Objects & Places from American Sphinx

Joseph Ellis
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The Declaration of Independence

Jefferson is selected to pen this document because he is a little-known figure at the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He writes it in just a few days, in his room, and his authorship is not widely known until his first term as president, which began in 1801.

A Summary View of the Rights of British America

This document is one of two documents written by Jefferson prior to the Declaration. This document is penned and published before Jefferson was sent to Philadelphia, so, among a select few, his reputation as a writer preceded him.


This place is Jefferson's beloved retreat and masterwork and represents idyllic domestic bliss to Jefferson. Tragically, Jefferson's lavish spending resulted in enormous debts, which required that this place and its contents be auctioned after his death.


Jefferson is one of three American ambassadors here from 1784 to 1789, along with...

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