Amazing articles on just about every subject...




American Statesman:
 George Washington

 Benjamin Franklin

 Samuel Adams

 John Adams

 Patrick Henry

 Thomas Jefferson

 James Madison

 Alexander Hamilton

 James Monroe

 Andrew Jackson

 Read More Articles About: American Statesman

Thomas Jefferson

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

1743—1826

THE IDEAL DEMOCRAT

Simultaneously with the adoption of the Constitution of the United States there sprang into existence a political organization known as the Democratic party, which is to-day one of two leading factors in the government of the Nation, and now possibly ranks as the oldest association of its kind in the world. That party, without question, looks, and through all these years has looked, upon Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, as its founder. But one of his followers, Andrew Jackson, has seemed to acquire sufficient democratic inspiration to appear as a full and accepted apostle, and to receive and enjoy the unstinted veneration of those lovers of liberty who call themselves Democrats. We must therefore prepare ourselves to consider the career of a most admirable man, one of the greatest and most successful political teachers the world has seen.

Thomas Jefferson was born April 13, 1743, on the estate where he lived and died. It was in the end called Monticello, and lies on the waters of the Roanoke. His father, Peter, was an original settler. His mother, who was Jane Randolph, traced her "pedigree far back in England and Scotland, to which," says the great Democrat, "let everyone ascribe the faith and merit he chooses."* The son went to English school at five, and to Greek, Latin, and French at nine. His father died when he was fourteen, bequeathing to Thomas Jefferson the Roanoke River estate. After this event the son went to study with the Rev. Mr. Maury, a correct classical scholar, the same person who was so lamentably the victim of Patrick Henry's first public burst of eloquence. After two years of preparation with Mr. Maury the pupil entered William and Mary College, where he studied for two years. "It was my great good fortune, and what probably fixed the destinies of my life," says Jefferson, "that Dr. William Small, of Scot-land, was then Professor of Mathematics, a man pro-found in most of the useful branches of science, with a happy talent of communication, correct and gentlemanly manners, and an enlarged and liberal mind. He, most happily for me,. became soon attached to me, and made me his daily companion when not engaged in the school; and from his conversation I got my first views of the expansion of science, and of the system of things in which we are placed." Before Dr. Small left for Scot-land, "he filled up the measure of his goodness to me by procuring for me, from his most intimate friend, George Wythe, a reception as a student of law, under his direction, and introduced me to the acquaintance and familiar table of Governor Fauquier, the ablest man who had ever filled that office." Mr. Wythe remained "an affectionate friend and mentor" through life, and the fact that the young man made a welcome fourth in such a trio of friends reveals the fine quality even of his early intellect. During his second collegiate year, he studied fifteen hours a day, and for his only exercise ran at twilight a mile out of the city and back again. Thomas Jefferson was a believer, from the beginning, in a rigid mental drill. Here is a day's programme of study, drawn up and recommended by him: Before 8 a. m., physical studies; 8 to 12, law; 12 to I, politics; afternoon, history; "dark to bed-time," literature, oratory, etc.

His father's death left him in the position of an independent country gentleman, with an income of $2,000 a year. At the time of his admission to the bar, he was described by his contemporaries as 6 feet 2 inches in height, slim without attenuation, erect as an arrow, with angular features, a very ruddy complexion, an extremely delicate skin, full, deep-set hazel eyes and sandy hair, an expert violinist, a good dancer, a dashing rider, and proficient in all manly exercises. He was, and continued through life, frank, earnest, cordial, and sympathetic in his manner, full of confidence in men, and sanguine in his views of life.

