Happy birthday, USA! Our great nation turns 232 years young this
Friday, July 4. Our Constitution is the world’s
oldest federal constitution, and in its over two hundred-year history
it has only been amended twenty-seven times. The first ten amendments,
as we all know, are the Bill of Rights. The Constitution
is actually younger than our country. It was adopted on September
17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
and later ratified by conventions in each state. It replaced the
Articles of Confederation as the “law of the land.”
The document that actually announced our independence and declared us
a separate nation from Britain was the Declaration of Independence,
which was adopted on July 4, 1776, by the Second Continental Congress
and signed by representatives of each of the thirteen colonies.
This is our nation’s official birthday.
Hall in Philadelphia, PA, is where both the Declaration
of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed by
the founding fathers of our country, and its bell tower steeple was
the original home of the “Liberty
Bell.” I think it’s such a handsome building!
While I was working on the painting of Independence Hall
for my July 20-21, 2007, Collectors’ Convention, I learned much
about our nation’s early history. I have always been patriotic
and respectful of our Founding Fathers, but one in particular really
captured my interest. That is Thomas Jefferson, whose beloved
and the University
of Virginia, which he founded, are not far from my Museum
in Waynesboro, Virginia. Thomas Jefferson, a native Virginian,
was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence
and devoted his adult life to the service of his state and the country
that he helped create.
I could write a book about Jefferson’s achievements, but I’ll
try not to. This man was so enlightened and ahead of his time,
he must have been a genius. He was fluent in five languages and
able to read two others. He began the study of Latin, Greek, and
French at the age of nine and entered the College
of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the age of sixteen
where he studied law. Jefferson later continued his education
in law under George Wythe, the first professor of law in America, who
would later sign Jefferson’s Declaration in 1776.
Though he never set foot outside the American continent before adulthood,
he acquired an education that rivaled the finest to be attained in Europe.
He was a lawyer, agronomist, musician, scientist, philosopher, author,
architect, inventor, and statesman. Not only that, but he was
also good looking!
Jefferson’s resume is an impressive one: Admitted to the
Virginia bar, 1767; Elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1769;
Delegate to the Continental Congress, 1775-1776; Virginia House of Delegates,
1776-1779; Elected Governor of Virginia, 1779, 1780; Dispatched to England
to treat for peace with Britain, 1782; Associate Envoy to France, 1784;
Minister to the French Court, 1785; Secretary of State, 1789; Established
Democratic-Republican Party, 1793; Vice President of the United States
under John Adams, 1796; third President of the United States, 1801;
and Established the University of Virginia, 1819. In 1815, one
of his projects, a Library of Congress, came to fruition when he sold
his own personal library to the Congress as a basis for the collection.
During his term as President, Jefferson was responsible for the Louisiana
Purchase, doubling the territory of our country. In spite of all
that he gave this great nation, Jefferson told his friend and fellow
Virginian James Madison (principal author of the Constitution
and fourth President of the United States) shortly before his death
that he wished to be remembered for two things only: as the author
of the Declaration of Independence and the founder of the University
of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson passed away on July 4, 1826, as
the nation celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his remarkable Declaration.
Doesn’t that give you chills!
As I was considering what to paint for the large, special print for
Convention that will be held at the Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia,
this September 12-13, I thought about Virginia and the pivotal role
it has played throughout our nation’s history, and then I thought
about this election year and the issues facing our candidates as they
seek the highest office in the land. As I wondered how our Founding
Fathers would have handled the challenges that face our country today,
I realized that they would have handled today’s issues the same
way they dealt with those of their time; with faith in their beliefs,
strength in their convictions, and courage to do what they believed
was for the greater good in spite of great opposition. They created
a nation and a system of government that has been both the envy of the
world and a beacon of hope to others. I feel that we owe it to
them, to ourselves, and to the rest of the world to perpetuate the precious
gift they dedicated their lives to giving us.
It was with these thoughts and feelings that I decided to honor one
of Virginia’s and our country’s greatest sons, Thomas Jefferson,
by making him and some of the buildings he designed the focus of my
large convention print. I’m also including three of the
flags that our country has flown from the very beginning to the present.
This is a work-in-progress, and I’ll include a picture of
the finished painting in future newsletters. So far, you can see
in the painting, left to right, the Jefferson Memorial in Washington,
DC; Monticello in Charlottesville, VA; and the Virginia State Capitol
in Richmond, VA. In addition to the statue of Thomas Jefferson,
there are three flags. The one on the left is considered the first
unofficial flag of the United States. There are thirteen red and
white stripes, representing the thirteen colonies, and a canton with
the British flag. This flag was in use from late 1775 until mid
1777, when it was replaced by the flag in the middle, which is sometimes
known as the “Betsy Ross flag.” This flag was officially
authorized by the Continental Congress. The flag on the far right
is, of course, our present-day flag.
Next weekend I’ll be at my Barn studio in Waynesboro,
Virginia, for my Barn
Show and Museum Open House. I’ve created a special print
edition to release during the show. Tinkling Spring Ride
features historic Tinkling
Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia. The
church is one of the oldest in Augusta County and was founded in 1740,
three years before Thomas Jefferson’s birth in 1743
Tinkling Spring Ride will be released at my Barn Show and Museum
Open House July 11-13. For more information, please contact the Museum
See you at the Barn! In the meantime, have a wonderful
4th of July weekend and take a moment to remember the reason for the
holiday and to pray for our troops. The son of Carl and Jeanie
Ellis, who live across the road from me in Mathews, left this week for
his first deployment to Iraq. We are praying for his safe return.
Carl, who is a kitchen designer, is also an excellent chef, and we all
enjoy his cooking. I know his son will miss it.
L. to R.: Jeanie, Billy, and Carl Ellis. Jeanie and Carl, my neighbors
in Mathews, are seeing their son Billy off on his first deployment to