by Sue B. Walker


Humboldt claimed that politics and nature belonged together.

“ Well, if I going to be drowned, if I’m going to drown, then let me be drunk.”   Chapter 8 of Invention begins with this Wulfian line:  “It was as if the sea were about to swallow them.”  It was May 1904 and Humboldt, Bombpland and Montúfar and the servant José were sailing from Cuba to the east coast of the United States.

Humboldt wanted to meet the President of the United States – Thomas Jefferson.

Some things Jefferson has said have lasting significance:  “I cannot live without books.”  Me either Tom.  And: “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”  Also Honest is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.”

But whoa Nelly, there is much to do about the relationship of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemmings.  It is said that he was the father of six of her children – but there’s a lot of back-and-forthing about the veracity of that claim.  If you want the scuttlebutt about that, then see this:  At any rate, Jefferson freed six of Sally’s children.  Jefferson’s Federalist opponents loved fanning the flames of infidelity.  So, what else is new Horatio that hasn’t been dreamt of in our philosophy?   And what about the validity of DNA.  That’s another chapter and verse, right?  Wulf didn’t truck with the Jefferson scandal – and Jefferson kept his mouth shut.

Humboldt and Thomas Jefferson differed on their views of slavery.  Humboldt thought that slavery and colonialism were the same, interwoven with man’s relations in nature and the exploitation of natural resources. He believed slavery was unnatural and that it was unjust, bad, and without validity. He claimed that there were no superior or inferior races. Nature was a republic of freedom. The relationship between Thomas Jefferson and slavery was a complex one in that Jefferson worked to gradually end the practice of slavery while himself owning many African-American slaves throughout his adult life.

And today, the world wonders if the Pres did or did not – with Stormy Daniels?   What’s the latest weather report – stormy weather?

What Wulf did say is that Humboldt had determine surrounded by Enlightenment thinkers – and it is they who influenced his life – a belief in liberty, equality, tolerance, and the importance of education.  The French Revolution ( 1789)  — just before Tom’s 20th birthday that determined his political views.

SHALL WE SUP: A Thomas Jefferson dinner menu: Four cheese mac & cheese, Broiled salmon steaks, Blanched peas with lettuce, chicken with onions, calvados and cream, fingerling potatoes, apple pie and ice-cream. He gave presidential dinners – seating guests at a Round Table to avoid issues of hierarchy. The President dined well and entertained lavishly.  He hated laziness and claimed that “ennui was the most dangerous poison of life.”

James Madison, the Secretary of State under Jefferson, had a special dinner for Humboldt. His wife Dolly was charmed and said the ladies were all in love with him.  Humboldt was 34 at this time.

Jefferson and I suffer the same malady – that of Bibliomanie – buying and studying books.  My husband told me I must think Amazon is a lending library.

Politically, Jeffers believed that the central government should have as little power as possible. This, in contrast, to George Washington.

PROMPT:  Write an acrostic.  Spell the name HUMBOLDT down the left side of your page – or Bonplandt, or Wulf – and fill in the lines.

I just did it – with Humboldt – and my computer ate it.  Can’t go back and recreate what I wrote; it’s getting on for dinner – time to be in the kitchen.  You try it.  Let me know how it goes.