Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In the Land of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe

"Monticello" in Spring

Close up of Jefferson's home "Monticello"

Map of the area of Monroe's "Limestone Farm"

Monroe's Lifelong Home "Montpelier"

"Montpelier" as it appeared, prerestoration
in 2003. Photo by: Andrew Shurtleff

Daniel was homeschooled along with his two older brothers and sister. He enjoyed this immensely as it allowed us to spend a huge amount of time on something which was interesting to him, and to move quickly though something he got rapidly and on to something new. At first, he wasn't all that interested in American history, thinking that ancient history and particularly mythology was much more interesting. He was only about eight when he gleefully realized that the founding fathers and many of the Presidents we were learning about, had homes quite near our own in Virginia, and lived their lives here. Thomas Jefferson's parents, Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph, owned a fair amount of land locally, Thomas ultimately inherited this. In addition, Thomas Jefferson inherited the land of his mother's and his wife's family as well. His home, " Monticello" is not far from here, and is well worth the visit. Eventually his holdings comprised huge portions of different counties, although at the end of his life, he carried significant debt as well. Oddly enough, today would be his birthday. James Madison and his wife Dolley Madison's home "Montpelier" is in the next county, and I look forward to visiting, as it has fairly recently been renovated and opened for tours. Daniel was the one who located "Limestone Farm" which is apparently one of the homes of James Monroe.
Daniel never toured any of of these. We should have gotten to Monticello, but the days were always filled, and we always had much to do, and sometimes, he wanted to be home to read and draw. Montpelier had not yet had it's restoration complete and was not yet open for visits, and so Daniel never got there either. Limestone Farm, is not open for visitors, and is privately owned, although Daniel and I used to drive past often on our way to other things, and he clearly noticed and mentioned it's significance to me.
Being the parent of homeschooled children, it is important that they not learn things in a life seperate from the world in which they live, so we took pains to include them in homeschooler organization activities, and things which bridged the gap with regard to history. We worked to help elect our Congressman, Eric Cantor, some years ago. Eric is now the Majority Leader in the US Congress.
A couple of months before Daniel's passing, he and I went to a Republican fundraiser locally at Orapax Plantation, where Daniel met and spoke with Eric Cantor for the first time. Orapax is a beautiful place in its own right. Daniel, who read a great deal, cautioned Eric about runaway spending, particularly bailing out the banks. Unfortunately, this was done anyway. Daniel also met and spoke with Roxane Gilmore, our former Governor Jim Gilmore's wife, who made a speech that day. (Daniel congratulated her on her fine speech....and she must have been privately amused, being encouraged by an articulate twelve year old.) Daniel also met John Hager who had been Lieutenant Governor. Since John Hager's son had recently married President George Bushes daughter Jenna, I think Daniel asked him something approximating what it was like to be an in-law with the Bushes. Everyone was gracious with the tall young man who spoke so confidently and eloquently. "Surely he could not be just 12 ?" people exclaimed. They asked him to recite the "pledge of allegiance" with a microphone when the event actually began, but Daniel declined. It would have been a great honor, but Daniel was an interesting mix of confidence and easy speech, along with shyness and not openly or deliberately causing attention to come to himself. He enjoyed the rest of the day, walking around that farm, and enjoying the wonderful food, which had been hamburgers, beans, and cole slaw, and every manner of drink you could imagine, all catered and very very good. At one point, Daniel picked up a brown bottle he thought was a nice root beer, but it was a real beer and so it went back. It wouldn't have served to break a state law in front of all the lawmakers ! I often think back to that day, and wish I could have held time, and that moment for longer. I had no knowledge that only weeks later, Daniel, and my Dad would be gone from Earth.
We also have friends who are Democrats. In fact, our homeschool diplomas are all signed by Lawrence Douglas Wilder, a wonderful man, who was the Governor of Virginia, and holds the distinction of being the first African American State Governor within the United States.He also, much much earlier, penned the Virginia statute which allows us to lawfully homeschool. His most important distinction however, though is that although he is a politician, he is an honest and rational one. I wish he could have been President now.
We did as much as we could while Daniel was with us, but there still are so many things I wish I had taken him to see and do. I never sensed that his time here on Earth was to be so short.

James Monroe also had another home in Charlottesville, Virginia called "Ashlawn Highland"
http://www.ashlawnhighland.org/ which can be visited.

UPDATE: August, 2011: As I drove past Madison's "Limestone Farm" today, I noticed that the privately held farm is now up for sale.

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