Fiddlestrings and a map
HISTORY is found not only in great events and state documents, but also in the small day to day occurrences in the lives of its participants. This is what makes the Account Books of Thomas Jefferson so fascinating. At Monticello, or ``wherever he went,'' writes his biographer, Dumas Malone, ``he carried the memorandum book for that year with him, jotting down at night all the expenditures that he remembered and adding other items of interesting information which he had recently acquired.'' Jefferson kept these books from the summer of 1767 until the week before his death in 1826.
The entries in the Account Book for the first four months of 1776 reflect his continuing efforts to develop Monticello, where he had moved six years earlier. Thus, on Feb. 8, he ``pd Reynolds for a deer 20/.'' (Twenty shillings, which is 1. The very approximate present value would be $30.) This was the beginning of stocking his park with deer.
Only one reference is found to political developments. On May 1, he notes the ``state of the money recd for purchasing [gun] powder for the county & for the poor of Boston.'' The donors had specified how they wished their contribution to be allocated. That is, except for ``J. Walker [who] desires me to pay & charge to him 23-1-6 but qu. how much Powder money & how much Boston.''
The May 7, 1776, entry states that after leaving 10 with Mrs. Jefferson, he ``set out for Philadelphia.'' Jefferson traveled in a phaeton drawn by two horses. Bob, a slave, accompanied him. His route took him from Monticello through the Virginia countryside to the towns of Orange, Culpep-per, and Leesburg. To the west he could see the Appalachian Mountains. On May 10, after breakfast, he crossed the Potomac River, leaving behind what he often described as ``his country'' of Virginia. In Fredericktown he used Maryland currency to pay the barber.
On the seven-day journey from Monticello to Philadelphia, Jefferson stopped at inns named Redhouse, Lacy's, Caleb's, Rhenegher's, White's, the Bull, and the Blackhorse. Along the way he conversed with innkeepers, fellow travelers, blacksmiths, ferrymen, saddlers, and barbers. Later in life he wrote of travel in America as ``an opportunity of plunging into the mixed character of my country, the most useful school we can enter into, and one which nothing else can supply the want of.''
He entered Pennsylvania, and on May 12 crossed the Susquehanna River. He continued on through Lancaster and Chester, and after being ferried over the Schuylkill River, on May 14 ``got to Philadelphia.''
This was his third visit to the city. His two visits in 1775, as a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, marked his appearance on the national scene. He now resumed his duties as a congressional delegate.
As he had in 1775, Jefferson lodged with a cabinetmaker named Benjamin Randolph. He regularly dined at Smith's. On May 20, he purchased six spring locks, presumably for Monticello, and he ``pd for toothbrushes 8/6.'' This same day he received from Willing & Morris ``300 dollars delegate money'' and had his watch repaired.
On May 23, he changed lodgings, moving to a new three-story brick house on the southwest corner of Market and Seventh Streets. The house belonged to a bricklayer named Graff. His expenses over the next few days included: May 24. pd Hillegas for fiddlestrings 27/. 27. pd for toys 1/7. 28. pd for a Doll 2/. 29. pd ferriage of horses to pasture 6/. 31. pd for silver cover to an ivory book 45/. June 1. pd for paper 2/6. pd Bradford for a map 8/6. pd for seeing a monkey 1/.
3. pd for a comb 5/. pd for 1/2 lb. tea & canister 20/.
Congress met in the red brick colonial State House. Here on June 7, Richard Henry Lee, a fellow delegate from Virginia, introduced a resolution declaring the colonies free and independent states absolved from all allegiance to Great Britain. On the same day Jefferson ``pd for shoes for Bob 8/.''
A final decision on independence was postponed until July 1, but Congress meanwhile appointed a committee to prepare a declaration. Committee members included Jefferson, Franklin, and John Adams. Over the period June 11 to June 28, in consultation with Franklin and Adams, Jefferson drafted the document. He worked in the second-floor parlor of the Graff house at a table on which he placed a folding writing-box. The cabinetmaker, Benjamin Randolph, had made the writing-box from Jefferson's own design.
Jefferson's work on the declaration did not interfere with his daily errands and meticulous recordkeeping. Thus on June 25, he ``pd for 2 pr. stockings for Bob'' and ``pd for a straw hat.'' On June 28, when the drafting committee reported to Congress, Mrs. Lore received from Jefferson 39/9 for ``washing in full.'' On June 30, he purchased a map at Sparhawk's.
Congress voted independence on July 2, and then began its examination of the proposed declaration. Numerous changes were made. Franklin tried to comfort the document's distraught author.
On the morning of July 4, Jefferson rose early. He recorded the temperature at 6 a.m. as being 68 degrees. That day he ``pd Sparhawk for a thermometer 3-15.'' (From July 1776 until the end of 1816, he kept an almost continuous record of temperatures at Monticello, or wherever he happened to be.) He also purchased seven pairs of women's gloves.
Writes Dumas Malone: ``As he poked around the shops of Philadelphia bystanders may have pointed him out as an influential delegate, but they did not hail him as the author [of the Declaration of Independence] and he probably would not have wanted them to. At the moment, in fact, his pride in authorship was slight, for he believed that Congress had manhandled his composition and marred its strength.''
He remained in Philadelphia until Sept. 3. Account Book entries include these: July 17. pd for weaving 4 pr. stockings 21/. August 3. pd for 3 book case locks 7/6. 4. gave barber to buy Castile soap for me 22/6.
Perhaps to escape the intense heat of the city, on Aug. 24 he dined at the falls of the Schuylkill River. Willing & Morris made additional payments to Jefferson, including ``wages of 300.D.''
As his days in Philadelphia drew to a close, Jefferson made a few final purchases: a fishing tackle, books, guitar strings, and ``a hat for myself.'' He paid more than 18 to Mrs. Nelson, the wife of a congressional delegate, for her purchase of sundries for Mrs. Jefferson.
On Sept. 2, Jefferson turned over to John Hancock the money he had brought from Virginia for the poor of Boston. The next day, his last day in Philadelphia, he paid his barber, the stable owner, and ``the smith for horse shoes.'' After a final dinner at Smith's and payment to Mrs. Graff in full, Thomas Jefferson, as he duly noted in his Account Book, ``left Philadelphia.''