The Northeast Portico

jefferson-quote

A few years ago I visited Washington DC. I paid for a ticket on one of those busses that have a bunch of stops where you can get on and off pretty much all day.  I only had the one day, so I saw the big ones; Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, White House, Capital building, and some of the war memorials.  It was a nice day, colder than I’m used to, but it was a nice change, it is easy to forget what being cold is like when you live in a temperate climate. I had been to DC a few times before and I remembered liking the Jefferson memorial the best, there was just something almost holy about it in my mind.  So when I got off the bus I was kind of excited to see it. I quickly walked down the path and up the stairs. I was a little put off at first because it seemed to me to need a cleaning, it almost had the feel of a train station, but I guess it’s hard to keep it clean when there are thousands of people coming in and out. After I took a minute admiring the statue I began to read the quotes around the interior of the memorial. I was just reading and admiring the inscriptions, but when I came to the northeast portico inscription, my feelings of admiration changed to feelings of confusion.  As I read the quote again I knew something was wrong, it just didn’t sound right to me. I took a picture of the quote and got back on the bus to complete my tour.

The confusion stayed with me all the way until I returned home, and one of the first things I did when I got back to my office was research the quote, and sure enough my feeling of confusion was verified. Below is one of the actual quotes.

Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.” – Jefferson’s Autobiography

Once I read the quote, I had to go back and look at the picture I had taken, because I could hardly believe it. The fact is, the inscription on the northeast portico is actually a combination of multiple quotes from Jefferson that he wrote at several different times and places. It picks and chooses which sections of which quotes to convey a particular message, a message that Jefferson himself would not completely agree with.

There are lies literally etched into the very monuments of our nation. There is only one stone that is free from deception, that is the rock our God.

https://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/quotations-jefferson-memorial

 

 

 

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