When Governor Fauquier retired and Governor Boutetourt arrived, a dissolution of the Virginian Assembly followed by custom, and Thomas Jefferson was elected (in 1769) as a member of the House of Bur-gesses, where he sat by re-election until the Revolution. In his Autobiography (written at 77) he gives us the best and briefest picture extant of the condition of Government in the colony: "I made one effort in that body (the House) for the permission of the emancipation of slaves, which was rejected; and, indeed, during the regal Government, nothing liberal could expect success. Our minds were circumscribed within narrow limits, by an habitual belief that it was our duty to be subordinate to the mother-country in all matters of government; to direct all our labors in subservience to her interests, and even to observe a bigoted intolerance for all religions but hers. The difficulties with our Representatives were of habit and despair, not of reflection and conviction. Experience soon proved that they could bring their minds to rights on the first summons of their attention. But the King's Council [at Williamsburg], which acted as another House of the Legislature, held their places at will, and were in most humble obedience to that will. The Governor, too, who had a negative on our laws, held by the same tenure, and with still greater devotedness to it; and, last of all, the Royal negative closed the last door to every hope of amelioration."

"On the 1st of January, 1772, I was married to Martha Skelton, widow of Bathurst Skelton," then twenty-three years old. She very soon brought to her husband a patrimony equal to his own, which "consequently doubled the ease of our circumstances."

His legal practice was surprisingly large. In the first year he had sixty-eight cases in the General Court; in the next, 115; in the third year, 198. Mr. Randall, his earliest biographer, says he was a counselor rather than an advocate. He swelled his farm by purchases to 5,000 acres, owned fifty-two slaves, and with his wife's income, could reckon $4,000 more a year, or $7,000 in all. Notwithstanding his success as an attorney, a writer, a legislator, and a social leader, he still looked upon his farm as the chief place of interest. He had a deep-seated fear of cities and dense populations. In agriculture he saw the salvation and independence of man. When the yellow fever came, he found this consolation : "The yellow fever will discourage the growth of great cities in our Nation, and I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of man." "The greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture, especially a bread-grain; next in value to bread is oil."

"Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue." "Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age or nation has furnished an example." "Generally speaking, the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any state to that of the husbandman is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good enough barometer whereby to measure the degree of its corruption." He prepared a table, enumerating thirty-seven esculents, and showing the earliest date of the appearance of each one of them in the Washington market in each of eight successive years.

At Williamsburg, Patrick Henry was the acknowledged leader of the young men, and when Boston port was sealed (1774) the young Virginians thought a day of fasting and prayer would arouse and alarm the more lethargic of their fellows to a sense of the British despot-ism. Jefferson thus describes their proceeding : "No example of such a solemnity had existed since the days of our distresses in the war of 1755, since which a new generation had grown up. With the help, therefore, of Rushworth [a Parliamentary historian], whom we rummaged over for the revolutionary precedents and forms of the Puritans of that day, preserved by him, we cooked up a resolution, somewhat modernizing their phrases, for appointing the 1st day of June, on which the port bill was to commence, for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, to implore Heaven to avert from us the evils of civil war, to inspire us with firmness in support of our rights, and to turn the hearts of the King and Parliament to moderation and justice. To give greater emphasis to our proposition, we agreed to wait the next morning on Mr. Nicholas, whose grave and religious character was more in unison with the tone of our resolution, and to solicit him to move it." All was brought about, exactly as planned. The group next joined the Committee of Correspondence with Boston, and a (revolutionary) Convention of Virginia was called for August 1, 1774. Jefferson prepared a draft of instructions which he hoped should be given to the delegates whom this convention would send to the Continental Congress, but, falling ill, sent a copy to Patrick Henry, which he pocketed; another copy went to Peyton Randolph, who showed it to the members; they printed it in pamphlet form under the title of "A Summary View of the Rights of British America." It was sent to England, and there became the text-book of the Opposition to the Government. The name of Jefferson was placed on the secret rolls of proscription, for the document was practically another statement of the wrongs catalogued two years later in the Declaration of Independence.

