Killing England by Bill O'Reilly

Killing England by Bill O'Reilly

Author:Bill O'Reilly
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.



AUGUST 1, 1778


Thomas Jefferson is safe.

The Virginian is now thirty-four and hundreds of miles away from the British threat here at his five-thousand-acre mountaintop refuge. Unlike at Valley Forge, there is no lack of food, clothing, or wine. Monticello’s stunning 360-degree views of the American frontier offer the Virginian no sign of conflict. Indeed, it is a time of celebration.

“Our third daughter born,” Jefferson records in his “Account Book,” adding that the child came into the world this morning at 1:30. Her name is Mary.

The baby appears to be healthy, but whether she will survive the next few weeks and grow to adulthood is unknown. The infant deaths of his daughter and son in 1775 and 1777, respectively, left six-year-old Patsy as Jefferson’s sole surviving child. At least for now, she has a new sister.

The Virginian is elated by his new daughter’s birth but is also wary, as has become his custom. There is no such thing as easy childrearing in the late eighteenth century.

Closing his Account Book, Jefferson sets off for a morning in the fields. Martha sleeps fitfully in her mahogany bed on this sweltering day, her physical health once again deeply compromised by the act of bringing a baby into the world.

Jefferson leaves her to sleep, knowing that his wife’s every need will be attended to by her personal slaves. As he steps out into the morning sunshine, the remainder of the Virginian’s vast plantation is a beehive of activity—a place of building, planting, and hard work under a blazing August sun.

The humidity is so thick that Jefferson begins to sweat as he strides toward the South Orchard. At this pivotal time in his life, Jefferson is working with his own bare hands to transform the estate. While his slaves and skilled laborers are in the process of laying ninety thousand bricks to establish three new stone columns to the front of the house, the great thinker is spending the summer with thirty-one-year-old Italian gardener Antonio Giannini, planting hundreds of new apple, cherry, nectarine, walnut, apricot, and peach trees in the orchard on the south slope. This is no random planting, but a strict following of the plan Jefferson prepared during his spare time while serving in the Virginia legislature last year. In all, 312 trees are being added, spaced in rows at deliberate intervals between twenty and forty feet to ensure an eye-pleasing aesthetic. In fact, everywhere Jefferson looks, from the builders carefully troweling mortar to the pens of oxen, chicken, guinea fowl, peacocks, and turkeys, Monticello is vibrant with life.

The main house is atop the small mountain Thomas Jefferson has grown to love. The estate is comprised of four farms: Monticello, Shadwell, Tufton, and Lego. Slaves are quartered in log cabins near the fields. Children start working at the age of ten—sometimes younger—but those who show promise are taught a trade at sixteen. It is in Jefferson’s best interests to keep his slaves well fed, in order to ensure optimal productivity during the long days of planting, hoeing, weeding, and harvesting.


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