Thursday, August 4, 2016

August 2016

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XIII, Number 8                                                                     August 1, 2016

LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS AT THOMAS JEFFERSON’S MONTICELLO: That’s the unoriginal, if accurate, title of a long-ish article by Julee Morrison that appeared in The Huffington Post July 6. In it, Morrison, who writes the Mommy’s Memorandum blog, offers a breezy, upbeat look at the visit she and her family paid to Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture a month ago, along with a little bit of Jefferson and Monticello history.

Morrison first mentions Uriah Levy while discussing Jefferson’s tombstone. She correctly notes that UPL, as I wrote in Saving Monticello, “moved the tombstone up to the house” because unbidden visitors had taken one too many chippings out of it as souvenirs. Morrison, in her section on Mulberry Row, does not mention the fact that Uriah Levy’s mother Rachel is buried there, despite including a picture of the Visitor Center exhibit’s images of Uriah, Rachel, and Jefferson Levy.

There are just a few lines about Monticello’s post-Jefferson history of the place. “About 10 years after the former President’s death in 1826, Uriah P. Levy purchased Jefferson’s run down estate that was almost in ruin,” Morrison correctly notes. “He began a long and costly program of renovation and restoration, including the purchase of an additional 2,500 acres adjoining the historic property.” Not exactly.

When UPL bought Monticello from James Turner Barclay in 1834, it consisted of just 218 acres (Barclay had sold off more than 300 acres in the three years he’d owned it). During the next twenty-five years, Uriah Levy did buy hundreds of acres near Monticello, but none adjacent to it. When he died in 1862, Monticello contained the same 218 acres that it had when Levy bought it from Barclay.

UPL’s nephew, Jefferson Levy, also bought (and sold) hundreds of acres around Monticello. When he sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923, the Monticello property itself was made up of 640 acres. Since then, the Foundation has expanded the property considerably. Today, Monticello, contains some 2,500 acres, including the former Jefferson holdings of Tufton and Shadwell.

Morrison ends her post by saying: “After Levy’s death in 1862, his will directed that Monticello - the house and property - be left ‘to the people of the United States.’ The government declined the offer.”

There are, however, two other (fairly minor) errors: Monticello is in Charlottesville, not Charleston. And the “nickel view” Morrison writes about is the one seen from the “back of the house,” as there is no “back.”

Thomas Jefferson officially named the two entrances the “East Front” and “West Front.” The latter is the “nickel view.”

To read the entire article, go to

EVENTS:  I am working with the copy editor on next book, a biography of Barry Sadler, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” guy, which will come out in March of next year. I soon will be doing a lot more speaking engagements on all of my books, including Saving Monticello.

The only event I have scheduled for August is a talk I will on Sunday, August 28, at 2:00 p.m. at the Graffiti House, the visitors center at the Brandy Station Civil War Battlefield in Brandy Station, Virginia, between Warrenton and Remington, in Fauquier County. My talk on Francis Scott Key and my biography, What So Proudly We Hailed is free and open to the public. For more info, go to

Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including my Francis Scott Key, biography, What So Proudly We Hailed, and Lafayette: Idealist General, my concise bio of the Marquis de Lafayette, and my upcoming Barry Sadler biography (title coming soon) —at For more details on other upcoming events, go to That’s the “Author Events” page on my website,

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Or go to this page of my website: to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia.

We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.