In June, 1775, the Burgesses sent Jefferson to Congress to take the place vacated by Peyton Randolph. The delegate carried with him his own draft of the reply of Virginia to Lord North's "conciliatory proposition." There had been some slight amendments—"throwing a dash of water on it here and there, enfeebling it somewhat. It referred the whole matter to Congress, whitherward Jefferson now rode. He was hailed as the author of the "Summary View," and a most accomplished writer, and the Massachusetts members, being in urgent need of military aid, neglected no opportunity to advance the views of the Radical wing of the Virginians. The Conservatives were ably led by Dickinson, on whom the echoes of Bunker Hill fell with no effect other than to increase his desire for peace on any terms. Congress required a manifesto, and Jefferson, desiring to draw Dickinson along with him, politely submitted his draft to the conciliatory member, asking him to amend it sufficiently to let it meet his indorsement. Dickinson wrote the matter anew, using but a little of Jefferson's language. The misfortune befalling the patient labors of Jefferson was made less harsh in its effect on the author by the general tendency to humor Dickinson, whose views at the same time were widely deplored as stultifying the Congress. Jefferson was not a leader in debate, therefore the hard work of the thoughtful Radicals in Congress fell on John Adams. Jefferson returned to Virginia; came again in the autumn and went. In the Virginia convention, where Patrick Henry pushed the cause of independence rapidly forward, Jefferson was in highest repute, and when next, in May, 1776, he traveled to Philadelphia, he carried instructions that the Virginia delegates should move that Congress declare "the United Colonies free and independent States." But now that events were certain to bring war, the Radicals magnanimously extended the time during which the slower revolutionists might alienate themselves from the camp of the Tories, and adjourned the debate until July I. In the meantime two highly-important committees were formed—one to prepare a Declaration, the other to draw up articles of Confederation. The work of the second committee was done over again in 1789. The perfect labors of the first committee have been the theme of Freedom's poets from that time on.

The literary history of the Declaration of Independence is meager. The accounts of both Jefferson and John Adams are brief; Dr. Franklin said nothing about it. The other two committeemen, Sherman and Livingston, did not touch it. Nevertheless, although Thomas Jefferson was twice President of the United States, father of Democracy in America, and withal a moral teacher of politics without equal in the world, he stands before the people, from the time they enter school to old age, as the author of the Declaration of Independence. It has been considered the privilege of every community in America, when assembled on the 4th of July, to read in full the terms of this instrument, and its signature by the Patriot Fathers is indorsed as the noblest act in the political annals of man. There can be no error, on this account, in reciting all that is known touching the composition of the original document.

On June I I, Congress balloted for a committee of five, and Jefferson led the poll, with Adams and Frank-lin next in order. Jefferson and Adams each politely asked the other to write the manifesto, but it was tacitly understood that the honor by right belonged to Virginia, and to the author of the "Summary Statement," whose terms were now satisfactory to a majority of the colonies. The phrases employed by Jefferson were purposely chosen from the accepted sayings of the times, and nothing could have given better evidence of the statesman's genius. Many of the ideas and some of the terms figure in Rousseau's "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men," a thesis that had long created discussion in France and Switzerland. In his Autobiography, beyond submitting the facsimile of the original draft, Mr. Jefferson vouchsafes no history of his labor. He says : The committee "desired me to do it. It was accordingly done, and being approved by them, I reported it to the House on Friday, the 28th of June, when it was read and ordered to lie on the table." He says elsewhere that he submitted the draft separately to Dr. Franklin and John Adams, each of whom suggested a few alterations, which were interlined in their own hands. The committee adopted this draft, whereafter Jefferson drew off a fair copy for Congress.

The original instrument is written in a very fine hand on four foolscap sheets of writing-paper, two of which have an inch of blank space at the left, and two an inch at the right. In the blank space Mr. Jefferson calls attention to five changes by Dr. Franklin, usually making a still more radical statement, and to only a couple by Mr. Adams, who changed "his present Majesty" into "the present King of Great Britain." John Adams says he was delighted with the document when he heard Jefferson read it, and his pen, usually so censorious, in the Declaration proves the sincerity of his words. The changes made by the Congress were more numerous. Mr. Dickinson was still an obstacle of no mean power, and he set out to maim the Declaration as he had destroyed the force of Jefferson's manifesto the year before. "Passages," says Jefferson, "which conveyed censure on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offense. The clause, too, repro-bating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our northern brethren, also, I believe, felt a little tender under those censures; for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others." It was the power of John Adams in debate that saved the Declaration from total destruction. Its phraseology was derided as magniloquent, and as Dr. Franklin, who sat beside Jefferson in these trying hours, saw him "writhing a little under the acrimonious criticisms on some of its parts," he told him a story "by way of comfort." "The debates," says Jefferson, "having taken up the greater parts of the 2d, 3d, and 4th days of July, were, on the evening of the last, closed; the Declaration was reported by committee, agreed to by the House, and signed by every member present except Mr. Dickinson." Be it said to the honor of the constituents of this man, that he misrepresented them, and was not allowed to return to Congress. The document came away, with its first two sheets almost unscathed. In the last sheets were considerable changes, mollifying to Scotch, Hessian, English, and ecclesiastical interests. Nearly all of these conservative emendations were made with a view of obtaining the only signature which the instrument could not command and did not receive.

