I know it's been an insanely long time since I updated this story, and I'm SUPER sorry about that. If any of you are still reading, I do hope to get through all the requested Congress members very soon. I jumped out of the requested order for this one, b/c I actually started writing TJ awhile back and decided to finish him up. I jumped ahead in time for the last two of the ten things for this one, and I took a little artistic license/historical liberty with the last one. Hopefully you won't mind. ;)
10. He's always humming something.
"What are you humming, Tommy boy?!"
He jolts suddenly, as if awaking from a dream. He turns to face the interrogator, the man who sits next to him at the Virginia delegation table: Richard Henry Lee. He looks at a paper on his desk and shuffles it under another, pretending to look preoccupied.
"I was not humming," he replies, even as he feels his fair cheeks turning as red as the shade of his hair.
"You sure were!" Lee exclaims enthusiastically. "I recognized the tune!"
Before he can further object, his fellow Virginian begins singing in his deep voice. The song interrupts a speech by Dr. Josiah Bartlett—who now looks irritated from his post at the New Hampshire delegation table—and resounds throughout the meeting room. Even the usually unflappable Charles Thompson looks over at them with a raised eyebrow.
"I LIKED, BUT NEVER LOVED, BEFORE I SAW THY CHARMING FACE…NOW EVERY FEATURE I ADORE, AND DOTE ON EVERY GRACE!"
He cringes and rests his head on his hand, as he does whenever he gets one of those painful migraines. He wishes he could melt onto his chair and seep out of the room.
"I did not realize I was humming," he says meekly.
Lee inhales in preparation to sing the next verse, but pauses as his brain processes Tom's words. In one quick turn of his head, the exuberant Lee looks at him with that trademark twinkle in his eyes.
"You're always humming something, Tom!" Lee exclaims. "It's how we know you're actually daydreaming, rather than just sitting there and looking like the drunk who found out there's no alcohol left in the tavern!"
He says nothing in response as his fellow delegate continues to sing obliviously. Lee jumps up and begins cavorting around the desk, much to the amusement of Edward Rutledge and much to the annoyance of John Adams and John Dickinson.
"SHE NEVER SHALL KNOW THE KIND DESIRE, WHICH HER COLD LOOK DENIES…UNLESS MY HEART THAT'S ALL ON FIRE…"
"Should sparkle in my eyes," he sings to himself.
9. T'is merely a hobby
"Good God man, why on earth would you waste your precious time on that?"
John Adams is certainly not known for his subtlety, but he raises a good point. Everyone in Congress wonders why the young Thomas Jefferson has such an obsession with the weather. He accurately determines it whenever John Hancock requests him to do so, and he unfailingly records every temperature of every day and night in his journals.
Unbeknown to the congressmen, he also records every purchase he makes, every vegetable he plants in his garden, and practically any thought he has on politics, philosophy or the world in general.
He doesn't expect them to understand. Writing these things down guarantees a sense of security he can always rely upon. His writings allow him to monitor how a reader will portray him, should anyone read his journals or letters one day. It is his equivalent of a moat around a castle.
"T'is merely a hobby," he tells Mr. Adams. Then he shrugs.
8. He is the pen, not the voice.
"You shall write our Declaration," John Adams orders one day, despite Tom's repeated requests to return home and visit his wife. "If I'm the one to do it, they'll run their quill pens through it. I'm obnoxious and disliked, you know that sir!"
He wishes he possessed the confidence in his abilities that John Adams does, as well as the natural self-assurance that John seems to have. Although John constantly says he's unpopular, Tom notices that never stops John from rising and addressing the Congress nearly every day, and that when John speaks, he moves them all from their seats. When Tom looks at John from across the room, he sees a modern-day Cicero whose devotion to independence will be remembered by all of posterity. His honest prose will ring through the ages as clearly as the bell in the state house after McNair pushes it at night.
Tom knows he'll be remembered for his participation in this Congress as well—he would not monitor his journals so carefully if he thought otherwise—but he does not think he will be remembered as greatly as John. He does not even think he will continue working in this new government in the future, as his family is proving a great temptation to leave public life. One thing he is certain of is that John Adams will never leave the government, and that if he did remain in politics, John would always overshadow him.
Because he is the dreamer, not the agitator. The scholar, not the fighter. The pen, not the voice.
7. He plays the violin.
Five years ago, an awkward 28-year-old man called upon a genial 23-year-old widow at her father's home. Her hair shared the color of wheat grown in Southern fields, and her radiant blue eyes drew men to her as if they were made of sapphires. She looked ever much the goddess that afternoon as she sat in a wicker chair on the porch, draped in a white cotton gown and surrounded by yellow Jessamine flowers. After he characteristically tripped up her porch steps, she soothed his anxiety with conversation, and soon he pulled his cherished violin from its case to play for her while she sang.
He thinks of that moment now as she pulls away from his lips, and his mind slowly returns to reality. She glows the way she did that afternoon as she pulls the white sheets up over her chest.
"Can you play it again, Thomas?"
