John Hoppner (1758—1810)

by John Hoppner (1758—1810)

Oil on canvas; 30 1/8 x 24 7/8 in. (76.5 x 63.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.

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.

Richard Brookhiser
James Madison (2011)