Griggs Family RV Trip 2021 – Day 6

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

These incredible words written by our third President, Thomas Jefferson, are inspirational words. They speak of the pillars of freedom our country was founded upon. They shout from the rooftops what we all know to be true: all human beings were meant to be born free. However, throughout the course of human history, other humans, mere mortals, have caused this to not be the case. Many throughout human history have been born into a system of oppression at no fault of their own except that is where they were born.

Front view of Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello, Charlottesville, VA

Jefferson knew this all too well, as he truly lived a twisted, conflicted life. Revered as one of our most critical Founding Fathers, author of the Declaration of Independence, Ambassador to France, Secretary of State, Vice President and two-term President, he knew what he wrote when he said it was self-evident, and yet he lived his entire adult life owning slaves, enslaving as many as 600 people over the course of his life. I can only imagine the internal hypocrisy, guilt & shame he must have felt living a double life: freedom rider by day, slave master by night.

On Day 6, the girls went swimming and then went to the store with Tammy, and then after I was done with work, we had the opportunity visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate just south of Charlottesville, Virginia. To my surprise, it was perched up on the top of a hill in a dense forest, and I tried to imagine what it must have been like to ride in a horse-drawn carriage up to the top of the hill. Jefferson envisioned this home as a young man, exploring his father’s property, and he learned the skills of architecture and home building to design what was described by many of his guests as a “curious” house.

Clock designed by Jefferson, with the weighted lead balls on the side to indicate the day of the week.

The home was a typical plantation-style home of the era with a large portico on the front of the home, large windows and a fully glass front door. In the two-story entry of the foyer, he included an incredible clock he designed and had made by a local clock-maker, which included weighted iron balls that moved downward on the right side to indicate the day of the week (see the five balls are on Tuesday with the top ball indicating what part of the day it was). He collected memorabilia, such as Native American heirlooms and painted portraits of George Washington and other associates of the time period. He included elements he had seen in France and other countries he’d visit up to the point, such as a butler’s spinning wall, so as to deliver food without his slave(s) being seen. He spent a lot of time researching the best roofing for the house, and he placed the beds in strategic spots in order to save space, such as between two rooms in the home. It certainly was unique, and to make it even more interesting, Jefferson continued designing and had parts torn down in order to rebuild a better version of it. Needless to say, this may have been one reason why Jefferson died deeply in debt.

Note-copying device to create a duplicate when writing.
One of seven bookshelves in the house we saw on our tour.

Jefferson was incredibly smart, speaking seven languages (like Madison), owning and reading (presumably) hundreds, if not thousands, of books. He was a student of science, of architecture, of government and of writing, and he loved gadgets, often tinkering with inventions and models to better understand how each of them worked. He played chess, as many of his stature did at taht time. And, most intriguing to me, he had a copying device on one of his desks that would produce a similar, hand-written paper from his original as he wrote it. It was pretty cool to see, and it looked like something you would love to run across at a garage sale or an antiques shop.

We ended our tour walking down where the slaves lived, seeing the garden and walking past Jefferson’s gravesite. He lived quite the life, but in the end, wasn’t satisfied with much of what he did, feeling history had asked of him much more than he wanted to give, as all he wanted to do was be home on his property with his family. He lost four of his six children during their younger years, two of which died in infancy, lost another at age 26, and he ended up with only one surviving child into later adulthood. For someone so revered to the general public, I couldn’t help but feel that Jefferson lived a life of desolation, an introvert living as an extrovert, void of much satisfaction except for his family and his estate. In the end, he was levied with the reality of living with something he despised, quite possibly out of necessity, and something he felt he had to maintain in order to compete economically in the South: slavery.

Naomi lining up a shot during our game of 8-ball.

After we grabbed some post cards and some other souvenirs, we headed back to the RV to call it a day. Before we did, though, Naomi asked if we could go play some pool at the laundry/game facility, so we did. I couldn’t believe how naturally good she was, shooting left-handed, no less, and having a knack for getting the cue ball around the table. Still working on some of the fundamentals and teaching her angles, but for someone who just picked up playing this past year and has only played a handful of time, I was incredibly impressed. We played 8-ball, and I only won by two balls, which is saying something for an 11-year old with little practice against a decent player who used to teach physics (see momentum). Makes me think we should get a pool table in our basement sometime in the near future.

Anyone in the STL have a pool table they’re ready to part ways with? 😊

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