He sits up and reaches down by the side of the bed, then pulls up his violin and bow with one swift motion of his long arm. He pushes a strand of red hair out of his face, adjusts the instrument beneath his chin and begins to strum. Martha lays deeper into the pillow, and he watches her eyes close as she sings along softly with the tune:
"I liked, but never loved, before I saw thy charming face…now every feature I adore, and dote on every grace…"
Later, as the carriage bound for home arrives, she tells him she had a pleasant chat with Mr. Adams and Dr. Franklin in the garden earlier that morning.
"They're very kind gentlemen." With a small laugh, she adds: "If I didn't know any better, I'd say they were smitten with me."
He wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her closer to him, not caring if anyone on the street sees them. He feels her heart beating against his own, as it had all through last night. He momentarily forgets about the Congress, the Declaration he has to write and all the tedious duties of public life.
"They are not the only ones," he whispers.
He leans down and kisses her lips for what will be the final time in weeks.
6. They begin to play.
Benjamin Franklin leans in and presses on the rim of his spectacles as he examines the setup. After a few moments, he sits up and smiles.
"Well Tom, I commend your abilities. Not to indulge in vanity, but not many have bested me at chess…and I've played against accomplished English and French court members!"
"I am certain it was beginner's luck," he assures the doctor. "If I ventured into the French chess clubs, they would most likely ridicule me after one game."
"I would not say that," John Adams says. He sits at a desk nearby, hunched over a document from a committee and examining the words closely. "You don't fool me with your daydreaming, Candide-like manner, Mr. Jefferson. I bet yours is one of the most practical and calculating minds in all of Virginia."
He smiles wryly at the man from Massachusetts.
"You would be incorrect, sir. T'is actually one of the most calculating in all of the thirteen future states."
Ben chuckles as John stands up and slowly walks over to them.
"Perhaps we should test that, hrm? I shall play you a round."
"By all means," he replies smoothly, motioning to the opposite side of the board with the wave of a hand. Ben moves over to allow John to sit next to him.
"Go easy on him, Tom," Ben says jokingly.
"Oh, shut up, Franklin."
They begin to play, in what is only the first time they will attempt to outwit and defeat each other.
5. These truths are sacred and undeniable.
The monotonous tick of the clock soothes rather than disturbs him. The white bristles of the quill pen brush lightly against his skin as he dips the sharp tip into the ink, which glistens like oil. His long fingers drag the tip across the paper, the words flowing from his mind as effortlessly as music does from his violin.
The streets of downtown Philadelphia are raucously filled with laughing couples, belligerent drunks and dogs barking at carriages. Their obnoxious noises travel on the wind and enter through his open window, sounding as clearly as if their owners were standing in the room next to him. He pays them no mind.
He could be out there with his companions from Congress, watching Dr. Franklin flirt with the young ladies or listen to John Adams rant about Dickinson for the forty-fourth time that week. Yet he belongs here, alone with his ideals and paper upon which to express them. This time of day is as necessary to him as the heart that beats in his chest, the air he breathes or the ecstasy he gains from a night alone with his wife.
"We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable…"
The wind blows as he scratches the pen against the parchment. He begins to hum:
"I liked, but never loved, before I saw thy charming face…"
4. He wants to hate Edward Rutledge.
He wants to hate Edward Rutledge, but he can't.
"Black slaves…why didn't you say so, sir? Are you trying to hide your meaning?"
For Edward Rutledge only speaks the truth.
"To us in South Carolina, black slavery is our peculiar institution and a cherished way of life."
As much as he protests against slavery in his personal correspondence, and as much as he wishes to appear to all of Congress as an antislavery man, that makes no difference to the hundreds of black men and women working at Monticello against their will. He speaks of his plantation as nearly perfect, yet the sad, sweating dark faces blemish his paradise whenever he returns home.
"Consider your own wounds, Mr. Jefferson, for you are a practitioner! ARE YOU NOT?!"
This clause in the Declaration was supposed to be his redemption, his spoken ideals transformed into reality. Edward Rutledge will not have it. He has unmasked him for what he is, like someone revealing the secrets of a clever magician's tricks. His country is Virginia, he is a son of the South, and as long as he owns slaves he knows he can never be anything else.
So instead of hating Edward Rutledge, he hates himself as he straightens his back like a taut ribbon and replies, testifying before many non-slaveholding congressmen:
"I have already decided to release my slaves."
He could have been an actor.
3. They became his friends that day.
"Cheer up, Jefferson," John Adams says. "Like I told you earlier, it's a masterpiece."
The migraine feels like a knife cutting through his brain. He rests his head on his hand and stares down at the green tablecloth on the desk.
"They're mutilating it," he says. "I thought it in no need of revision, particularly after we reviewed it together."
"Yes, but we can't stand here and whine about it," John says in his usual blunt manner. "We'll do no good that way. We must fight for it."
He sighs, feeling as if he could vomit. Why does he have to be so sensitive? Why can't he deal with criticism the way John does?
He feels a warm hand on his shoulder. He turns to see Ben Franklin, who had sat down next to him, looking at him with a small smile.
