Revisiting the Founding Era

grantees facebook 1200x630JMRL has been awarded a Revisiting the Founding Era Grant to implement public programming and community conversations that explore America’s founding and its enduring themes. As part of the grant, JMRL received $1,000 to help implement programs, and additional digital resources, training, and support from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the American Library Association. These resources will allow JMRL to launch a two-program series on the Founding Era. And local residents are invited to attend the following two free events:

Revisiting the Founding Era Panel on Saturday February 9, 2019, at 2 – 3:30PM
Clay Hansen, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, will join UVa’s Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History, Alan Shaw Taylor, to talk about the Constitution writing process and founders’ intent through the lens of current events in Charlottesville and across the nation. The discussion will be moderated by local librarian and local historian Miranda Burnett at the Northside Library.

Constitution Community Discussion on Sunday 24, 2019, at 2 – 3:30PM 
Join your neighbors for a community discussion event reflecting on current events through a historical lens with a focus on the founding fathers. Discussion facilitator Dr. Michael Dickens will lead this event at the Central Library.

Revisiting the Founding Era is a three-year national initiative of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, presented in partnership with the American Library Association and the National Constitution Center, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant provided 100 public libraries across the country the opportunity to use historical documents to spark public conversations about the Founding Era’s enduring ideas and themes.

“Jefferson’s advice on how to win friends and influence people did not have much appeal for a pugnacious John Adams.”

friendsdividedIt was an interesting and thoughtful discussion when the Brown Baggers met on Thursday, January 17 to discuss Gordon S. Wood’s book Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Friends Divided delves into the complicated friendship of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The dual biography examines the decades-long relationship between these two men who came from different upbringings and had contrasting personalities and political views. The book explores the falling out and then the reconciliation of the frenemies and how that helped shape our new nation.

Even though the book was lengthy, readers enjoyed learning about the two presidents. Some readers especially enjoyed the how the characters were described. More than one person mentioned that they learned a lot more about John Adams after reading the book- especially since many Brown Baggers grew up in Virginia and already knew the history and legacy of Thomas Jefferson.

Readers also discussed Abigail Adams and how she seemed to be ahead of her time, mainly by championing women’s rights and advising her husband, something that Martha Jefferson did not do. Some would have liked to have read more about the numerous letters written between Abigail and John Adams.

Most Brown Baggers liked Wood’s writing style, but felt that he became a bit repetitive, especially toward the end of the book, and readers would have appreciated a little more editing. Others said that the book was a little tedious to read, but upon reflection, benefited from reading about the similarities and differences between the men.

Brown Baggers also discussed how different Adams and Jefferson were politically- Adams favored a strong central government, while Jefferson was in favor of robust state rights. At the end of the discussion, one member wondered: how would Jefferson and Adams feel about today’s government, especially with the shutdown?

Books and Authors Mentioned
America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray
John Adams by David McCullough
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams, Margaret A. Hogan, editor (available at UVa)

Reviews, Articles, and Other Mentions
Interview with Gordon Wood on “Good Will Hunting”
Poggio A Caiano, Charlottesville’s Sister City
Kirkus Review
History of Currency in America
Adams Family Papers– includes full color digital images of the manuscripts and letters

The Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, February 21 at noon to discuss Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

Constitution Week


Constitution Week is September 17-23. This is an annual celebration to commemorate the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. The week was originally adopted by the American Congress of the Confederation on September 17, 1787 and was started by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Here are some fun facts about our Constitution:

  • Two of our “founding fathers” did not sign the Constitution- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Jefferson was in France at the time, representing the U.S., and Adams was doing the same over in the UK.
  • There are multiple spelling errors in the Constitution, but “Pensylvania” stands out because it is directly above the signers’ names.


  • George Washington and James Madison were the only presidents who signed the Constitution.
  • 42 delegates attended most of the meetings, but only 39 signed the Constitution. George Mason, Edmund Randolph, and Elbridge Gerry (of Massachusetts) did not sign, partly because the bill of rights was not yet included.
  • The U.S. Constitution is the shortest and oldest governing document of any nation. It contains only 7 articles and 27 amendments. The first 10 amendments are the “Bill of Rights.”
  • More than 11,000 amendments have been introduced to Congress, but only 27 have received the necessary approval from the states to become amendments.
  • James Madison was responsible for proposing the resolution to create the Cabinet positions within the Executive Branch and 12 amendments to the Constitution.