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November 15, 1939 – On this day, President Roosevelt took part in the ceremonies laying the cornerstone for the Jefferson Memorial. A project which had been in planning stages since 1926. On this day, FDR laid the cornerstone. Copies of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the 1939 TJMC report, the 10 volume ‘Writings of Thomas Jefferson‘ by Paul Leicester Ford, Jefferson’s “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” and one edition of each of the four prominent Washington, DC newspapers were place inside the cornerstone.
President Roosevelt: “Today we lay the cornerstone of a third great shrine—adding the name of Thomas Jefferson to the names of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
I have spoken of the national character of the District of Columbia itself, a capital which represents today the vitality, not of thirteen Atlantic seaboard States, but of forty-eight States which encompass the whole width of the continent.
This vitality envisages many-sided interests; and it is therefore fitting that among hundreds of monuments to famous Americans the three great shrines are dedicated to men of many-sided qualities.
Washington represented abilities recognized in every part of the young nation and, indeed, in every part of the civilized world of his day; for he was not only a great military leader, not only a great moderator in bringing together discordant elements in the formation of a constitutional nation, not only a great executive’ of that nation in its troublesome early years, but also a man of vision and accomplishments in private civil fields-talented engineer and surveyor, planner of highways and canals, patron of husbandry, friend of scientists and fellow of political thinkers.
Lincoln, too, was a many-sided man. Pioneer of the wilderness, counsel for the under-privileged, soldier in an Indian war, master of the English tongue, rallying point for a torn nation, emancipator—not of slaves alone, but of those of heavy heart everywhere—foe of malice, and teacher of good-will.
To those we add today another American of many parts-not Jefferson the founder of a party, but the Jefferson whose influence is felt today in many of the current activities of mankind.
When in the year of 1939 America speaks of its Bill of Rights, we think of the author of the Statute for religious liberty in Virginia.
When today Americans celebrate the anniversary of the Fourth of July 1776, our minds revert to Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence.
And when each spring we take part in commencement exercises of schools and universities, we go back to the days of Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia.
When we think of his older contemporary, Benjamin Franklin, as the experimenter in physics, we remember that Jefferson was an inventor of numerous small devices to make human life simpler and happier, and that he, too, experimented in the biology of live stock and of agriculture.
In the current era in the erection of noble buildings in all parts of the country we recognize the enormous influence of Jefferson in the American application of classic art to homes and public buildings—an influence that makes itself felt today in the selection of the design for this very shrine for which we are laying the cornerstone.
But it was in the field of political philosophy that Jefferson’s significance is transcendent.
He lived, as we live, in the midst of a struggle between rule by the self-chosen individual or the self-appointed few and rule by the franchise and approval of the many. He believed, as we do, that the average opinion of mankind is in the long run superior to the dictates of the self-chosen.”
Here is the complete address, as given this day in 1939 by President Franklin Roosevelt.