• Jason Pfaff

U.S. History paper (fictional autobiography)


U.S. History class

Villa Maria College

December 2009

"James Neil July 4, 1818"

My name is James Neil, philosophy professor, cellist, and dear friend of Tom Jefferson. I was born in 1738 in Williamsburg, Virginia, and lived there until I was sixty five years old. As I lay here dying in some unnamed region of Colorado, I have gathered the strength to write some things about the past, particularly my wonderful experiences with Thomas, my best friend.

When I was teaching philosophy at William and Mary College in Williamsburg for four years, I grew tired of the same routine day after day. I was tired of the hypocrisy of the elders, the arrogance and ungratefulness of the students, and my mind was falling asleep. I realize I had fallen into a comfortable living, farther and farther from stimulation or humility. I had not even the desire anymore to play my cello, and I was far too busy to join a group or mentor others, even though music and arts were flourishing in Williamsburg.

One day I heard a brilliant noise, coming from the atrium behind the library near the college. With much enthusiasm I entered the room and waited until the man finished the piece. This man was Thomas Jefferson, and little did I know this young man would be come my best friend. After discussing our common interest, the cello, I invited him to a group I helped organize, the Flat Hat Club, a lovely and relatively secretive group consisting of some of the best students at the college. Tom had insisted we form a quartet, but I was simply too busy, and unmotivated at the time. I introduced him to some other wonderful musicians, Wythe and Fauquier were amongst the most impressive. They formed a lovely quartet and indeed, I was envious. They were good enough to play in Philadelphia, but Tom was so busy and obliged to learn everything there is to know about everything, I don’t know how he even made time

for a band. Undoubtedly he was a genius, but it was this competition between us that stimulated me, and made me feel alive again for the first time in ages.

Once Tommy met Sir Edward Coke, one of the most all time important English legal theorists, our time together grew thin. It wasn’t enough Tommy was studying everything under the sun including but not limited to literature, science, philosophy, and music, he decided to become a lawyer as well! As I now reflect on our conversations, it makes perfect sense, because he was so passionate about government and freedom, almost as if he felt responsible to make a difference in the land. I, on the other hand kept a simple life, philosophy and music. And today I still believe, that one must have a singleness of purpose in life, as to not spread themselves too thin. But yet he never wore himself thin, even with his vigorous daily schedule. He would rise at five a.m. to read agriculture, botany, zoology, chemistry, anatomy, religion, take a short break then read law till one p.m., politics and history, and then run a mile in the countryside! I tried running with him and lasted maybe, oh a day or two. Then in

evenings he would read several more subjects, and still have time for his friends, family, and his band.

Most importantly, and it almost ruined our friendship, Tommy hurt me more than I think he could possibly imagine. I had been seeing Martha Skelton for a few months at the time, and it wasn’t going all that well, but in 1771 it came as much a surprise that Tom had been lying to me for quite some time. He and Martha had been seeing each other behind my back, and I know Martha was a good woman and deserved better than me, but I never expected she would end up with Thomas. They married in November 1771. Unfortunately, only two of their six children survived, yet Thomas persevered through it all. I tell you he was not human, he was an advanced being.

At the point of Thomas and Martha’s marriage, I did not see or talk to Tom for many years. I moved to Philadelphia after being expelled from the college for missing work. I was torn because of the marriage, and I drank myself into a pitiful scoundrel and almost died. I worked on a small plantation in Philadelphia with my slaves. It was mostly pigs we tended, but I had a secret side business that I prefer not to mention here. Alls I will say is a lot of people were doing it, and the central government could not get on top of it for very long. Tom and I were pen pals at this point, and he had wrote how angry he was with me I held a grudge for so long. He had joined the government and was running for president of the United States in 1804. I was dumb founded, but so very proud of my friend. He wrote of his running mate, Charles Pinckney, a federalist set out to try and ruin Tom with vigorous mudslinging. However, Thomas beat him with an overwhelming majority of electoral votes 162 to 14!! Rather confident he explained his agenda to diminish the power of the federal judiciary, and the very root

of Federalist principles. As excited as I was, I had to focus on my own life, managing the farm, and taking care of my good wife Francine.

