us, employed in the culture of any other article, may exchange it for wine, more and better than he could raise himself. It is a resource for a country, the whole of whose good soil is otherwise employed, and which still has some barren spots and a surplus of population to employ on them. There the vine is good, because it is something in the place of nothing. It may become a resource to us at a still earlier period: when the increase of population shall increase our productions beyond the demand for them both at home and abroad. Instead of going on to make a useless surplus of them, we may employ our supernumerary hands on the vine. But that period is not yet arrived.” —to William Drayton

Source: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-11-02-0568

An article by J. L. Bell on Aaron Burr’s later-year reflections regarding his 7.11.1804 duel with and shooting of Alexander Hamilton, who died from the wounds the following day.

John Adams and I engaged in a public debate today on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, situated between Independence Hall and The National Constitution Center. Tho’ we maintain a close friendship that allows for difference, during these contests of opinion the animation of discussions and of exertions sometimes wear an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely, and to speak and to write what they think.

Mr. Adams is here adeptly & forcibly represented by Peyton Dixon: www.MeetJohnAdams.com


Kitty Nicholson, retired Supervisory Conservator at the National Archives, shares with the world in the exclusive video on the National Archives YouTube Channel a mystery about our Declaration of Independence.  Watch the following video … and if you can help solve the mystery … you may become a legend!    Happy Independence Day!!! 

I stand before two opposing walls currently illuminated at The National Constitution Center: one being The Declaration of Independence, and the other being a list of my slaves on a page in my farm book. These walls are part of the exhibition “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello”. This exhibition is presented by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in partnership with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Learn more here: http://constitutioncenter.org/calendar/slavery-at-jeffersons-monticello

“an act… which, if it has really passed, will carry us back to the times of the darkest bigotry and barbarism to find a parallel.”

6.16.1817: “Three of our papers have presented us the copy of an act of the legislature of New York, which, if it has really passed, will carry us back to the times of the darkest bigotry and barbarism to find a parallel. Its purport is, that all those who shall hereafter join in communion with the religious sect of Shaking Quakers, shall be deemed civilly dead, their marriages dissolved, and all their children and property taken out of their hands. This act being published nakedly in the papers, without the usual signatures, or any history of the circumstances of its passage, I am not without a hope it may have been a mere abortive attempt. It contrasts singularly with a contemporary vote of the Pennsylvania legislature, who, on a proposition to make the belief in a god a necessary qualification for office, rejected it by a great majority, although assuredly there was not a single atheist in their body. And you remember to have heard, that, when the act for religious freedom was before the Virginia Assembly, a motion to insert the name of Jesus Christ before the phrase, ‘the author of our holy religion,’ which stood in the bill, was rejected, although that was the creed of a great majority of them.” —to Albert Gallatin





6.6.1798: “unmerited slanders are soonest forgotten when neglected.” —to John Page

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5.25.1810: “(John Marshall’s) twistifications in the case of Marbury, in that of Burr, & the late Yazoo case, shew how dexterously he can reconcile law to his personal biasses.” —to President James Madison

5.25.1810: “the rancorous hatred which Marshall bears to the government of his country, & from the cunning & sophistry within which he is able to enshroud himself.” —to President James Madison

“Dear Sir
Monticello May 25. 10.
I inclose you the extract of a letter from Govr Tyler which will explain itself, and I do it on the same principle on which I have sometimes done the same thing before, that whenever you are called on to select, you may have under consideration all those who may properly be thought of & the grounds of their pretensions. from what I can learn Griffin cannot stand it long, and really the state has suffered long enough by having such a cypher in so important an office, and infinitely the more from the want of any counterpoise to the rancorous hatred which Marshall bears to the government of his country, & from the cunning & sophistry within which he is able to enshroud himself. it will be difficult to find a character of firmness enough to preserve his independance on the same bench with Marshall. Tyler, I am certain, would do it. he is an able & well read lawyer about 59. years of age: he was popular as a judge, & is remarkeably so as a governor, for his incorruptible integrity, which no circumstances have ever been able to turn from it’s course. indeed I think there is scarcely a person in the state so solidly popular, or who would be so much approved for that place. a milk & water character in that office would be seen as a calamity. Tyler having been the former state judge of that court too, and removed to make way for so wretched a fool as Griffin has a kind of right of reclamation, with the advantage of repeated elections by the legislature, as Admiralty judge, circuit judge & Governor. but of all these things you will judge fairly between him & his competitors.  You have seen in the papers that Livingston has served a writ on me, stating damages at 100,000.D. the ground is not yet explained, but it is understood to be the batture. I have engaged Wirt, Hay, & Wickham as counsel. I shall soon look into my papers to make a state of the case to enable them to plead: and as much of our proceedings was never committed to writing, and my memory cannot be trusted, it is probable I shall have to appeal to that of my associates in the proceedings. I believe that what I did was in harmony with the opinions of all the members of the administration, verbally expressed altho’ not in writing.  I have been delighted to see the effect of Monroe’s late visit to Washington on his mind. there appears to be the most perfect reconciliation & cordiality established towards yourself. I think him now inclined to rejoin us with zeal. the only embarrasment will be from his late friends. but I think he has firmness of mind enough to act independently as to them. the next session of our legislature will shew.  we are suffering under a most severe drought of now 3. weeks continuance. late sown wheat is yellow. but the oats suffer especially.— in speaking of Livingston’s suit, I omitted to observe that it is little doubted that his knolege of Marshall’s character has induced him to bring this action. his twistifications in the case of Marbury, in that of Burr, & the late Yazoo case, shew how dexterously he can reconcile law to his personal biasses: and nobody seems to doubt that he is ready prepared to decide that Livingston’s right to the batture is unquestionable, and that I am bound to pay for it with my private fortune. ever affectionately your’s.
Th: Jefferson”

Source: http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/TSJN-03-02-02-0362