Jefferson’s Powerful Last Public Letter Reminds Us What Independence Day Is All About

As the nation’s 50th Fourth of July approached in 1826, Thomas Jefferson was at one of the lowest points of his life.

The author of the Declaration of Independence turned 83 on April 13. Just two months before, his beloved eldest granddaughter, Ann Cary Randolph Bankhead, had died after childbirth as Jefferson wept inconsolably in the next room.

She had suffered abuse from her alcoholic husband, and Jefferson tried his best to support her. But now everything was crumbling. He was in so much debt from mismanaging Monticello that he and his grandson petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for permission to raise cash through a lottery.

Richmond subjected the proposal to a humiliating debate. People around the country felt embarrassed for the country’s third president and sent a few donations. Jefferson’s family tried to shield him from the truth, but he was going to lose Monticello.

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