In 1810, I worked for the First Bank of the United States, but I am not to blame that we failed to have our Federal charter renewed. It was Rothschild, and his “associates” I believe. I lived just around the corner on 5th Street, and in 1816 the Second Bank of the U.S. received a Federal Charter. Philadelphia, the home of the Constitution, was an exciting place to live, and the country was growing at an unbelievable rate. There were now more than 7 million people here. 1.4 million of those people were Africans , and 1.2 million of those Africans were slaves. I treated my slaves well I must say. And, to tell you the truth, I think Thomas always saw blacks as equals, considering a few of his beloved childhood friends were black. We all know of the peer-pressures and other influences when it comes to dealing with the public.

By 1815, at my ripe old age of 77, I was teaching cello in Philadelphia, and working with some friends to develop a new education system called high school. As it turned out, I was too busy at the bank and with my farm, but my friends wanted to open the first Central High School of its kind by 1838. I would be a lucky man to live to 80, and many of my family and peers were already gone.

The year was 1818, my slaves ran away, my wife left me, and our children were away at school and not in contact with me. I met a native American named Waka, and he invited me to live with is native family west of the Illinois territory. He managed to survive on a long journey to Pennsylvania in search of materials and medicines from other tribes. He was of mixed descent, and could get away with looking like a white man, until he opened his mouth. I was very sick with small pox, and I had no family or friends left.

The Treaty of 1818 established a border of British controlled lands, James Monroe was now President, and Illinois was admitted as a U.S. state. Waka’s family was of the Natchez tribe, who flourished in the 1770’s, but were occupied by Spain when they regained Florida. However,the other two Indian families amongst us were Apache. The U.S. War of Independence settled the Spanish occupation dispute in 1798. There were only a few families living with us, hidden away near the Colorado river. They were a happy family even though living conditions were desperate, and being discovered could mean death. I am already dying. I wondered what the future would hold for America, and wondered how my good old friend was doing. I had heard that the Democratic Republicans were dying out, and that talk of a civil war was eminent.

Waku’s daughter Mika, is a darling human being who brings me soup and buffalo’s meat. They say my body is poisoned by an evil spirit and although they try and help me, I can see it in their eyes that I will be gone soon. I looked back at all my years. I looked back at the best times of my life, those times were with Thomas Jefferson, a man who became President, and I was lucky enough to have known him. I‘ll always remember something he said so long ago, that all are created equal,foreign and domestic, as well as women. I understand him better now, as I lay dying in the care of a blessed native family, that so many decreed as vile beasts without potential. I can see no better family than this one, I can see no more profound beauty or grace than they hold. I wonder if some day we arrogant people will make amends to the tribes, give them riches, and finally treat them as the decent human beings they are. All of us, equal potential, all seeing through the same eyes, seeing the same tree, and the same stars that decorate the night sky. It will be on that day, when all men wake up to the truth of the universe, then I will say I am a truly proud American. I am now 80 years old, and do have some regrets, but I will never regret treating my slaves well, and I will never regret forgiving my good friend Thomas, as it is an honor to have a friend so motivated to serve his country. I hope that you will read this, and help the natives as much as you can. After all, they were here before us.

References:

Natalie S. Bober. Thomas Jefferson: Man on a Mountain. New York: Atheneum Macmillian Publishing Company, 1988.

A biography on Thomas Jefferson from his youth to his death.

Fawn M. Brodie. Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. New York: WW Norton & Company Inc.,1981.

An extensive biography on the life and times of President Jefferson.

Page Smith. Jefferson. A Revealing Biography. New York: American Heritage Publishing Company, Inc., 1976.

Reveals hard to find information and details on Jefferson growing up, his friends, his interests, his mentors, and his words.

R.B. Bernstein. Thomas Jefferson. New York: Oxford University Press. 2003.

An intimate look at Jefferson’s life, memoirs, and relationships from his birth to his Presidency of the United States, to his death.

United States. U.S. Whitehouse. Biography of Thomas Jefferson. Oct 2009.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/thomasjefferson/.

A Whitehouse resource on all of the American Presidents.

Thomas Jefferson Autobiography, Excerpts on Slavery.

http://www.pbs.org/Jefferson/archives/documents/.h199642.htm.

An archive of copies of hand-written memoirs on slavery by Thomas Jefferson.

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