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This was a challenging week of writing. My goal was to create three “fill-in days” (see February 22nd Blog) in order to advance the story of Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence. These days gave me the opportunity to share information about Jefferson and how he worked. They also gave me the opportunity to describe some “outside” events that were important to Jefferson and to the independence movement.
Here is a preview of what happened on those days:
Thursday, June 20, 1776. On this day, Jefferson had an unexpected visit with a couple from Williamsburg – Andrew and Judith Faye MacAdam – during his meal at City Tavern. The couple was in Philadelphia on a business trip. They also carried a written message to Jefferson from George Mason.
Jefferson asked them for news from Virginia. They told him that the Virginia Convention had recently passed the Declaration of Rights, which proclaimed the inherent natural rights of man, and the right to rebel against government.
“When we left, Mason and his committee were writing a constitution,” continued [Professor] MacAdam. He sounded like a professor in front of his class. “I understand that Mason and James Madison are doing most of the work. Mason, I have been told, wrote the Declaration of Rights, too. Adopting a plan of government, as I am sure you remember, was the final measure of the Virginia Resolution.”
Information about the Virginia Constitution was news that Jefferson was anxious to hear.
Friday, June 21, 1776. It had been a typical day in Congress. All the business involved the war.
Jefferson wanted to return to his rooms at the Graff House to continue working on the declaration statement.
A short time after arriving back to his rooms, he settled in the Windsor chair next to a table that Jacob Graff provided for him. He placed the portable writing desk on the table and opened it.
Jefferson took his pen and ink bottle from the drawer inside the portable desk. He opened the ink bottle and placed the draft of the declaration on the slanted writing surface.
Tonight he would finish the final paragraph, which he had been working on for the past two days. The middle section – the list of grievances against King George III – had been finalized Tuesday evening. All he wanted to do tonight was to read over the text a few more times and make any corrections that he thought were necessary.
Sunday, June 23, 1776. While on a walk around Philadelphia, Jefferson ran into Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense.
Jefferson told Paine that he would like to show him the paper he was writing. He led him to the Graff House. …
While Paine read the draft of the declaration, Jefferson studied Paine, who he thought was an unusual looking man. A sharp-hooked nose and pointed chin highlighted his oval face, full mouth and oval eyes. He was of medium height with sloping shoulders. Jefferson wondered why he didn’t take better care of himself. He was wearing threadbare clothes and torn shoes, his dark, curly hair needed attention, his skin looked unwashed, and he had what looked like a three-day-old beard. “His writing and passion for freedom are so impressive,” Jefferson thought, “but his appearance is not.” He first met Paine briefly on the street outside the Pennsylvania State House a few weeks ago. …
“I have a few corrections you might want to consider,” Paine said after sitting quietly for a few moments. “You have written a declaration that will stir the hearts and emotions of every American. And … it will confirm to the soldiers on the battlefield why they are fighting and dying for independence,” he handed the document to Jefferson.
Jefferson complimented Paine for the positive impact Common Sense had on the American people.
“My job was easy,” he responded. “I do not have the weight of a country on my shoulders like you and the other members of Congress. You are the ones who will, hopefully, take the step to actually break ties with England. All I had to do was to argue that was the only path that made common sense. As I wrote in Common Sense, ‘The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth’.”
Next week you will get another glimpse into Jefferson’s Masterpiece.
I appreciate you taking time to read my Journal,