Thomas Jefferson was a prolific writer, documenting the most mundane details of day to day life, as well as writing daily letters of all types. It’s believed he wrote as many as 18, 264 letters.
Gaps in Jefferson’s writing are mysterious. There are three specific gaps that are particularly alluring, mostly in light of the subject matter… secret societies. It makes sense that Jefferson was silent about secrets. That’s what one is supposed to do. Secrets go to the grave, and Jefferson certainly kept his promise.
For example, while attending William & Mary from 1760 – 1762, Jefferson belonged to the secret society known as the Flat Hat Club. When asked decades later what he did as a member of the Flat Hat Club, Jefferson replied something to the effect, “We did nothing.” I don’t think there’s anyone who can picture Thomas Jefferson doing nothing, so that’s unfathomable. What he’s most likely saying is: “I can’t reveal any secrets.”
And then there’s the perplexing void of information about Thomas Jefferson and the Freemasons. Jefferson never admitted he was a member, yet his fellow patriots and
Founding Fathers were, and they freely shared this information. The Freemasons were present at the laying of the cornerstone at Jefferson’s Academical Village in 1817. Additionally, there’s a Freemason lodge not too far from Monticello that is named after Jefferson. Apparently, the only way for a lodge to be named after someone is if they are a Freemason, so again, it’s presumed that he was. Yet there is nothing stated in writing, nor did he ever verbally admit that he was a Freemason.
But most baffling of all in many ways, is the lack of significant written or verbal documentation relating to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s botanical excursion up the Hudson River in late spring of 1791. They traveled the Hudson Valley to Lake George, Lake Champlain, over to Vermont, and down through Massachusettes and Connecticut before returning to New York. The journey lasted a full month, yet our gifted writer only wrote approximately one and half manuscript pages of travel notes, and six additional pages of observations about the invasive Hessian fly that was destroying America’s wheat. I find this bewildering. After all, Jefferson had high expectations for daily journaling by Meriwether Lewis when he and William Clark explored the West.
Interestingly, it’s believed Jefferson and Madison were really on an influence campaign, an apparent mission to push back against Alexander Hamilton’s plan for a National Bank.
Vermont had just been added to the Union as the 14th state. Jefferson and Madison apparently wanted to win hearts & minds in the communities they passed through. Talk about farming techniques, and botany. Enjoy fine food, all the while planting political seeds that were aligned with the Democratic Republicans’ philosophies and opposed to those of Hamilton and the Federalists.
The gap in time I’m most curious about though, is Day 1 of their sojourn. Seemingly not a single word, written or verbal. Who did they meet with that would keep them so silent? Were there Freemasons near Tarrytown in 1791? Did Jefferson and Madison stop at the Old Dutch Reform Church in Sleepy Hollow?