The Declaration of Independence, as it stands, is practically the handiwork of Thomas Jefferson. As a whole, it has pleased the world so well that uprising nations have accepted its terms as exemplary, and man-kind have extolled it as a new and needed charter in the progress of Freedom. Between the short, portentous, and antithetical sentences of Patrick Henry, and the extended but mellifluous phrases of the early parts of the Declaration, may be observed the essential differences between the strictly literary and the strictly rhetorical styles. Thomas Jefferson was a writer and not a debater, by reason of the very differences which are notable in this comparison. From the unequivocal delight given by the labors of both these patriots to their fellows, it may be inferred that sentences somewhat long befit the successful writer, while the deliverances of the orator must be sententious and abrupt.

Satisfied with the honor that had come to him in Congress, and feeling that the new laws of Virginia needed his formative care, Mr. Jefferson resigned his seat at Philadelphia, and took a laboring oar at Williamsburg in October, 1776. There he drew the bill for courts of justice, which passed into law. He next passed a bill breaking down the Virginia entail, whereby an aristocracy had been long established, forming a patrician order from whose ranks the State Senate had been recruited. This act brought down on its author the maledictions of all the wealthy families, some of whose descendants, it is said, speak ill of Jefferson to this day. He suspended the importation of slaves. After the severest contest in which he ever engaged, he broke down the Established Church, and compelled it to rely for funds on the munificence of its own devotees. He obtained the removal of the State Capital to a safer place. He compelled the State to define the rights of citizens, and to assert the natural right of expatriation, a matter which our Nation was a century in establishing as acknowledged law abroad, where American citizen-ship by naturalization was not accounted as changing the European status of a subject.

In the codification of the new laws, the labor fell on three committeemen. Mr. Jefferson's share was the common law and the statutes to the fourth year of James I. The work engrossed the extra time of three years. When Mr. Pendleton asked Mr. Jefferson to at least let the elder heir have a double share of the inheritance, Jefferson said he would willingly agree when it could be shown that the elder heir had done double work or could eat twice as much. Capital punishment except for murder and treason, was abolished, and the lex talionis (eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth) was mitigated, yet not to the total extent that he desired.

We may read the following summary passage from Jefferson's Autobiography with profit and instruction : "I considered four of these bills, passed or reported, as forming a system by which every fiber would be eradicated of ancient or future aristocracy, and a foundation laid for a government truly republican. The repeal of the laws of entail would prevent the accumulation and perpetuation of wealth in select families, and preserve the soil of the country from being daily more and more absorbed in mortmain. The abolition of primogeniture and equal partition of inheritances, removed the feudal and unnatural distinctions which made one member of every family rich and all the rest poor, substituting equal partition, the best of all agrarian laws. The restoration of the rights of conscience relieved the people from taxation for the support of a religion not theirs; for the Establishment was truly of the religion of the rich, the dissenting sects being entirely composed of the less wealthy people, and these by the bill for a general education, would be qualified to understand their rights, to maintain them, and to exercise with intelligence their parts in self-government. And all this would be effected without the violation of a single natural right of any one individual citizen."

