What is written on Thomas Jefferson’s gravestone?

Periodic Table of the Presidents - Thomas Jefferson     Periodic Table of the Presidents

HERE WAS BURIED
THOMAS JEFFERSON
AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA.

The above words are inscribed on Thomas Jefferson’s gravestone.  Where is “Third President of the United States of America?”  Before his death, Thomas Jefferson left specific instructions for a monument to be constructed on his grave site.  In reference to the words to be placed on his gravestone, Jefferson said, “On the faces of the Obelisk the following inscription, & not a word more.”1  He continued by writing, “because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.”

Thomas Jefferson Gravestone    Thomas Jefferson's Gravesite Design     Thomas Jefferson Gravestone - Complete

Why didn’t Thomas Jefferson rank “U.S. President” as one of his top three most memorable moments?  Overall, historians view Thomas Jefferson quite favorably as president – on his worst day he’s still in the top ten.  He appears on our money, on Mount Rushmore, and he’s got one of the best memorials in D.C.  In fact, one line from Jefferson’s resume would get a person in the history books.

“because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.”

Perhaps the three accomplishments on Jefferson’s gravestone are what he views as his best.  The fact that he left explicit instructions for his gravestone’s inscription demonstrates Jefferson’s need to exert some control over his legacy.  Independence, religious freedom, and education.  You can’t argue with those ideas.

Original Thomas Jefferson Gravestone - Courtesy of University of MissouriJefferson’s family erected the obelisk gravestone in 1833.2  The original gravestone was eventually replaced due to visitors chipping off pieces of the it for souvenirs.  In 1882 Congress okayed a measure to provide funds to replace Jefferson’s original gravestone.  The original obelisk was donated to the University of Missouri at Columbia – where it now resides.

 July 4, 1826

2 - JaPeriodic Table of the Presidents - Thomas JeffersonJust months after Jefferson wrote instructions for his gravestone, he passed away.  According to the Monticello website, Jefferson’s last words cannot be determined with certainty.3  Jefferson’s last recorded words are “No, doctor, nothing more.”  However, some believe that Jefferson’s last words were “Is it the Fourth?” or “This is the Fourth of July.”  In any case, Thomas Jefferson passed away on the 50th anniversary of July 4, 1776 – arguably the most important date in American history.  Jefferson was not alone.  In fact, in Quincy, Massachusetts, John Adams passed away on the same day at the age of 90.  Adams’s last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  He was mistaken.  Jefferson had actually died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 82.4

Jefferson - Gravestone - Birth & Death

Photo by PJ Creek

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Google Maps

Go to Jefferson’s Grave.

Sources:

The Library of Congress: Thomas Jefferson Exhibit

Monticello website: Jefferson’s Gravestone

Monticello Website: Jefferson’s Last Words

History.com: This Day in History – July 4

Buy the Poster.

Purchase a copy of the Periodic Table of the Presidents poster here.

Periodic Table of the Presidents

-Created by PJ Creek, an 8th grade Social Studies teacher

Video

“MU Teams with Smithsonian to Save Original Jefferson Tombstone Marker”

Travel Photos

I visited Monticello last summer.  Below are some of the pictures that I took of Monticello and the Monticello Graveyard.

Monticello, East Front - Photo by PJ Creek

Monticello, East Front – Photo by PJ Creek

Monticello, West Front - Photo by PJ Creek

Monticello, West Front – Photo by PJ Creek

The Monticello Graveyard Sign

Photo by PJ Creek

Photo by PJ Creek

Photo by PJ Creek

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