"Tom, this puts me in mind of a story," the doctor says. "When I was a journeyman printer, one of my companions—an apprentice hatter, having served out his time—was about to open shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome signboard, with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words: 'John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money,' with a figure of a hat subjoined. But John thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments…"
Ben continues the story, in which the friends all made subtractions to John Thompson's hat sign until it was reduced to nothing but the name "John Thompson" and a hat picture. Immediately after Ben finishes, they both hear John sigh.
"Oh, GOOD GOD! FISHING RIGHTS!" John exclaims as he stomps to the center of the room, waving his hands. "Will you whip it and beat it until you break its spirit?! I tell you that document is the ultimate expression of the American mind!"
In that moment, during the silence that follows John's outburst, Tom instinctively realizes he has gained two friends during his time in Philadelphia. No one but a friend could appease him and defend his work, an expression of his soul, when he needed someone to do so the most.
2. He is free.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
He clasps Martha's hand as she lies upon her deathbed. With her last breath, she makes him promise he will never marry again. He agrees.
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
When Martha is gone, he goes to his bedroom and locks the door. His tears flow uncontrollably, and his heart feels like someone attached a weight to it. He would rather slam his head against a wall rather than endure one more God blessed migraine. He goes outside only to ride his horse in the woods, and every time he resists the urge to make the horse run him far away from Virginia and never return.
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
He sits in the dark. He writes. He mourns alone.
Soon, however, mourning alone will become crippling rather than healing. The pain will never disappear, but it will diminish. He will dry his eyes and swear to never display his sorrow in public.
Because although he is a father, a violin player and a plantation owner, and although he was a husband, that is not all Thomas Jefferson can be. He knows that now.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,
Being home on his "little mountain" will become boring, as there will be no more causes to fight for, no philosophies to test and no worlds to improve. He will not free his slaves, but he will continue writing about how much he hates slavery. He will begin thinking of his old friends, Dr. Franklin and John Adams, and realize that unlike them he has never visited Europe. And of course, he will have to go.
and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
Because he is the dreamer, the scholar, the pen. But he's also the image-crafter. The chess player. The revolutionary.
And now he is free.
1. They're both fragile creatures.
"It was NEVER supposed to be this way." He imagines the Boston accented voice elongating the word: nevahhhhh. "You were an emaciated thirty-three year old who I never heard utter three sentences together. You couldn't even stand up for your own work when they were destroying it. You were NOTHING in that Congress, and you never would be unless I urged you to write that Declaration."
He pauses in front of the mirror as he downs the last of the red wine in his glass. He frowns slightly as his hazel eyes gaze upon his reflection. His red hair had converted into a sandy blonde hue over the years, and now some strands were beginning to turn white.
"I expected Washington and Franklin to overshadow my contributions to history, but YOU? YOU became the master politician?"
"Yes, John," he says to his empty bedroom in the President's Mansion. He walks over to a small night table and places the empty glass upon it. "My sole duty for years now has been to ensure the continuation of our revolution, as well as its spread throughout the world. T'was not you individually who stood in the way, but your monarchial party."
Of course, he and John would never speak in this manner to one another should they ever meet again face-to-face. He would never speak his feelings so directly (he still despised confrontation after all these years), and he knew that John would never indulge in insults. Yet every night he can almost hear what his former friend and the former president of the United States should say to him. As if John was still living there and Tom asked to hear the words he knew he deserved to hear—or, so Tom could say the things he wanted to say to John candidly but never would.
"Don't you dare talk to me about the ideals of our revolution, as if I don't know them. You just wanted to be president. You chose your own ambitions above our friendship."
He envisions John staring him down from across the room, as he once did to John Dickinson so long ago. He removes his purplish-blue robe with the fur trim and drapes it over the footboard of the bed. He hears footsteps and the shuffling of a woman's dress approaching from down the hallway.
"I wish you would not take it so personally," he says. "In 1776, I believed you to be so much stronger than I. But we're both fragile creatures, John. I learned this in France when we were together, and unfortunately, I had to use your insecurities against you for the greater good. Getting to this position and continuing our revolution meant defeating the best who came before me, including yourself."
"Turning your repeated insults towards me into a backhanded compliment will never work. You may know of my flaws and how to exploit them, but I know of yours just as well, Thomas. It may take two years or two hundred, but the people will discover your true self eventually. Just as Neddy Rutledge confronted you in Congress all those years ago, so will they."
Although his face remains expressionless, he feels like cringing at the thought. He climbs onto the bed and sits on top of the quilt.
"You always did possess stark foresight, John. Then again, we all did to some degree, did we not?"
The footsteps in the hallway pause outside his door. He watches as the brass doorknob turns and the white door slowly swings open. Sally Hemings enters the room, and her coffee-colored eyes widen as she looks at him.
"Now every feature I adore, and dote on every grace…"
The imaginary specter of John Adams fades away.
Most likely Sally H. wasn't at the White House in real life (I couldn't find any record of her being there), but I figured if 1776 can throw Martha into Philadelphia when she wasn't in real life, I could throw Sally into D.C. ;D I'll go in the requested order for the next three congressmen: Rutledge, Lee, Dr. Hall. :)