Triangles at Monticello
It is easier to concieve than express the sensations which the sight of the preparations for your return inspires us. I look forward to Thursday with raptures and palpitations not to be described; that day which will once more reunite me to those most dear to me in the world.
Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson, July 1, 1798 1
When the celebrated French republican savant and refugee, the Comte de Volney, visited Monticello in June 1796, he noted in his journal astonishment at seeing slave children as white as himself. "Mais je fus étonné de voir appeler noirs et traiter comme tels des enfants aussi blanc que moi." 2 Volney, who had known both Jefferson and Franklin in Paris, had joyfully joined the revolutionary intellectuals only to end up in prison during the Terror of 1793, and had barely escaped the guillotine. Jefferson was delighted to see him, and despite the demolition work at Monticello persuaded him to stay three weeks. Volney had an estate in Corsica to rival that of Jefferson and was equally excited about plants and planting. He had brought his book, Les Ruines; ou, Meditations sur les révolutions des empires, a vitriolic attack on the French clergy, which so gratified Jefferson he promised to translate it for the American market. Volney brought also a firsthand account of the debasement of the revolution to which he and Jefferson had helped give birth.
If Jefferson was saddened by Volney's account of how the Revolution was murdering its own sons, Volney for his part was appalled by the sight of his celebrated libertarian friend acting the role of maître, and still more appalled by the "demi-nudité misérable et hideuse" of his