"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of the opportunity provided to serve self-interest when Al Gore created the internet; and we should also thank Mark Zuckerburg and Jack Dorsey for creating Facebook and Twitter out of the kindness of their big hearts and not the thinness of their small wallets."
-Ben Franklin, Autobiography (1742)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Jefferson's 81st- A Night to Remember and Eleven to Forget

We begin this week’s entry with an apology to our large and loyal base of subscribers. As hundreds of thousands of you will have noticed, this article is being posted a day late. Yesterday marked the 269th Birthday of Thomas Jefferson, and thus, it was difficult to find a solid ten minutes of time where we could escape the merriment and festivities to log on. Here at Lost&Founders we do NOT take Jefferson’s birthday lightly, and while we can’t remember much that went on last night, it is with great pleasure that we announce the recent discovery of letters and primary documents that reveal what is without the doubt the wildest night to have ever been recorded at Monticello. As you probably guessed, we’re clearly referencing the evening of Mr. Jefferson’s 81stbirthday, or, as James Madison eloquently put it “da night waz craaaaaaaay”.

Our story begins with the arrival of Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert Motier Lafayette. The Marquis de Lafayette was a national hero, a brave and daring man who was revered as a patriot by Frenchmen and Americans alike. The man was a legend, an international icon, and to Thomas Jefferson, a friend. In 1824, he decided to return to America one last time, making his way to Albemarle on April 1st while birthday preparations were in full swing. We all know the story, two lifelong friends reuniting for the first time in decades, staring at each other from across the vast expanse of lawn at the still unfinished University of Virginia. Jefferson cries “LAFAY-TAFFY” (as he affectionately referred to Lafayette) and rushes over. The Marquis calls back “JEFFY” and races to meet him. The terms “rushes” and “races” are of course relative, being that the two friends were in their early eighties; perhaps the phrase “inched over” is more appropriate. About a half hour later, struggling with walkers and taking frequent breaks to prevent overexertion, the two finally embrace, breaking into tears in what has been described by some as “the most bromantic event to ever grace the pages of American history”.
In a 1789 letter to Francis Hopkinson, Jefferson famously declared, “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all." For years Jefferson scholars have attributed this quote to the party politics and partisan squabbles of the late 18th century, only recently have we discovered that Jefferson was quite literally trying to hint to Hopkinson that he wanted a surprise party thrown for his birthday. The only thing Jefferson liked more than parties were parties thrown for him. The Marquis de Lafayette knew this and decided he’d throw a “TJ’s B-Day Bash” the likes of which Virginia had never seen. Having served as a Major General in the Continental Army and commanded the French National Guard and having also been a member of the Estates General and the National Assembly, Lafayette assumed that chairing the birthday party committee would come naturally (he was French after all.) Boy was he wrong.

Upon arriving at Monticello, Lafayette was greeted by a woman he had sincerely hoped he’d never have to see again, Dolley Madison. Anyone who has followed our coverage over the past year has become familiar with the reality that the not-so-charming Dolley Madison was in fact a rabid and power hungry fiend bent on dominating her surroundings. TJ’s birthday was no exception. Refusing to allow Lafayette’s “old world tyranny” to permeate what she called her “Republican Rave” she decided that the Frenchman couldn’t be trusted with party planning. Instead, she delegated to him the responsibility of stocking up on alcohol. Lafayette proceeded with his task undaunted, rather than settling for local wine, he pulled strings with the French Embassy, wove an intricate web of contacts who owed him favors and managed to procure a heavy arsenal of the finest French “wine” which was over-nighted via pony express. And so, the festivities began.

Jefferson was pleasantly surprised; guests were streaming in from every state, the hit single “Correspond With Me Perhaps” played on repeat, and everyone was enjoying their wine. Now, it is both necessary and proper to explain that there was a very very big difference between the “wine” of the Marquis and anything the Americans had drank before. This “wine” was actually the precursor to the modern “jungle juice” or “hunch punch” found at fraternity parties across the nation. So the guests drank, and they drank, and they drank and the party was, for lack of a better term, an absolute shit show. The servants report seeing James Monroe pop, locking, and dropping it. They describe the process by which Dolley Madison roundhouse kicked John Quincy Adams, and claim to have witnessed a young General Andrew Jackson attempting to duel with a dairy cow. In the end, the whole thing was just bad. Like really really bad. The guests passed out and spent the next ten days horribly hungover, attempting to recover in the hazy blur of disorder and confusion that bewildered the throng until things finally began clearing up the morning of the 13th. Embarrassed, flustered, and extremely bewildered, our nation’s leadership failed to realize the amount of time that had elapsed. Assuming it was still the second, they had Jefferson blow the candles on his cake and then went on their way.

It is for this reason that we now celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on the 13th and not the 2nd. Falsely informed intellectuals will attempt to argue that a shift from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar is responsible for the discrepancy, but this “simple” explanation is so obviously an attempt to cover up the embarrassing events of the night of April 1st, 1824 that we’re left picturing our founding father laughing at us while crying “April Fools!”

Happy Founders Day!!!!

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