An Afternoon with the President

I recently had the privilege of spending an afternoon with former president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. It is the year 1821 a small group of guests and I were invited into the Jefferson ‘cabinet’ for a chat and all were entertained by the eloquence and wit of the man from Monticello. During which the president elected to expound upon many topics of interest, one of which was his dislike of “tabloid journalism” whereupon he explained, “opportunity gets in the way of truth.” Mr. Jefferson, in an irritated voice, used the example of a certain newspaper editor by the name of James Thompson Callender, known as a “scandalmonger,” who wrote an expose' concerning certain indiscretions on the part of the president after which Mr. Jefferson duly admitted to us “there was the one time in his youth” he curried favor with a certain nameless young married woman.

Of further subjects the aging president discussed is the one in which he joked about how he would report the news. He stated that, “he would divide the newspaper in four chapters.” First being “Truth”; which would be very short if an editor would be willing to risk his reputation for their truth,’ the second, ‘Probabilities”; would contain what, from a mature consideration of all the circumstances, his judgment should conclude to be probably true.’ the third ‘Possibilities’; and the fourth ‘Lies’ ‘both probabilities and lies would be voluminous, and should be professedly for those readers who would rather have lies for their money that the blank paper they should occupy.” At the end of his explanation applause and laughter exploded around the room.

Mr. Jefferson went on to explain his views on many other subjects including the writing of the Declaration of Independence. He had many ideas and opinions about the writing of the Declartaion which were most interesting to those in attendance.

The preceding excerpts are just a short look at the man who defined our American Independence. Actor and playwright J.D. Sutton, is the author of “Twilight at Monticello “ which was performed on off-Broadway last year. He performed an hour-long abridged version of that piece titled, ‘An Encounter with Thomas Jefferson’ at the Franklin Degroodt Library, Palm Bay, Florida. According to information given about the play, the one-hour presentation allows its audience to experience a brief - yet up- close - encounter with "Mr. Jefferson" as he presents both the story of the Declaration of Independence, and of his failure to bring an end to slavery. He also speaks of his enduring hope for the spread of self -government throughout the world.”

At the end of his performance Mr. Jefferson fielded questions from his constituents.

Mr. Sutton’s play is a refreshing insightful and sometimes humorous look at the aging gentleman who was the 3rd president of the United States, during which one can feel the curtain of a moment begin to slip backwards as Mr. Sutton puts the audience immediately at ease and at least for a short span it is possible to travel back in time.

The setting is fully costumed and staged with props of the era. When in costume Mr. Sutton bears an uncanny resemblance to President Thomas Jefferson.

The Florida Humanities Council and The Friends of the Library of Palm Bay sponsored the performance. The council supports many high quality programs of this caliber that are free to the public.

Mr. Sutton and his wife, Amy (who is also Twilight at Monticello's costumer), live in central Florida.

Issues Magazine wishes to thank Mr. Sutton for allowing the use of information from his website and excerpts of his play in this article.

Editors note: Public and private venues that would like to host Mr. Sutton's presentation should contact his representative:


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