Mr. Jefferson's plan for the abolition, extinction, and cure of the results of slavery showed the hopeful character of his temperament, and was as follows : All negroes born of slave parents after the passage of the act were to be free, but to a certain age were to remain with their parents, and were "then to be brought up at the public expense to tillage, arts, or sciences, according to their geniuses, till the females should be eighteen and the males twenty-one years of age, when they should be colonized to such place as the circumstances of the time should render most proper, sending them out with arms, implements of household, and of the handicraft arts, seeds, pairs of the useful domestic animals," etc. The United States then "to declare them a free and independent people, and to extend to them our alliance and protection, till they have acquired strength; and to send vessels at the same time to other parts of the world for an equal number of white inhabitants, to induce whom to migrate hither proper encouragements were to be proposed." If this were not done, he thought the color question would bring about events in considering which "human nature must shudder." Despite his earnest efforts, nothing was done, and the first chapter of subsequent history of the color question cost our Nation a million lives and billions of dollars.

In January, 1779, Patrick Henry had reached the limit of his constitutional eligibility as Governor, and Mr. Jefferson was compelled to take his place, with the legacy of an invasion by the British. Virginia had been stripped to help the other colonies. Nothing was left for defense, and the country was easily penetrated by means of its numerous waterways. Tarleton, the English raider, reached Monticello, but did not capture the Governor. Cornwallis, advancing on another farm of the Governor, took all his provender, 150 cattle, sheep, and hogs, cut the throats of his colts, burned his fences, destroyed his crops, and marched off thirty slaves to other masters. Governor Jefferson went out of office with Virginia under the heel of the marauding British, and was in bitter humor. His wife, also, was seriously ill. He would not return to the Legislature, and caused his admirers, Madison and Monroe, serious misgivings. The death of his wife was a blow from which he was slow to recover, and few husbands have exhibited a sense of desolation so poignant. His oldest daughter has left an account of the many weeks in which his grief was so intense that it could not be revealed to the eyes of the world. He stayed alone in his room for three weeks, and long afterward walked the paths of the mountain alone. He promised his dying wife never to take another help-meet, and thenceforth Martha, the daughter aforementioned, took her mother's place at the head of the household. While immersed in this grief he was thrice appointed to go to Europe as Commissioner, but declined. In June, 1783, however, he felt it necessary to reenter public life, and carried, as delegate from Virginia, the deed of that colony, presenting all her western lands to the United States. He signed the treaty of independence. He prevented the adoption of the money unit of Morris, which was only the 1-1440 of a dollar, and made an $80 horse worth 115,200 units. Among the names proposed by him for the divisions of the Northwest were Michigania, Metropotamia, Illinoia, Saratoga, and Washington.

In May, 1784, he was a fourth time appointed to a foreign mission, and this time he accepted, and sailed with his daughter Martha, whom he placed in a convent school in France. He endeavored to keep a diplomatic establishment at Paris that should betoken the importance of his country, but his salary of $9,000 a year and his own private means were swallowed up without good results. He dislocated his wrist early in 1786, and was recommended to go to Aix, in Provence, and try the mineral waters. "I proceeded up the Seine, through Champagne and Burgundy, and down the Rhone through the Beaujolais by Lyons, Avignon, Nismes, to Aix; where, finding on trial no benefit from the waters, I concluded to visit the rice country of Piedmont, to see if anything might be learned there, to benefit the rivalship of our Carolina rice with that, and thence to make a tour of the seaport towns of France, along its southern and western coast, to inform myself if anything could be done to favor our commerce with them. From Aix, therefore, I took my route to Marseilles, Toulon, Hieres, Nice, across the Col de Tende, by Coni, Turin, Vercelli, Novara, Milan, Pavia, Novi, Genoa. Thence, returning along the coast by Savona, Noli, Albenga, Oneglia, Monaco, Nice, Antibes, Fréjus, Aix, Marseilles, Avignon, Nismes, Montpellier, Frontignan, Cette, Agde, and along the canal of Languedoc, by Bezieres, Narbonne, Cascassonne, Castelnaudari, through the Souterrain of St. Feriol, and back by Castelnaudari to Toulouse; thence to Montauban, and down the Garonne River by Langon to Bordeaux. Thence to Rochefort, La Rochelle, Nantes, L'Orient; then back by Rennes to Nantes, and up the Loire by Angers, Tours, Amboise, Blois, to Orleans, thence direct to Paris." Here may be seen an example of the thoroughness with which Thomas Jefferson studied any subject that he took in hand.

