Oil on canvas; 39 in. x 31 1/4 in. (991 mm x 794 mm). National Portrait Gallery, London, England.
George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, 1756—59
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.