I lost almost everything in the fire.


My late loss may perhaps have reac[hed y]ou by this time, I mean the loss of my mother’s house [Shadwell] by fire, and in it, of every pa[per I] had in the world, and almost every book. On a reasonable estimate I calculate th[e cost o]f t[he b]ooks burned to have been £200. sterling. Would to god it had been the money [;then] had it never cost me a sigh! …
If this conflagration, by which I am burned out of a home, had come before I had advanced so far in preparing another, I do not know but I might have cherished some treasonable thoughts of leaving [thes]e my native hills.

To John Page, February 21, 1770

Patrick Lee’s Explanation

Resilient leaders rebound from losses.
Jefferson was born at Shadwell plantation. When not occupied with the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg or traveling because of his law practice, he lived there with his mother. He was nearly 27 when this fire destroyed the house and practically all of his possessions. That included copies of his correspondence, all of his legal work, and his what he cherished most, his books. He didn’t mind the value lost. He minded a great deal the wisdom contained in those volumes.

He had already begun work on his own home across the Rivanna River, a hilltop he named Monticello (Italian for little mountain). The ground had already been leveled and probably work had begun on a one room building, now known as the South Pavilion. Jefferson moved there in November, 1770. The main mansion, which today we call Monticello, was still a dream. It wouldn’t be habitable for six or seven years.

Who knows whether Jefferson’s “home” might have been some other place else, as he hinted in this letter, had work at Monticello not already begun.

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Self-Educated American Thomas Jefferson Editor, Patrick Lee, is a professional speaker, actor and writer. Since 1990, he has inspired, entertained and educated audiences from Maine to Hawaii with his authentic, first person leadership presentations as President Thomas Jefferson, Frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Lewis & Clark Co-Leader William Clark. He also appears as himself, The Hopeful Humorist™, with a program of motivational humor, patriotism and inspiration.

His business address is ThomasJeffersonLeadership.com.