Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don't read this if you don't like history

We crossed into Virginia, presidential country. Within 50 miles are the homes of Wilson, Madison, Jefferson and Monroe. Who can pass that up?

Wilson was our first stop. That's his Pierce Arrow in the photo.  I knew little of him, but now I can tell you that after keeping the US out of WWI for as long as possible, he negotiated the peace settlements at the end. He formed the League of Nations but could not get Congress to ratify it. The US was never a member, even though Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Other things he is known for are the Federal Reserve System, Anti Trust and income tax. Yikes. He was a prolific writer during his tenure as history professor, rising to the rank of President of Princeton.

Personally, I have conflicted reactions to him. He was not a Woman’s Rights supporter, but his daughters were active suffragettes. One of them recorded songs for the Red Cross and then moved to India, where she remained until she died. Her name? Margaret.

This is the house he was born in, son, grandson and nephew of a Presbyterian minister.  This was the Manse in Staunton, Va. where he lived until his father got a better position in Augusta Ga.  There the family lived during the civil war, and his father was an avid Confederate.  At the manse, there were servants, slaves hired by the parish for the Manse, on loan from local plantations.  Wilson was the first Southerner elected after the Civil War since Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's running mate.

Next stop on the Presidential tour: Jefferson’s Monticello.
This is the nickel coin view of Monticello.

Born an heir to the land where he built Montecello and empowered by all the manual labor needed, he created his vision of a French mansion on the highest hill of his sizeable property.

Then he planned orchards, gardens, roads, and cash crops with the most intimate detail. He wrote down everything, from production to crop rotation. And of course he wrote many famous documents.

Jefferson wrote the first draft of the declaration of independence. Then a committee of Franklin and other edited it He also authored a document granting freedom of religion to Virginians, and planned every detail of the University of Virginia, from the books in the library to the buildings to hiring the professors. These three things he asked to be carved on his tomb.

Jefferson was conflicted all his life about freedom. He wanted it for every man, but in his will he only freed 5 of his 200 slaves. He wrote about his conflicts over slavery, but decided that the issue would be resolved by another generation. DNA researchers generally agree that long after Martha's death, he fathered several children by Sally Henning, a servant in his home.

He traveled a great deal, away in Washington and France, and it was in his retirement years that most of Monticello was completed.

Within a stones throw of Monticello is Ash Lawn, home to Monroe, on land that Jefferson picked for him.  He even sent slaves to plant Monroe's trees. And 20 miles further is the home of Madison, Montpelier. But there’s only so many presidents I can do in a day, particularly on a day that reached a high of 96.

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