WWJD? The importance of being Tom


About any issue in Charlottesville, the inevitable question arises: "What would Jefferson do?"

While it's generally believed that George Washington introduced fox hunting to America, the Sage of Monticello may have steered clear– at least as an adult.

"I have never come across any reference to fox hunting in his adult life," says Monticello research historian Gay Wilson. She's found mentions of hunting in his youth and knows that he did attend horse races. But for all the visitors he entertained at Monticello, there's no record of organized fox hunts.

In an 1808 letter to his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, the author of the Declaration of Independence reflects on his own teen years.

"I was often thrown into the society of horseracers, cardplayers, Foxhunters, scientific and professional men, and of dignified men; and many a time have I asked myself, in the enthusiastic moment of the death of a fox, the victory of a favorite horse, the issue of a question eloquently argued at the bar or in the great Council of the nation, well, which of these kinds of reputations should I prefer? That of a horse jockey? A foxhunter? An Orator? Or the honest advocate of my country's rights?"