American Presidents CHAT

Chat Transcript from April 2nd 1999

C-SPANModerator Welcome to the chat room with Cinder Stanton, the Senior Research Historian at Monticello.

C-SPANModerator Ms. Stanton, tell us where you are right now?

CinderStanton Right now I'm at Kenwood, the home of the International Center for Jefferson Studies. I have my office here just across the road from the Monticello entrance.

C-SPANModerator You spoke about your current research earlier during the C-SPAN t.v. program. Would you like to elaborate on your current work?

CinderStanton I have to say that the DNA results in November have governed my work over the last five months. I'm writing and co-writing a couple of articles in the aftermath of those results. I'm also trying to finish up a short book I've written on six of the enslaved families at Monticello, as well as working on speeches on Jefferson and the Enlightenment, and as a traveler.

Djudge what is the most recent discovery at Monticello

CinderStanton Archaeology is always turning up new things. The plantation archaeological survey this past winter was coming up rather empty (it's a survey at 40-foot grid of, eventually, most of the 2,000 acres Monticello owns of the 5,000 plantation). But they recently located an area of domestic settlement ne ar the overseer's house site. We're excited about thi s and look forward to excavation of these sites in the future.

jae You mentioned that you'd been at Monticello for about 20 years...and I wondered why. What is it about TJ and Monticello that draws you?

CinderStanton Actually, in college I read the Adams-Jefferson letters and fell in love with John Adams. I found TJ (as we call him here) a bit distant and un spontaneous. I began working at Monticello because I moved to Charlottesville, and I kept working at Monticello because I became involved in the co-editing of Jefferson's Memorandum Books (a 60-year journal of financial expenditures). This, believe it or not was a thirty-year project from start to publication in 1997! But I am continually fascinated by Jefferson and his world. His interest in so many aspects of his world illuminates it for me in a continuously beguiling way. I can be studying science one day, wine the next, and slavery the next. He thought or wrote about it all.

C-SPANModerator Welcome to the chat room with Cinder Stanton. Ms. Stanton will be with us until 12:45pm ET.

Kbopper who were TJ's neighbors at Monticello-what families owned plantations in the surrounding area.

CinderStanton Jefferson's immediate neighbors were a mix of large plantation owners and small farmers (by looking at the Monticello blacksmith shop ledger, for instance, we can see who lived close enough to come have their horses shoed or their plows mended). Nicholas Lewis of The Farm lived adjacent to Monticello on th e north side, close enough so that he managed the Monticello plantation during Jefferson's absence in France. Across the river was the Edgehill plantation owned by Jefferson's son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph. On the south side, for a short period, lived the Italian Philip Mazzei, whom Jefferson invited to settle as his neighbor (giving him some land as well). Mazzei tried to start a grape growing and wine producing cooperative venture, but the Revolution swept it away.

jmeeks Why was the dumb waiter installed?

CinderStanton The word dumb waiter has been applied to three devices in Monticello's dining room. 1. The revolving serving door on which platters of food could be placed, so that servants did not have to enter the room. 2. A pulley-operated device that brought wine bottles up to the dining room from the wine cellar. 3. And a tiered table which could be load ed with dishes and p laced between diners so they could serve themselves. Most historians have brought up Jefferson's desire for privacy in connection with his use of these devices. It also seems to be part of his overall wish to make operations (whether in the house or on the plantation) more efficient, more well run, using the least amount of labor.

alroberts ... what was the relationship between sam adams and jefferson during the summer of 76. Specifically in regards to the slavery issue. Adams had very strong anti-slavery beliefs.... did Jefferson stand with North Carolina or in the middles with Franklin?

CinderStanton I don't have the answer to that question off the top of my head. Is there a way to provide an answer later? As Samuel Latham Mitchill said of Jefferson, if he didn't always know the answer, he always knew where to look. We've got great resources here which I'd have to check to respond reliably.

hank What was Jefferson's involvement with the Lewis and Clark Expedition? Did he help in determining the route?

CinderStanton Jefferson was definitely the architect of the Lewis and Clark expedition, involved in its planning at every level from the route to the food and supplies the Corps of Discovery took along with them. Meriwether Lewis was basically groomed by Jefferson for his job as leader, acting for a year or two as Jefferson's private secretary at the White House and being sent to Philadelphia to learn more about astronomy and natural history from the best natural philosophers there, all good friends of Jefferson and fellow members of the American Philosophical Society.

C-SPANModerator Cinder, can chat room participants e-mail you with follow-up questions?

CinderStanton I'll answer a qualified yes. Qualified because I am swamped with deadlines at the moment and would not be able to respond for at least three weeks. For those who would like to call or write, the best source is our Research Department, Monticello, P. O. Box 316, Charlottesville, VA 22902 (804-984-9848).

Abe Wyatt Why has C-span concentrated so much on the question of Sally Hemings, ie by bringing the Sally Hemings author. Why is it that the only issue which c-span has concentrated with?

CinderStanton I can't of course answer for C-Span, but I was actually impressed with what I was able to see this morning, by how wide-ranging the questions and discussion were. The Hemings-Jefferson issue has been in the news since November and shows no signs of diminishing soon, but as Annette Gordon-Reed expressed well this morning, most of us see this as an opportunity to talk abo ut broader issues like slavery in general and its legacies today. The fact that it has caused Americans to talk openly about difficult subjects like race and miscegenation is a very healthy sign, I think, that we are now ready to deal with our contradictory past, one that Jefferson in many ways personified.

