I know this program is about the third president Thomas Jefferson, but today I want to take a moment to lament the passing of one of the finest scholar-biographers of our time Edmund Morris. The great biographer of Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt died on May 24. He was 78 years old.
"He's never happier than when he can recommend a course of reading to somebody else."
— Clay S. Jenkinson
President Jefferson tells us what books he might recommend to juvenile readers, and it turns out to be a fairly limited list. He does, however, recommend Don Quixote, Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe.
All hail Jefferson for the patience and persistence he showed in vindicating the American experiment, and letting Napoleon suggest the purchase as a way of solving some of his own pressing problems. Jefferson could not have done what I am doing. He was too civilized. I wonder how often he bathed? We know he had severe digestive problems. That had to be a mess in an age before toilets and ready hot water. You want to have robust pipes for a journey like this.
"He was drest, or rather undrest, with an old brown coat, red waistcoat, old corduroy small clothes, much soiled-woolen hose-and slippers without heels."
— William Plumer, 1802
This week we talk about Thomas Jefferson’s talent for political theater, and the ways he used this talent to reinforce the public perception of his firm beliefs in republicanism and guard against what he saw as a threat of monarchy in the young nation.
Sundays always remind me of my father Charles Everett Jenkinson. He has been dead for a quarter of a century now, but on Sundays I often miss him acutely. But he would never come on such a trip, not for all the money in the world. He thought camping was very silly: why jettison ten thousand years of improvements in comfort to sleep under a tree?
When I stepped out, all I saw was a billion stars above the pine trees. That alone made the trip satisfying. There are few sounds more satisfying than a breeze in pine trees. It is a different sound from breeze in cottonwoods. They thwattle and click, because the dance of the leaves makes them bump into each other.
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
— Thomas Jefferson, 1800
This week, we ask President Jefferson about his famous dinner parties and their extensive menus. It was important to Jefferson to not appear too regal, and the dinner parties were kept somewhat casual. In 1802, a Federalist senator from New Hampshire was meeting Jefferson at a dinner when “a tall high boned man” entered the room wearing “an old brown coat, red waistcoat, old corduroy small clothes, much soiled—woolen hose—& slippers without heels.” He added, “I thought this man was a servant; but was surprised by the announcement it was the President.”