Requests for Information Related to Thomas Jefferson



> Do you have any
> idea on how to make a 8th grade movie on him? there are only two
> people.

The sketch below is something I began, but never finished.  It is the
"first draft" of a one-act play, which could be adapted for a movie.  It
needs a lot more work done on it, and it has some historical
inaccuracies, but it will give you some idea about a movie that could be
made about Jefferson, and it basically requires only two actors (one
black), though it does use some off-stage voices of John Adams, etc.
This is an outline of what I had planned:

The setting is the night before Jefferson died.  The dialog is between
Jefferson and his faithful black servant, Burwell.  Jefferson has a
conversation with Burwell in which he explains the founding principles of
American government.  He has Burwell help him get out of bed so he can
find the last letter he wrote to Roger C. Weightman, and he becomes so
excited when he reads the portion,

"May [our Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it
will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the
signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance
and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the
blessings and security of self-government... All eyes are opened, or
opening, to the rights of man."

that he stands up, and then collapses.  Burwell helps him into bed,  and
he declines rapidly, finally dying on July 4, 1826.

The sketch below contains the beginning and the ending, but there is a
lot of work that needs to be done on the middle.  Nevertheless, it will
give you some basic ideas that might be useful to you.

Good luck,

Eyler Coates



	A Play in One Act

Dramatis Personae

	Thomas Jefferson
	Burwell, his personal negro servant
	John Adams, off-stage voice (over PA system)
	Adams' Daughter, off-stage voice (over PA system)

Scene:  Late night, July 3, 1826.  Bedroom, with Thomas Jefferson lying
in bed, propped up on many pillows.  A single candle on a writing table
near the bed is the only light.


Thomas Jefferson (gasping/struggling):  Burwell!...  Burwell!

Burwell (off-stage):  Yassuh, Mr. Jefferson.  I'm a-coming.

TJ (weaker):  Burwell...

Burwell (closer):  I'm coming, Mr. Jefferson.  Don't you fret 	yourself.

[Enter Burwell]

	Here ah is, Mr. Jefferson.

TJ (always weakly):  Burwell... W-What day is it?

Burwell (earnestly):  Wah, it's a Monday, Mr. Jefferson.  Monday, July
the thurd.

TJ:  Thank you, Burwell...  Do you know what day tomorrow is, 	Burwell?

Burwell:  Wah, yassuh, Mr. Jefferson.  If today be July the 	thurd,
then tommorah is GOT to be July the foth.

TJ:  Yes, Burwell.  July the 4th.  But this is a special July
	the 4th, Burwell.

Burwell (bored):  Yassuh?

TJ:  Yes, tommorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the birth
	of this country.

Burwell (brightly):  Oh, yassuh!  That be fifty year ago when you all
	break off from ol' George the thurd.

TJ:  Yes, Burwell.  I prayed God that I would live to see this
	nation celebrate it's Fiftieth Anniversay.

Burwell:  Yassuh, Mr. Jefferson.  Well, you is sure to live to
	see that, suh, beings as it's jist a couple more hours
	till the foth be here.

TJ:  I don't know, Burwell.  I feel so weak, I'm not sure I'm
	going to make it.

Burwell:  Oh now, don't you go to talking like that, Mr. 	
Jefferson.  You gonna be getting over this spell and
	be up and around in no time.

TJ:  (Sigh.  Pause.)  I hope so, Burwell.  But stay with me, will you?

Burwell:  Oh, yassuh, Mr. Jefferson.  I ain't qwine to be leaving you.
I'll stay right here, jist as long as yo want me to.


TJ:   Fifty years is a 	long time, you know?

Burwell:  Yassuh.  Fifty years be a real long time.

TJ:  Well, not really a long time as nations go.  But long enough to
	give evidence that our experiment in government is a

Burwell:  Yassuh.  It been through some rough spots, but it
	still be up and a-runnin'.

TJ:  It's going to be a great nation someday, Burwell.

Burwell:  Yassuh?

TJ:  It has many defects, Burwell.  But the people in time will set it to
rights.  Somethings are just not ripe for being done yet.

Burwell:  Yassuh.

TJ:  Forcing your ancestors to come to this country and to be held in
bondage is one of those defects.  But your people WILL be free, Burwell.
 As sure as there is a God in Heaven, your people will be free.

Burwell:  How will that be comin' about, Mr. Jefferson?

TJ:  (sigh)  I don't know exactly, Burwell.  But nothing is more
certainly written in the book of fate.  No man was created to be a slave.
 It is against nature for any man to be a slave.

Burwell:  Yessuh?

TJ:  And I would turn you and every one of your people free, if I could.

Burwell:  Yassuh, Mr. Jefferson.  But you ain't gonna turn ol' Burwell
out, is you?  I mean, how would Ah get by, Mr. Jefferson?  They ain't
nobody gonna take care o' ol' Burwell.  Ah be too old ta work in th'
fields, and ain't nobody gonna give ol' Burwell a job if he ain't able ta
work.  What'd I do, Mr. Jefferson? (almost to tears)  Ol' Burwell
wouldn't have nuttin' to eat and no place to stay an' no way o' gettin'

TJ:  (sigh) Yes, I know, Burwell.  That's what makes it all so
abominable.   You're as much trapped by the system as I am.

