Our Friend Mr. Jefferson

January 21, 2012
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For as long as I could remember, he was always there. Every Sunday night, our old friend Thomas Jefferson, and his wife Martha would come for dinner. They lived right by us, at the Monticello. My siblings and I loved the Monticello, its winding staircases, beautiful vineyards, and of course, the dumbwaiter. One by one, my siblings and I would pull each other up and down, until a servant would scold us, muttering about his precious invention.

This particular evening Mr. Jefferson told us something that would soon change our lives forever. We sat down at the table, as usual, and waited for someone to start the conversation. Martha nudged Thomas and said, "Why don't you tell everybody about that new committee of yours. I'd like to know more, myself. You've been awful quiet about it." Thomas liked conversation as much as the next fellow, but he never talked above conversational tone. He would always say he wasn't up to it, or he had a sore throat. Martha thought he just had stage fright.

"Well, we all know what's been going on around here, all those taxes and acts. And after the olive branch petition was refused, we had to do something about it. So the continental congress decided to form a five member committee. Me, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. I was voted to be the head of the committee even though I'm the youngest. Imagine that! John Adams and I were the top two of the group to write the first draft. I insisted he did so, but he said, "I will not." "You should do it." "Oh! No." "Why will you not? You ought to do it." " I will not." "Why?" "Reasons enough." "What can be your reasons?" "Reasons first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reasons second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reasons third, you can write ten times better than I can." "Well, if you are decided, I will do as well as I can." Jefferson replied. And that was that.

"So Mr. Jefferson," I was eager to ask, "Have you written any of it yet?" "I have a basic idea of what I am going to write, after all, this took place but yesterday." We all leaned in, eager as what he would tell us about this important document of his. "Well," he spoke as he cleared his throat. "I decided to start off by stating rights and...." "Read us that beautiful part you wrote today," Martha suggested. He pulled the parchment out and read it aloud. " 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." We all applauded, and then my 8 year old sister, Emma, spoke up. "What does umm, in, en, unalubul, unalien, umm. What's that word?" "Unalienable? Something you have to have. So the rights I am speaking of should never be taken away. They are natural rights." Thomas chuckled. "Never stop asking questions, Emma, you won't learn half of what you could otherwise."

After they left that night, Emma asked me an intriguing question. "What does Mr. Jefferson believe in, you know, his politics?" "I think he likes England just like everyone, but he does know that they haven't done much good for us. I think now, like many others, decided that the only way to forever be free and have rights, is to separate from England."

Then on July 2nd, we had supper again with the Jeffersons. Much had been happening among the committee. As we settled down for some of mothers' famous meatloaf, Emma jumped right into the conversation. "Have you finished your document yet, Mr. Jefferson?" "Indeed I did, in fact, the committee has reviewed it. We are in a bit of a hurry, you know, the sooner we can get it approved, the better. We sent it to the Continental Congress today, but they sent it back, telling us that they didn't agree with the part on slavery. Oh well, I guess that will be another time to abolish it." The conversation floated to a multitude of topics, and soon the night crept upon us. As they left, I realized what had happened recently. The world had seemed so peaceful, like a still, serene, lake, and England jumped right in, disrupting the peace. I wondered when the lake would become serene and still again; I could barely remember before now.

The morning of July 4th was tense and expectant of something historic. Everyone hurried like no tomorrow. Little did the world know that today would change the world. Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, and it would soon be read to almost every colonist, young and old. Soon it would be signed, and our lives would never be the same. The lake was almost still and serene, and I was very grateful of Mr. Jefferson, a true hero of the independence, and we must never forget what he did for our country. I know I won't.

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