Oil on linen; 28 x 23 1/2 in. ( 71.1 x 59.7 cm ). New-York Historical Society, New York, NY.
Thomas Jefferson, 1805
I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living; that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. This, with its echo of the Declaration (
self-evident) was Jefferson at his most terse. Except for the phrase
in usufruct — a legalism meaning the right to use property for a certain time — Jefferson’s words could be chiseled in stone, or shouted on the hustings.