Who said, “Always take hold of things by the smooth handle?”

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the third President of the United States (1801–1809) and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776). Jefferson was one of the most influential Founding Fathers, known for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States.

But in his own eyes, Thomas Jefferson considered himself first and always a man of the land. He felt that “those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God….” What made Jefferson unique in his time was his understanding of the interrelationship between humanity and the environment and how they shaped each other. This wisdom and his subsequent practices, such as crop rotation, use of fertilizer, and contour plowing, characterize him as one of America’s early agronomists.

Jefferson was one of the first Americans to realize that the bounty of this continent was finite. If the nation and its citizens were to continue to enjoy the fruits of the New World, then its resources must be husbanded with proper stewardship.

Many of Jefferson’s ideas about government, which are the philosophic underpinnings for the United States, are based on the interrelationship between the land and the people. He clearly felt that the closer people were to the land, the freer they were to lead more “natural” lives and thus experience more directly the full possession of their natural unalienable rights. And in the process they might also feel closer to their God, the source of those rights.

At the center of Jefferson’s vision of the United States stood the educated, yeoman farmer. An enlightened citizen, trained in many fields, was the only force that Jefferson felt could maintain our democracy and the land upon which it was based. This natural educated man was the basis of stability in government, the basis of true morality, and the basis of the country’s freedom. Therefore, in Jefferson’s view, proper stewardship of the land was vital if the infant United States were to survive.

Charlottesville, Virginia is the town Jefferson essentially created. Near universal acclaim is accorded to Jefferson’s architecture. He founded the University of Virginia (UVA) and was closely involved in its design. UVA is the only university in the United States to be designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, an honor it shares with nearby Monticello, Jefferson’s estate and Monticello “ autobiographical masterpiece.”

What better place to explore the genius of Jefferson than Charlottesville?

Who better to lead us into the writings of Jefferson than long-time Charlottesville resident and Toronto Pursuits discussion leader, Rosemary Gould?

What better time to visit Charlottesville than early May when the dogwoods and azaleas bloom?

Join us for Founding Farmer: Thomas Jefferson at Home. May 1-6, 2011

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