Edited by Russell W. Belk
Chapter 16: The Monticello Correction: Consumption in History
Linda M. Scott, Jason Chambers and Katherine Sredl Thomas Jeﬀerson’s house at Monticello was preserved intact from the moment the statesman closed his eyes for the last time. A tourist visiting the home two hundred years later could see the residence as it was in use, just as the great leader and thinker lived in it. And yet that twentieth-century visitor got a false impression. Monticello appears to be a home on a hill, an isolated haven perfect for study and thought, a quiet retreat for gentlemen of state to gather and discuss the key questions of a new republic. In Jeﬀerson’s time, however, the house was surrounded by a substantial collection of homes and shops, full of the bustle of many activities required to support the life of comfort that patricians required. Indeed, though the house itself rose slightly above the settlement of its servants, it was then surrounded by what amounted to a small village, rather than being the oasis of self-suﬃciency it appears to be now. Thus the house on a hill created the false image of an imagined past for those who came to see it. The docents, archivists and foundations that worked to preserve Jeﬀerson’s home did not think it necessary to maintain the places in which the ordinary folks, many of them African slaves, lived and worked to make Jeﬀerson’s exemplary life possible. So the small town that originally surrounded Monticello rotted, wasted and ﬁnally disappeared into the ground....
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