Hija Do you agree that Jefferson forced Sally H. into affair

CinderStanton I don't think we have enough information to be able to say what the nature of a relationship might have been, or how it might have begun. If we accept that Jefferson did have children with Sally Hemings, I think that what we know leads to the conclusion that it was not entirely exploitative (I refer in particular to her son Madison Hemings's account a s well as a pattern of births th at suggests a monogamous relationship). That said, of course we all recognize the terrible asymmetry of power in a master-slave relationship. So the issue of choice is a fraught one.

Interested Did slaves lay the bricks of Monticello?

CinderStanton The question Who Built Monticello? is a fascinating one and somewhat difficult to answer fully. I've looked into this quite hard, and my impression is that most of the masonry work (both stone and brick) was done by free hired workmen, some of whom had their own enslaved apprentices. Some of the enslaved men of Monticello were enlisted to mix cement and carry bricks, but I doubt they laid many. In the case of the woodworkers, however, enslaved artisans at Monticello played a larger part. Most of the interior decorative woodwork we see inside the house was made by Irishman James Dinsmore and his enslaved assistant John Hemings. Another slave Lewis also fabricated much of the exterior woodwork. Jefferson hired highly skilled free artisans (Irishmen, Germans, men from Philadelphia &c.) and they worked with Monticello slaves and passed some of their skills on to them.

John H. Hewitt 2 questions relative to Sally Hemings: What has become of the room over Jefferson's bedroom that had stairs near his bed? Any word on the missing journal volume from France? Thanks, Dr. John

CinderStanton First on the journal. I think you mean a year of Jefferson's journal of letters received and written. I've not heard that it has reappeared. On the room over Jefferson's bed.... This is a space 2 1/2 to 3 feet wide with three oval air/light holes that, in Jefferson's time, was reached by either a ladder or small ladder-like stair. As part of the continuous examination of the house and process of restoring it to its appearance in Jefferson's time, a late-nineteenth-century stairway was removed from the end of Jefferson's bed (actually, a chisel dating c 1900 was found behind it). There was not enough evidence on the walls to determine just what kind of stairs were there in TJ's time, so nothing as yet has been replaced. The only reference to the space in TJ's time was that it was used as a closet for winter clothes.

Ken How involved was Jefferson with wine? And did he own and operate a vineyard at Monticello? Where can one go to find more information on Jefferson's involvement with wine? Thank you.

CinderStanton Jefferson loved wine, had his tastes for it improved by his five years in France, and imported European varietals for the rest of his life. He also had his own vineyard from the 1770s, inspired by Philip Mazzei and the Tuscan vignerons he had brought from Italy. But the records suggest Jefferson's efforts at wine producing were never successful. There are a couple of books on TJ and wine, the most recent by Jim Gabler called Passions.

DCBurns I heard this morning about Jefferson's parents, but can you tell us more -- I assume his ancestors came from England - when did they first come to America?

CinderStanton Jefferson, in his autobiography, said the story in his family was that his paternal ancestors came from the Snowdonia area of Wales. No one has yet found a certain ancestor there and there is still some confusion about when the Jeffersons first came to America. We do know that Jefferson great-grandfather, also Thomas, lived here in Virginia. I now forget just what his flourishing-dates are, but certainly 17th century. As for his maternal relatives, the Randolphs, they had an illustrious past from the earliest days in Virginia.

JasonJ I'm trying to do some research on the history of the State of the Union address. Did TJ submit State of the Union addresses while president?

CinderStanton Jefferson did give what was then called Annual Messages to Congress. They are well worth reading, along with his inaugural addresses.

Djudge cinder, can you comment on the long range plans for ongoing restoration of Monticello and the Mountain side, ie: slave cabins, mullberry row....

CinderStanton The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation--that's us, Monticello--recently adopted a ten-year Master Plan, and have in the works several Interpretive Plans to guide restoration and interpretation efforts. One of the main features of all of them is that we feel it is important to give visitors (and others) a sense of the plantation as a whole, of which the house was a part, a core part of course. So, we are talking about sites for a new visitors center, new drop off points for visitors &c &c, as well as restoration of plantation buildings, including those on Mulberry Row. Part of the Master Plan is a two-year assessment of all our information on Mulberry Row which would lead to a recommendation about possible reconstruction of buildings.

Mary West What books would you recommend on Jefferson family history and genealogy?

CinderStanton One of the drawbacks of being here across the road, and thus a half-mile from the Monticello gates, is that I don't have access to the Research Library and its wonderful files. That would be a good question to pose to the Research Department (804-984-9848).

wayne sanchez Taking nothing from Mr. Jefferson's massive accomplishments, but I remember reading, as a freshman in college, a book which I was assigned to read and report on by an English professor, which supports his supposition that much of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, as well as the Bill of Rights and the Consitution, were lifted, sometimes verbatum, from the writings of early Puritan immigrants to the Colonies. Can you comment on this?

CinderStanton Plagiarism was not a bad thing in those days! Jefferson said about the Declaration, that he wrote nothing new but composed an expression of the American mind. Pauline Maier's recent book (not here on my shelf, so sorry, can't provide title) is an excellent examination of just the issue you raise .

hank Didn't Jefferson have blazing red hair? Why do most of the portraits seem to portray him with white hair?

CinderStanton Most of Jefferson's portraits were taken when he was in his sixties, but I like the Charles Willson Peale portrait (which C-Span showed this morning), done in his late forties, which does show his reddish hair. Descriptions differ, but Jefferson's hair seems to have been more reddish or sandy than it was blazing red.

C-SPANModerator Our time with Cinder Stanton is up. Thank you for joining us. Again, what is the best way for chat room participants to contact Monticello with follow-up questions?

CinderStanton Call or write to Research Department, Monticello, P. O. Box 316, Charlottesville, VA 22902 (804-984-9848). Thanks alot for your interest.

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