Thomas Jefferson, a Personal View by Alan Alda

In 1995, Alan Alda was the featured speaker at a special dinner on Monticello's West Lawn. Fresh from a filming trip to China for PBS's Scientific American Frontiers, the award-winning actor related his efforts to look for "clues into [Jefferson's] character" and made connections between efforts by a Chinese scientist to produce a high-yield strain of rice and Jefferson's commitment to the sciences and freedom of thought.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on Jan. 28, 2010. Approx. 22 min. )


"In conversation he was quite unrestrained:" Visitor accounts of Thomas Jefferson

Contemporary visitor accounts of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello offer interesting insights on the former president in his retirement years. Ellen Hickman, assistant editor at the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, outlines a project underway to gather and publish visitor accounts, shares some amusing anecdotes from the collection, and discusses how studying visitor descriptions alters our understanding of Jefferson.


The Brother Gardeners

Writer and historian Andrea Wulf talks about her recent book, The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession, that traces the origin of the English country garden through the collaborative effort between two men and two countries: American farmer, John Bartram, and London cloth merchant, Peter Collinson.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on Aug 6, 2009. Approx. 44 min. )


Jefferson and the Megalonyx

Rick Britton, author of Jefferson: A Monticello Sampler and part-time Monticello interpreter, details Jefferson's involvment in the identification of Megalonyx jeffersonii, an extinct ground sloth whose bones were discovered in a cave in Virginia.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on Jun 18, 2009. Approx. 50 min. )



Vegetables and Seasoning in Early American Southern Cuisine

Nancy Carter Crump, a culinary historian and author of Hearthside Cooking: Early American Southern Cuisine, dispels the myth that overcooking vegetables was uniformly a part of early southern cooking and highlights some surprising uses of herbs and spices in the early Nineteenth Century.
(Added to Monticello Podcasts on April 30, 2009. Approx. 7 min. Excerpt and talk © 2009 Nancy Carter Crump)


New CD: Music from the Jefferson Collection

Music was part of everyday life, in eighteenth century Virginia, for all levels of society. Visitors to Monticello would have either witnessed, or taken part in, musical pursuits, whether performed solo or in ensembles, vocal as well as instrumental. This CD attempts to recreate some specific examples of music at Monticello, gathered where there is good evidence that they were part of Jefferson’s own musical experience, either as a performer or listener. In this sample, violinist David Sariti discusses Jefferson's ability with this instrument and introduces Vivaldi's Violin Sonata, Opus 2, No. 3 before performing the first two movements, the Andante and Corrente (Allegro). In addition to Sariti, the artists include: Theresa Goble (Mezzo-Soprano), Andrew Mullen (Bass-Baritone), and Bradley Lehman (Harpsichord).
(Added to Monticello Podcasts on March 5, 2009. Approx. 7 min.)

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Religion in The Election of 1800

By all accounts the election of 1800 was a nasty affair, bitterly contested in the press and in the pulpit. Both sides made religion a key issue and both stooped to tatics that even many modern policitos would wince at. On July 15, 2008, Edward Larson, author of A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, spoke at Monticello on the role religion played in the campaigns. In this excerpt, he highlights some of the arguments, from the clever to the absurd, each side published in the months prior to the election. (Originally presented as part of the Monticello Evening Conversation Series. Excerpt added to Monticello Podcasts on August 22, 2008. Approx. 11 min.)

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Virginia's Dissenters and the Statute for Religious Freedom

When we think about the adoption of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom in 1786, we typically focus on the power duo of Thomas Jefferson, its author, and James Madison, its vigorous and adroit shepherd through the Virginia legislature. But there was a third force behind its passage: the Dissenters. Primarily Presbyterians and Baptists, Virginia's Dissenters were members of a growing and increasingly powerful community that had real worries about state involvement in religion. Monticello’s Gary Sandling talks with John Ragosta, a recent fellow at Monticello's Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies who’s been researching the subject for a new book. (Added to Monticello Podcasts on July 1, 2008. Approx. 45 min.)

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Larry Sabato: A More Perfect Constitution

Jefferson once wrote that ". . . a little rebellion now and then is a good thing . . ." In that spirit Larry J. Sabato, founder of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, has proposed 23 changes to the United States Constitution in a new book dedicated to to the memory of Thomas Jefferson. In a recent talk on Monticello's West Lawn, Professor Sabato highlighted some of his ideas and discusses how he means to challenge people on their thinking about the sanctity of the country's framing document.
(Talk sponsored by Martin Horn, Inc. Added to Monticello Podcasts on June 3, 2008. Approx. 60 min.)

