"The Trial of Thomas Jefferson"
- Cicada, July/August 2003
It was a cold autumn afternoon, five years later, when Cassie stormed into the kitchen. "Thomas Jefferson? Thomas Jefferson? You have got to be kidding me!"
Sol leaned back in his chair and studied his wife cooly. "The man owned slaves, Cassie. Those poor people were treated like animals. If that's not criminal, I don't know what is."
"He lived three hundred years ago. Lots of people owned slaves back then."
"So lots of people were doing it. That doesn't make it right. A man of his intelligence and character should have known better. The slave trade was an affort to human dignity. We can't just let it pass."
"But Thomas Jefferson was a great man."
"Great in some ways," Sol conceded. "Deeply flawed in others."
"We're all deeply flawed," Cassie said.
In the future, a U.N. commission is established to yank notorious criminals
out of the past and try them for their crimes. Due to the mechanics of time travel,
history cannot be changed, but at least justice can be done. The commission works
its way through the worst of the worst, but soon begins targeting more controversial
choices--like Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder. And that's only the beginning.
This story is free to read online.
Cicada is a fiction magazine for teenagers and young adults from the publishers of
Cricket. This issue was edited by Marianne Carus, Deborah Vetter, and Tracy C. Shoenle.
David's story features two terrific illustrations by artist Nathan Hale. (Used with permission.)
"I think that 'The Trial of Thomas Jefferson' is the most
terrifying story I've ever read in my life (and I read a lot) ...
[It] made me cry ... I just wanted to say that any publication
that has that effect on people (or me, anyhow) is pretty awesome.
Keep up the good work!"
- Anna Wieser, letters to the editor, Cicada January/February 2004
"Then there is that one piece of work that completely engulfs me
in powerful emotions and subsequent deep thoughts ... in
July/August 2003 it was 'The Trial of Thomas Jefferson' by David
Barr Kirtley (possibly the best short story I've ever read)."
- Emily Rutherford, letters to the editor, Cicada May/June 2004