The Fourth of July:

July 4, 1776 - entry in Jefferson's "Memorandum Book":

"Pd. Sparhawk for a thermometer 3/15"

Somehow I've always loved that - that on the day Congress approves the revised version of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson heads into town to buy a thermometer.

And regarding co-blogger Kenneth Anderson's comments on Jefferson's violin-playing musical tastes: one of the great encounters in history took place in 1760 when the 17 year-old Jefferson is heading off to college (William and Mary, in Williamsburg); along the way (several days journey in those days), he stops off at Nathaniel Dandridge's plantation in Hanover County for 4 or 5 days, and who should be there but Patrick Henry (then 23). Henry, too, played the violin, and the two of them, apparently, spent hours each day playing together. I've always loved that picture in my head, too -- Jefferson and Henry, fiddling away together.

And it's also nice that Jefferson, like just about every amateur musician around, grossly exaggerated the amount of time he epent practicing, writing to his son-in-law late in life that he practiced three hours a day (!). [If you're interested in Jefferson-the-Musician, I can recommend Helen Cripe's "Jefferson and Music" (UVA Press 1974) and Sandor Salgo, "Thomas Jefferson: Musician and Violinist" (TJ Foundation 2000).]

"What so hard, so stubborn, or so fierce, But music for the time will change its nature? The man who has not music in his soul, Or is not touch'd with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, strategems, and spoils . . . Let no such man be trusted."

From Jefferson's "Commonplace Book" (original quotation from The Merchant of Venice, Act V)