After worshipping our Creator at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Lynchburg, VA at the 8 a.m. service on Sunday morning, we drove over an hour northward to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate just outside of Charlottesville. Jefferson was one of the most complex of the American founders. Concerning this great man, Leslie Bowman states: “Philosopher, revolutionary, president, connoisseur, gardener, epicure, diplomat, scientist, educator, innovator, and farmer, Thomas Jefferson was, is, the essential architect of American life.” He, of course, gave us the words in the Declaration of Independence. Monticello, his beloved home, sits on an 850′ high mountain, providing lovely views of the surrounding countryside.
After purchasing our tickets, we watched the introductory movie and toured the museum before driving down the road to Michie Tavern, an 18th century inn which serves Southern food, buffet-style. We stuffed ourselves with fried chicken, black-eyed peas, green beans, mashed potatoes, biscuits, cornbread, and peach cobbler, and then returned to Monticello for the tours.
We first took the Ground and Gardens tour where a well-informed guide took us on a walk across the grounds, talking about the property and showing us the flower gardens and vegetable gardens. We enjoyed the beauty and variety of Monticello. Jefferson had a lifelong interest in gardening, botany, and agriculture.
Next, we took the Slavery at Monticello tour. Our excellent guide shared with us the experiences of the enslaved people who lived and labored on Jefferson’s 5000 acre plantation. Jefferson on slavery was a contradiction. He called slavery a “moral depravity” and a “hideous blot” yet he owned hundreds of slaves on Monticello. They appear to have been no better treated than those on other plantations. And, he freed very few of them, even at his death. How could the man who wrote that “all men are created equal” practice slavery?
Finally, we took our Behind the Scenes tour of the main house of Monticello. Not only did we get to tour the lower level, but we also walked through the second and third floors of the neoclassical structure. Our guide, Grace, was amazing and made our two hours of walking through the home very enjoyable. She regaled us with stories of Jefferson and his family as we made our way from room to room.
On the way back to our vehicle, we stopped by Jefferson’s Grave for a few moments of reflection. He is buried halfway down the hill with other members of the family. We arrived back in Lynchburg after dark. The next day we would drive on northward.