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Virginia, Jefferson and U.S. history

An English rose in Georgia

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POSTED: May 18, 2011 11:11 a.m.

I have just returned from a six-day driving vacation (I am trying to remember to say vacation instead of holiday) up to Virginia.
This lovely break in routine reaffirmed three things about myself:
1. I love America and living here.
2. I love the historical link between England and America – one of the reasons we chose the greater Savannah area.
3. I am so pleased we now live in the warm South – my blood has obviously thinned as I felt very chilly on the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It was wonderful to stand at Jamestown where the first English colonists landed in 1607. I thought I was adventurous because I changed my life by emigrating to the U.S., but considering the sheer courage of these early settlers made me realize just how comparatively easy it was for me.
It really is mind-boggling to think about how they set off, in very basic ships, across the vast Atlantic to a new world and a new life. Maybe this is why the classic American spirit is so enterprising and bold. After all, many Americans are descended from European colonists who bravely chose to explore and settle on a different continent rather than stay home or just cross a border to a nearby country.
Another highlight of our trip was to visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson – one of the Founding Fathers and the third president of the United States. Jefferson served two terms as president from 1801-1809 and of course wrote the Declaration of Independence. Seeing this document in Jefferson’s handwriting hanging on the wall at Monticello made me wonder. Should the original Declaration be considered this one, the one in Washington, D.C., or the one in London that was sent to King George III in 1776 saying he had lost his 13 profitable colonial states, including Georgia?
The most famous and often quoted phrase from the Declaration of Independence: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” really underscores to me the quintessential American character. Embrace life and freedom and work hard, and all things are possible.
Jefferson appeals to me personally as he spent five years living in Europe as Minister to France and was a true Renaissance man. He has been described as a lawyer, linguist (fluent in seven languages), diplomat, astronomer, naturalist, political philosopher, educator, statesman, president, farmer, musician (he famously played the fiddle to woo his wife), scientist, inventor, agriculturalist, horseman, geographer, theologian and paleontologist. Whew! His home at Monticello really displays all these facets of this complex man.
I find it very poignant that Jefferson died at the age of 83 on July 4, 1826 – on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It is even more moving when you consider that his death took place on the same day as John Adams, the second president and Jefferson’s close friend (although at times they were bitter political enemies).
It always strikes me how very different American history is to that of the country of my birth, where we don’t even have a written constitution. But that is another column.
God bless America!

Francis grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009 with her American husband, Carl, and English dogs. She can be contacted at lesley@francis.com or www.lesleyfrancispr.com.

 

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