July 4, 2021.
Hoofbeats outside my shop.
Startled, I opened the door to a horseman dismounting his lathered chestnut mare. Early thirties. Auburn hair tied back in a short queue, rider’s clothing late 18th century. “Twenty eight miles and a swim from Independence Hall,” he said by way of introduction.
“Thomas Jefferson.” I scarcely breathed the name.
“Yes,” he replied.
He unbuckled his saddle bag and presented scarred timber — burn marks and bullet holes. “Given to me by a friend. Will you accept the responsibility of fashioning an instrument from this?”
I weighed the piece with my hands, history immediately visceral. I understood. “Not an artifact, a reminder. Much like your Declaration.”
“Which you have let slip through your fingers.”
“Me, personally? I build guitars. What do you expect me to do?”
Ferocious intelligence assessed me: my words, my physical self. Unbearable scrutiny of this experienced swordsman, blade in hand. “I gifted you a set of Principles. At full risk to Life and Fortune we fought to give you self-responsibility. We have granted you the freedom and the mandate to speak Truth.”
He continued. “Instead, I find an Empire of Lies.”
“A central bank — the Federal Reserve — which you have allowed to finance military expansionism around the globe. Recently you have purchased the finest pandemic borrowed money can provide, from patented disease to patented cure, while you cower in your homes, begging unelected bureaucrats for permission to live.”
I countered heatedly. “But isn’t this for the greater good? Export democracy to spread peace? Accept restrictions to protect the weak…how can you possibly suggest we ignore Science?”
“In both instances, correlation is not causation,” Thomas Jefferson stated.
“What if you were to discover reality is actually completely opposite the narrative you have accepted?” He looked directly in my eyes. “I submit you prove current regulatory actions are not exacerbating your circumstance. If you wish to follow scientific principles, you will begin with Marek’s disease.”
I countered, the phrasing as if memorized. “Many alive today believe hypocrisy as a slave owner cancels your words and actions.”
“It would seem the Age of Enlightenment is ended,” he noted. “What exactly passes for rational thought in your era?”
“Twitter mobs,” a sonorous voice quietly interjected.
Powerfully built black man of similar age stepped forward, and my two visitors warmly embraced. Thomas Jefferson turned to me, “May I present Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: It seems unreal as I relate this experience. And yet…
“Would you gentlemen mind if I pick up the thread and weave several strands into this cloth?” Dr. King asked. “Spiritual aspects underlie the purely logical and biological.”
“Slavery is a universal human condition. As far back as known in recorded human history, slavery has been the default: on every continent, across every race and culture. Continuing in many places today, including slavery of debt. The exception proves the rule. This one singular individual,” he indicated Thomas Jefferson, “in boldly stating ‘All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’ established for the first time a framework recognizing the primacy of the Individual above the desires of the State.”
“There can be no Freedom without this principle.”
“Thomas, I deeply and sincerely thank you for this accomplishment you have wrought. You made my life, my work, possible.” Tears rolled down Dr. King’s face. Jefferson too was moved. I observed, fascinated.
“At the risk of being offensive, how do you reconcile your words — and works — with the treatment the both of you are said to have visited upon women: forced childbearing by slave Sally Hemings, marital infidelities against Coretta Scott?” I asked.
I held their gaze for a long minute of dead silence.
“A man is the product of his time,” Dr. King spoke slowly. “We cannot live outside historical context. In the words of God: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.‘”
Thomas Jefferson watched my reaction as I thought.
Then he asked, “Is it not more useful to value and build upon the greatest achievement of an individual?”
“I will accept your commission,” I said.