Burwell:  How you be trapped, Mr. Jefferson?

TJ:  Well.... you know, I'm sure, how deeply in debt I am.

Burwell:  Oh yessuh.  When Miz Jefferson's father done died, he done left
you all with all KINDS of debt.  Yessuh, Ah done know about that.

TJ:  And you know that, under the laws of this State, you and your people
are considered as property, just like that table or a horse or a piece of

Burwell:  Yessuh.  I knows dey done figure black folk what ain't freed be
like dat.

TJ:  Well, all those people who hold my debt, they hold what is like a
lien on all my property.

Burwell:  Dey be leanin' on your property, Mr. Jefferson?

TJ:  You could say that.  Even right now, they could seize all my
property in satisfaction of my debts.

Burwell:  Dey wouldn't do that to you, would they, Mr. Jefferson?

TJ:  No.  Not likely.  Not until I die.  But until then, if I were to
free my black slaves, well... that would be like giving away property
that was under mortgage.

Burwell:  Yassuh.  You mean it be like iffen you owns a hoss what ain't
paid for, an' then you gives that hoss away, an' the man what you owes
the money on the hoss - well then he be out his money and the hoss both.

TJ:  Yes, that's what it's like, Burwell.  And that is the state of
society that we are in - that a man, a human being created by God, should
be viewed and sometimes treated like a horse, a beast of burden.  But
that is the present condition of our society, and there just isn't
anything I can do about it.  If we cast away the law and order of
society, then we have only less than we have now.

Burwell:  Well... you needn't ta worry about it none, Mr. Jefferson.
Because ol' Burwell - he ain't wantin' to go nowhere no how.

TJ:  Yes.  But there are others.  Young black men and women who have the
natural right to liberty... to live their lives and to find their
happiness, without another man OWNING them, for God's sake!  There are
children born in slavery who have the right to grow up and make a life
for themselves just like any other child.

Burwell: Yassuh.  Ah sees what you mean, suh.  But folks 'll unerstand,
Mr. Jefferson.  They ain't a gonna blame you for somthin' you can't do
nuttin' about no  how.

TJ:  Ah, but they will, Burwell.  Anything they can find to criticize,
you can be sure they'll do it.  That is the way it has been all my life,
and I have no doubt it will continue like that after I'm gone.  The
newspapers have always been viciously critical. Amd "Were I to undertake
to answer the calumnies of the newspapers, it would be more than all my
own time and that of twenty aids could effect.  For while I should be
answering one, twenty new ones would be invented."

Burwell:  Yassuh.  Public life be hard on a man.

TJ:  But I have worked all my life to stop this abominable slave trade,
only to be turned down every time.  "I had always hoped that the younger
generation receiving their early impressions after the flame of liberty
had been kindled in every breast and had become as it were the vital
spirit of every American, that the generous temperament of youth
analogous to the motion of their blood and above the suggestions of
avarice would have sympathized with oppression wherever found and proved
their love of liberty beyond their own share of it.  But my intercourse
with them... has not been sufficient to ascertain that they had made
towards this point the progress I had hoped.  I have considered the
general silence which prevails on this subject as indicating an apathy
unfavorable to every hope."


Burwell:  Oh, Yassuh!  Dat Mr. Adams wuz really somthin'.  I remembers
when you all's is got to talking about religun.  Ooo-eee!  That got Mr.
Adams a-going.  I can almost heah him now....

John Adams (PA system) (very sternly):
Tom, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with
human passions unbridled by morality and religion...Our Constitution was
made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to
the government of any other."

Burwell:  And Miz Adams - she get's to cluckin' like a frighten'd turkey
when she get's to goin'.


TJ (arousing, desperate):  Is it the fourth, Burwell?

Burwell(brightly):  It be July the foth, Mr. Jefferson.  It be the 	
Fiftee-eth Anniversaty.

TJ (gasping):  Oh Thank God!  Thank God!  (Falls back, 	collapsing.)

Burwell (tearfully. on his knees next to bed):  Don't you fret 	none, Mr.
Jefferson. You's gonna be gettin' well, suh.

TJ (very weakly):  Thank God...  Nunc dimittis Domine...  Nunc 	dimittis
Domine...  (Keeps repeating phrase throughout)

Burwell:  Wat you say, suh?  Ah don't understand, suh.
	Mr. Jefferson, suh?

TJ:  ....Nunc dimittis Domine...  (last gasp.  Remains 		perfectly

Burwell (tearfully):  Oh, Mr. Jefferson!  Mr. Jefferson!
	(sobbing) He done gone and lef us!

(Both TJ and Burwell remain frozen.  Candle goes out.  Voices over PA

Daughter: Father?  Father?  Are you alright?

John:  I'm sinking, ------!  I don't think I'm going to make 	it...
But thank God... Thank God, ------....  Thomas 	Jefferson ... still ....

(Curtain falls.)

			***The End****


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