Monday, July 3, 2017

July 2017

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XIV, Number 7                                                                     July 1, 2017

FOURTH OF JULY 1826: With Independence Day on the horizon, here’s what I wrote in Saving Monticello on that remarkable day in American history: July 4, 1826, the nation’s fiftieth birthday. The first paragraphs are the first words in the book.

July 4, 1776, the day the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence marking the beginning of the end of the British Empire, King George III wrote in his diary: “Nothing of importance happened today.”

On July 4, 1826, as people across the United States joyously celebrated the young nation’s Independence Day Jubilee, several matters of great importance took place.

At ten minutes to one in the afternoon in his bed at Monticello, his beloved home in Central Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Thomas Jefferson died. The nation’s third president was 83 years old and had been in ill health for most the previous twelve months.

Later that day, in one of the more remarkable coincidences of history, Jefferson’s fellow founding father John Adams died at his farm in Massachusetts. The nation’s second president’s ironic last words were: “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”

On June 24, 1826, Jefferson had called for his physician, the British-born Dr. Robley Dunglison of Charlottesville, who came up to Monticello and stayed there, attending the dying Jefferson's during the last week of life. Jefferson’s daughter Martha Randolph sat at her father’s bedside during the day. Her son Thomas Jefferson Randolph (known to the family as “Jeff”), 33, and Nicholas Trist, her son-in-law, took over at night, aided by several household slaves, including Burwell Culbert, Joe Fossett and John Hemings.

Jefferson seemed to calm down emotionally as death drew near. He lost consciousness on the night of July 2. He awoke briefly on the morning of Monday, July 3. At least once that day he asked if the Fourth of July had come. Dr. Dunglison told him the day would soon be upon them. Nicholas Trist nodded his head in assent.

He and his brother-in-law Jeff Randolph sweated out the last hours of July 3, staring at Jefferson’s bedside clock as midnight approached, silently hoping he would keep breathing until the Fourth of July. He did.

Jefferson awoke around 4:00 in the morning on July 4 and called to his slaves—whom Jefferson referred to as “servants”—in what those around him said was a clear voice. He then lapsed into unconsciousness for the last time. Thomas Jefferson died in his sleep in his bed, at 12:50 in the afternoon on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the nation.

FOURTH OF JULY 2017:  “The only birthday I ever commemorate,” Thomas Jefferson said in 1801, “is that of our independence, the Fourth of July.”

The holiday has, indeed, been commemorated at Monticello in various ways over the centuries.
Every year since 1963, Monticello has marked the Fourth with an Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony.

During that time, more than 3,000 people from around the world have raised their right hands in front of Thomas Jefferson’s “Essay in Architecture” to take the oath and become brand new American citizens.

Each year, a prominent American has addressed the new citizens at the ceremonies. This year the featured speaker will be David N. Saperstein, the distinguished Reform rabbi and lawyer who served as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from 2014-17.

A former long-time chief legal counsel at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center, Rabbi Saperstein is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law School and is co-chair of the Coalition to reserve Religious Liberty.

EVENTS: My new book, Ballad of the Green Beret, the first-ever biography of Barry Sadler, was published May 1. For info, go to
I will be talking about the book on three radio shows on the morning of July 4:
·         The Warren Pierce Show on WJR-AM, Detroit at 7:00 a.m. Eastern
·         “Comment Please” on WNPV-AM in Lansdale, Pa., at 8:15 a.m. Eastern
·         “WCUB Breakfast Club” on WCUB-AM in Manitowoc, Wisconsin at 9:10 a.m. Eastern
I have one in-person event in July:
  • Tuesday, July 2  – 8:00 a.m. talk on Ballad of the Green Beret for the Leesburg Daybreak Rotary Club in Leesburg, Virginia.

If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at
For details on other upcoming events, go to

GIFT IDEASIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at I also have a few as-new, unopened hardcover copies. Or go to 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, and Ballad of the Green Beret.