My historical/political-love tank got filled to last for a long time this weekend – I was able to visit homes of 4 of the first 5 U.S. Presidents and Founding Fathers. It’s amazing that they’re all so close – Charlottesville is only about a 2 hour drive from D.C, and of course Mt. Vernon is about 20 miles south of the Nation’s Capital. What was in the water in Virginia back in the 1700’s? Whatever it was, thank God it was!
Each of these homes was uniquely incredible, and taking a tour not only takes you back to early 1800’s, but also into the mind of each of these Founding Fathers. At Montpelier the final room on the tour is James Madison’s library. It’s just a portion of the 5th President’s collection, but as our guide explained, that was where Mr. Madison, father of our Constitution, studied and prepared before traveling to the Constitutional Convention.
Monticello is incredible, not to mention the fact that Thomas Jefferson himself designed it. Among other things to admire about Jefferson is his humility. I found this really interesting – his epitaph at Monticello reads: “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”
James Monroe’s home, Ashlawn-Highland, is more modest, but equally interesting. The 4th President had a fascinating life and some amazing artifacts in his home from his time as Secretary of State.
And then there’s Mt. Vernon, nestled on the banks of the Potomac. George Washington was a skilled farmer, in addition to military genius, statesman, and our first President. He is the perfect example of a leader “for such a time as this.”
I’ve thought this at other times when I’ve toured Mt. Vernon, and the thought struck me again this weekend – these men were so smart. Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison spoke 7 languages! And not to leave out the women – their wives too! For example, Dolley Madison wrote the book on conversation, hostessing, and the role of the First Lady. Their love of learning and making a better world for their countrymen, is inspiring. My desire to preserve and protect their ideas and ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all has been strengthened!