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Jefferson's Words: Three Letters on the new U.S. Constitution

Occasionally you hear Thomas Jefferson cited as the author of the U.S. Constitution. But Jefferson wasn’t even in the United States when the Constitutional Convention was underway. He was more than 3,000 miles away, serving as the United States Minister to France. Still, the author of the Declaration of American Independence and of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom did have some strong opinions on the document, and he shared some of them in letters to John Adams, Williams Stephens Smith (Adams’s son-in-law), and James Madison, among others. Listen to the letters and get an interpretation of them from Jeff Looney, Editor-in-Chief of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series.

A look at the letters with Jeff Looney

(Added April 3, 2008. Approx. 25 min.)

Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, November 13, 1787

(Added April 3, 2008. Approx. 5 min.)

Thomas Jefferson to Col. William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787  

(Added April 3, 2008. Approx. 4 min.)

Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, December 20, 1787

(Added April 3, 2008. Approx. 12 min.)

Monticello's Tulip Poplar

Thomas Jefferson loved trees. And he used them at Monticello for many purposes: as ornaments in his landscape, as a source of food and fuel, even as natural fencing. Trees are still a central part of the experience at Monticello, and many of the species Jefferson grew are represented on the grounds. But only a few of the trees Jefferson is believed to have planted survived into the last half century. Of those only two remain, and one of them is in trouble. Here we present a report by Nancy King, Features Producer of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities' radio program "With Good Reason", about efforts to diagnose and save a majestic, and possibly historic, tulip poplar that stands next to Jefferson’s house.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on February 26, 2008. Approx. 5 min.)

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Jefferson's Embargo

On December 22, 1807, President Thomas Jefferson signed what still stands as one of the most controversial—and unusual—of American foreign policies, the Embargo Act.  In this excerpt from a recent talk, Jim Sofka, a former fellow at Monticello's Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, lists the Embargo's disastrous effects on the U.S. economy and explains why it's considered the greatest failure of Jefferson's Presidency.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on December 15, 2007. Approx. 11.5 min.)

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10 Questions for Thomas Jefferson

On August 22, 2007, Bill Barker, who portrays Thomas Jefferson for Colonial Williamsburg, gave a talk at Monticello on Interpreting Thomas Jefferson. In this excerpt, Mr. Barker lists the 10 most frequently asked questions that Mr. Jefferson receives from adults and children.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on October 15, 2007. Approx. 6 min.)

Monticello's Family Friendly Tours

Did you visit Monticello as a kid? What do you remember about the trip? Chances are there was something. The Great Clock with the weights that go into the floor. Or the double doors that operate together when one is moved. Or the alcove beds. Or even the house itself. There are actually a lot of things at Monticello that kids find fascinating.

But chances are when you visited, way back when, the tour itself -- what was said and how the guide engaged the visitors -- wasn't geared toward you as a kid and your interests. That no longer has to be the case.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on July 27, 2007. Approx. 8 min.)

Sam Waterston Calls New Citizens to Action

Calling them "fresh troops and reinforcements," actor Sam Waterston challenged 76 of the nation's newest citizens to "put the participation back into ‘participatory democracy.’" Filled with humor, historical references, and rousing turns of phrase, Mr. Waters ton's remarks prompted perhaps the only standing ovation in the past 25 years of Monticello's annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on July 11, 2007. Approx. 22 min.)

Transcript of talk »

Putting Jefferson's Debt in Today's Terms

We've all heard that Jefferson died over $100,000 in debt. But how much is that in today's money? In an excerpt from a talk he recently gave at Monticello's Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Professor Herbert Sloan addresses the difficulties one faces in translating historic values into modern terms.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on June 1, 2007. Approx. 10.5 min.)

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  • Professor Sloan's entire talk on Jefferson's shopping habits and his debt can be found here.

Restoration of Monticello's Dependencies

Plantation houses across the South often contained spaces devoted to various household tasks and the preparation, preservation, and storage of food and drink. These were often separate structures, or outbuildings, arranged near the main house. Such work areas at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, called the Dependencies, were located mostly out of the sight of visitors and the main house, as they were situated below the terraces and in the cellars. Sean Tubbs reports.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on April 11, 2007. Approx. 11 min.)

