The Virginia Festival of the Book: Monticello

Cloudy with sunshine is the way I would describe the weather in Charlottesville the first few days of our visit.  The storm came in on Saturday just because Lynn took me to Monticello.  So, we were umbrella equipped.  Jefferson loved his home so much I’m sure he enjoyed the rain as well as the sunshine.  It didn’t pour and Monticello sat enclosed in fog with bright red, yellow and blue flowers like beads brightening up the gray.  We could see the redbuds and the other trees in bloom.  It was beautiful.

“Enslaved persons” that’s what caught my eye.  All the signage said enslaved persons instead of slaves.  That much signage change would be expensive.  And why?  To rewrite history?  Enslaved persons isn’t as ugly as slaves, but slavery was ugly and to change it to be “politically correct” (If that’s why it was done.) skirts the truth and whitewashes the past.  I do not know whose idea this was.

I’ve been listening to friends who are sure that the Founding Fathers were born again Christians – or almost that fundamentalist.  One trip to Monticello makes it clear that though Jefferson believed in God, he believed in separation of church and state.  (That is why religious freedom is part of the Bill of Rights.)  “Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State (Letter to the Danbury Baptists, 1802).”

Jefferson’s Draft of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779)  included comments like, Section II, “We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

I wish the country were as broadminded today.


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