Thursday, June 19, 2008


Posted by Melissa
Thomas Jefferson, author of The Declaration of Independence (you know - "all men are created equal" and have a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness") which established the foundations of self government and individual freedom in America also owned slaves - up to 150 slaves lived on his 5000 acre plantation. It is hard to reconcile this paradox....

Jefferson grew up on this land and as a child this hilltop was his favorite spot. When he inherited it he immediately began building on the hill. He started with a smaller, classical building. After spending years in Paris, he returned and began remodeling the house to incorporate ancient Roman features. All in all, he spend 40 years designing, constructing, and remodeling Monticello, his "essay in architecture".

He was also very interested in gardening and designed beautiful gardens with included both vegetables and ornamental plants. Some of his gardens have been recreated based on his meticulous record keeping.Mulberry Row was home to workers and craftsmen (both free and enslaved) that worked on the plantation. Homes and workshop buildings like a blacksmith and nail shop (NOT manicures!!), smokehouse, and a carpenters shop were located here. The slaves were housed with entire families in SMALL 20 x 12 houses. They worked from sunup to sundown. They tended their own personal gardens after dark. Jefferson's records show that he purchased some vegetables and chickens from his slaves. I thought that was very interesting - if he owns them how can they sell him things? What we found out is that this practice was common among some plantation owners because it improved moral slightly. The thinking was that happier slaves may need less supervision and may be less likely to run away. Hmm, I'm thinking decent pay may have accomplished the same thing...

I love these tree alleys that we have seen all over the south. If I ever live in the country again, I want one of these - minus the slave quarters!!

Jefferson was a very complex man with many interests and Monticello had many innovative features. If you are interested the website has LOTS of information. Just click here.

Up next: Washington DC

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