On Wednesday, we packed up the vehicle and started toward the first historic site of the trip, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The route took us on an interesting stretch through Amherst, Colleen, Covesville and other little towns. It also took us near the Kappa Sigma Museum, which my nephew and his fraternity brothers would probably find fascinating.
Finally, we arrived at our destination. With time to wait before we could enter the house, we were able to watch have lunch, go through a small museum and watch a movie about the third president. It was in that movie that I first heard something that the tour guide would later repeat. According the DNA testing and most historians, Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves.
That is a rumor that started during his Jefferson’s presidency and is something that I have told my students since I started teaching. However, here is what was surprising about the statement. It said “most historians.” Are there still historians out there who ignore DNA testing, the same testing that we use to convict people of murder, and deny his paternity?
Oh yeah, they also took great pains to let us know that the relationship between Thomas and Sally was long after his wife’s death.
After a while, we made it to the front porch of the house, where a kid warmed my heart. When asked what first comes to mind when we think of Thomas Jefferson, he shouted out the Louisiana Purchase. Now, that is a smart young man. When we walked through the front door, the entry hall was filled with artifacts from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Apparently, Jefferson thought that land deal was pretty important, too.
On the shuttle back to the visitor’s center, the tram stopped at Jefferson’s grave, and I jumped out to take a quick picture. When I turned around, the shuttle was gone. Apparently, the driver was in a huge and gigantic hurry.
Washington, D.C. and our lodging for the next few days were next on the agenda. However, we saw some neat stuff along the way. There was the nicest gas station we had ever seen. It looked like a bank more than an Exxon. There were horse farms with massive amounts of fencing and large houses. There was also an interesting question from my wife.
With several presidential homes and many Civil War battlefields in the area, how did those homes not get destroyed? It is a great question that leads to the complexity of who those presidents were.
I believe the homes were spared because those men – Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison and James Monroe – represented to the United States government the ideals for which they were fighting. They were among the Founding Fathers who started a nation based on liberty and freedom.
For the Confederacy, those same men represented the plantation economy of slavery and agriculture that was being threatened by northern politicians. They were people who rose up against an oppressive government. In essence, both sides looked upon the owners of these homes as representative of what they were fighting for. As a result, neither side wanted to disrespect them by destroying their properties.
Of course, that could be totally wrong, and the houses could have been in locations that were not strategically important.
After many miles, we hit the interstate going into Washington, D.C., which looked like any other city until I realized that we were passing the Pentagon. My wife tried to explain to my stepdaughter about the building, but she said that she knew what it was. It is where they imprisoned Magneto in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Then, the Washington Monument suddenly appeared. Now, we knew that we were in a different kind of city.
After navigating through the traffic and the pedestrians, we made it to our downtown hotel, where I promptly parked in the wrong place. Coincidentally, the people we were meeting got there at the exact same time and parked in the exact same wrong place.
We unpacked. We rested. Then, we walked a few blocks to a great restaurant called Siroc, an Italian place that was out of this world. It was a lovely evening eating pasta and duck and all sorts of things on their sidewalk patio.
I have now seen the ones in Washington, Nashville and New Orleans. Monty Pope would be proud.
Despite the White House and the statue, I, for some reason, was more interested in seeing the Blair House. Harry Truman lived in it for much of his presidency as the big house was being renovated, and I always thought that made it cool. While gawking at it, my wife discovered that the gardens were donated by Jack Massey, a Nashvillian who put three corporations on the New York Stock Exchange – Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hospital Corporation of America and Volunteer Capital Corporation.
It seems that Andrew Jackson is not the only Tennessee connection sitting in front of the White House.