Jefferson's Words: Letters from France

Two ladies, two letters, two hundred and twenty years ago, and many things to say. During the winter of 1787 while living in France, Jefferson wrote two of his more oft-quoted letters, declaring his preference for "a little rebellion now and then" in one and his having fallen in love with not just one, but two buildings in the other. These wide-ranging letters include some of Jefferson's thoughts on Shay's Rebellion, Roman architecture, and the French nobility, all served with a good dose of charm. (Added to Monticello Podcasts on March 7, 2007. )

Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, February 22, 1787 (March 7, 2007. Approx. 3 min.)

Thomas Jefferson to Madame de Tessé, March 20, 1787 (March 7, 2007. Approx. 7 min.)

The Monticello Plantation Database: A View into Slavery

In late 2006, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation unveiled the Monticello Plantation Database, a new resource for the study of Jefferson and slavery. Chad Wollerton interviews historians Cinder Stanton, Marie Tyler-McGraw, and Henry Wiencek about this database and others they have created for their own work on slavery in America and about what they've learned from their experiences building and using them.

(Added to Monticello Podcasts on February 1, 2007. Approx. 37 min.)

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Monticello Music

Jefferson was an accomplished amateur violinist and an avid concertgoer who once declared music is "the passion of my soul." This time we present a selection of music related to Jefferson and Monticello, ranging from popular tunes to classical pieces.

(Music performed by the Sugar Ridge Quartet, L. Mackey, and J. Deal. Added to Monticello Podcasts on October 11, 2006.)

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Brief Introduction (approx. 2.5 min.)
Overture from 'Love in a Village: A Comic Opera' by Thomas Arne
(Performed by the Sugar Ridge Quartet, approx. 1.75 min.)
Over the Hills and Far Away from 'The Beggar's Opera'
(Performed by the Sugar Ridge Quartet, approx. 1 min.)
Money Musk
(Performed by Pete Vigour, approx. 2.5 min.)
Sonata #4, Opus 2, by Archangelo Corelli
(Performed by the Sugar Ridge Quartet, approx. 9 min.)


Sonata #1 from XII Solos, Opus 2 by Antonio Vivaldi
(Performed J. Deal and L. Mackey, approx. 2.75 min.)
From Symphony No. 66 In B Flat Major: Finale by Josef Haydn
(Performed by the Sugar Ridge Quartet, approx. 2 min.)
Symphony No. 3 In G Major: III Minuet & Trio by Josef Haydn
(Performed by the Sugar Ridge Quartet, approx. 2.25 min.)
Broom of the Cowdenknowes
A traditional Scottish tune favored by Thomas Jefferson
(Performed by Pete Vigour of the Sugar Ridge Quartet and Lynne Mackey, approx. 2.5 min. Added to Monticello Podcasts on October 17, 2006)
Zip file of Monticello Music (without Brief Introduction)


Environmental Hazards, Eighteenth-Century Style

Wild boasts? Detailed charts? A cobbled-together moose? What was it going to take to show that the Americas weren't breeding puny animals or retrograde men? Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood examines how Europeans viewed Americans and how Americans viewed themselves in the late 18th Century.

(Originally presented as part of The Old World and the New: Exchanges Between America and Europe in the Age of Jefferson” an international conference sponsored by the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies and the Salzburg Seminar. Added to Monticello Podcasts on September 1, 2006. Approx. 59 min.)

"All eyes are opened . . . to the rights of man"

For Independence Day -- or just any old day you're feeling patriotic -- hear the stirring words Jefferson wrote shortly before his death on July 4, 1826, 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Read by Bill Barker, who interprets Thomas Jefferson for Colonial Williamsburg (added to Monticello Podcasts on July 3, 2006).

Exporting Jefferson's Legacy

A dozen years, several conferences, a score of books, and hundreds of scholars from twenty countries. Radio producer Sean Tubbs talks with Andrew J. O'Shaughnessy, Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies about the Center's work fostering and sharing new Jeffersonian scholarship at home and abroad.

Jefferson's Words: On Religion

From the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom to the 'Wall of Separation', Jefferson's views and statements on religion have left a powerful legacy in the United States. Listen to some of his most quoted writings on the subject and take a peek at Jefferson's editing process in a comparison of two excepts from the same document (added to Monticello Podcasts on May 4, 2006).

Brief Introduction (approx. 2 min.)


Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom as drafted by Jefferson (later edited and adopted in 1786) (approx. 6 min.)


Query 17, Religion, Notes on the State of Virginia (written and published in the 1780s) (approx. 14 min.)


Jefferson's Jan. 1, 1802 letter to Danbury Baptist Association (approx. 2 min.)


Jefferson's April 21, 1803 letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush "on the Christian religion" (approx. 10.5 min.)


Jefferson revising Jefferson: two excerpts from Query 17, Religion, Notes on the State of Virginia (approx. 4 min.)



Helping Jefferson's Words Live On

It's a monumental task. Editing and publishing all of Jefferson's papers following his retirement from the presidency in 1809. Radio producer Sean Tubbs gives us an inside look at the process and talks with J. Jefferson Looney, Editor-in-Chief of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, about the what, why, how, and how long of this consequential project (added to Monticello Podcasts on April 10, 2006; approx. 13.75 min.).

Restoration of Monticello's Dome Room

Few see it. Many are curious. And even the people who work at Monticello know only a little about how it was used. Yet, Monticello's Dome Room is one of the best restored spaces on the upper floors. Monticello Webmaster Chad Wollerton talks with Bob Self, Monticello's Architectural Conservator, about the process of restoring this beautiful room (added to Monticello Podcasts on February 24, 2006; approx. 14.5 min.).

Preserving America's Historic Plants

One of the great treats of a visit to Monticello is touring its gardens, where many of the exact species and varieties of plants that Jefferson grew can be seen and enjoyed. Helping to locate, cultivate, and share these often rare specimens is Monticello's Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants. Peggy Cornett, the Center's director, talks about this often overlooked but critical aspect of Monticello's mission (added to Monticello Podcasts on January 25, 2006; approx. 12 min.).


Jefferson's Words: Two Declarations

Listen to what one historian hailed as "the most extraordinarily interesting document in American history": Jefferson's Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence. In this edition, we offer the final version and Jefferson's draft which includes a different "We hold these truths . . . " statement as well as a biting condemnation of the slave trade. Bill Barker, who interprets Thomas Jefferson for Colonial Williamsburg, reads both (added to Monticello Podcasts on December 28, 2005; approx. 9 min. and 12 min., resp.).

The Declaration of Independence (as adopted in Congress)
Jefferson's "rough Draught" of the Declaration


Visitors to Monticello: What They Really Thought

Who visited Monticello during Jefferson's life? What did they say about their experiences? And what can we learn from their accounts? In this talk, Susan H. Perdue, Associate Editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, offers a selection of perspectives — some friendly, some unflattering — on Jefferson and daily life at Monticello (added to Monticello Podcasts on October 26, 2005; approx. 25 min.).


A Culinary Independence: Jefferson for July 4th

To commemorate Independence Day 2005, presented a podcast on the culinary legacy created at Monticello by Jefferson and his enslaved cooks. This rebroadcast features interviews with Monticello's Publications Coordinator Beth Cheuk, our Dependencies Project Coordinator Justin Sarafin, and Damon Lee Fowler, culinary historian, cookbook author, and editor of the new book Dining at Monticello (added to Monticello Podcasts September 10, 2005; approx. 39 min. This program was originally produced by Anne Bramley for


Thomas Jefferson and Religion

Was Jefferson an atheist? A deist? An Episcopalian? A Unitarian? In an entertaining and informative talk, William and Mary Professor of Religion David Holmes relates catchy rhymes, biting quotes, and a burning at the stake as he explores Jefferson's religious beliefs. (Talk from June 21, 2005; added to Monticello Podcasts August 10, 2005; approx. 30 min.)
This talk was sponsored by SunTrust.


Uncovering the Vanished Monticello Plantation

Since 1997, Monticello's archaeologists have identified over twenty previously unrecorded plantation sites. In this interview, Sara Bon-Harper, Monticello's Archaeological Research Manager, explains how these sites were identified and describes what's being discovered at Site 8, a settlement of slaves active from the 1770s to the 1790s.
(Added July 24, 2005; approx. 8 min.) 


Restoration of the North All-Weather Passageway

Bulging from soil pressure, the walls of the north section of the all-weather passageway (originally built c. 1802) were threatened with failure. On July 1, 2005, Monticello's Chad Wollerton spoke with stonemason Henry Cersley about the critical effort to restore and repair this distinctive feature of Monticello.
(Added July 24, 2005; approx. 9.5 min.)