The Constitution had been made behind closed doors at Philadelphia, and Jefferson first saw a complete copy of it at Paris. He who had been so alert in formulating the laws of his own State seems to have regarded the Constitution of the Nation as a matter of lesser moment, or at least one that could be safely intrusted to the care of his friends—Madison and Monroe. He praised the instrument as a whole, but found articles which he thought objectionable. "The absence of express declarations insuring freedom of religion, free-dom of the press, freedom of the person under the uninterrupted protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by jury in civil as well as criminal cases, excited my jealously, and the reëligibility of the President for life I quite disapproved." He also looked upon the all-powerful judicial arm of the new Government with undisguised fear that therein lay the germ of future dis-solution, although he did not offer practical suggestions looking to a betterment of the plan. In the end, feeling that amendment would perfect the work so well begun, he became an indorser of the new Constitution, and thereby won a warm place in the esteem of General Washington, who regarded the question of adoption as quite personal to himself and essential to his country.

It became necessary for Thomas Jefferson to accompany John Adams to the English King's levees at London, and there the great Democrat was stung with the insulting deportment of the monarch and his consort. "It was impossible for anything to be more ungracious than their notice of Mr. Adams and myself." "That Nation hate us, their Ministers hate us, and their King more than all other men." "I think their hostility toward us is much more deeply rooted at present than during the war." "In spite of treaties, England is still our enemy. Her hatred is deep-rooted and cordial, and nothing is wanting with her but the power to wipe us and the land we live in out of existence." "There is no party in our favor here." "Even the Opposition concur with the Ministry." "The only Nation on earth who wish us ill from the bottom of their souls. And I am satisfied that, were our Continent to be swallowed up by the ocean, Great Britain would be in a bonfire from one side to the other."

In the British Islands he found a people, naturally undemonstrative at best, now stung with defeat, and resentful that the Empire had been impaired and thirteen governments lost. On the other side of the Chan-nel, in France, was a country intoxicated with admiration of America, whose inhabitants excelled in the liberal arts, and whose manners were distinguished for politeness and grace. Thomas Jefferson, like Benjamin Franklin, was the wrong man to insult, and England in the end paid dearly for her mistakes, as she had already suffered for her tyranny. The Autobiography ends at the opening years of the French Revolution, which are chronicled with care, and offer a valuable addition to the literature of that remarkable era. Thomas Jefferson came home, on leave of absence, late in 1789, an ardent well-wisher of the French patriots, a friend of France, to whom, as successor and follower of his revered Dr. Franklin, he considered that his own Nation owed almost its life. General Washington had been elected President, and practically commanded Jefferson to lay aside his foreign mission and accept the highest place in the Cabinet—the Secretaryship of State. This he was loath to do, and soon regretted the act. There were four Cabinet officers. Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury; Knox, Secretary of War, and Edmund Randolph, Attorney General. Here begin the Annals of Jefferson, a brief series of memoranda left among his papers, perhaps the' length of his Autobiography, extending to 1801, when he resigned from the Cabinet. In these notes he shows his alarm lest Alexander Hamilton turn the democracy then enjoyed into a monarchy.

These writings have filled the writers an the Federalist side with fury, and the descendants of the statesman criticised have typified "the venom of Thomas Jefferson" as the most fatal of resentments. Yet the Annals may be explored in their uttermost corner without dis-covering envy of Washington, desire of the private gain that public servants were sharing, or other aspersions than that a man ought not to be a Monarchist, and if he harbored such sentiments he could not be watched too closely, nor could too much evidence, even of hearsay character, be collected against him. In the Annals, that are so deeply maligned by interested writers, may be seen the very patriotic spectacle of Thomas Jefferson, incorruptible Democrat, watching over the Republic, and ready to sacrifice any personal interest whatever to the public good, as declared by the Nation on July 4, 1776.

No sooner had he entered the Cabinet, at New York, than he seemed to be in another world, as to the principles of liberty and equality which he had so long heard extolled. "I cannot describe the wonder and mortification with which the table conversations filled me. Poli-tics were the chief topic, and a preference of Kingly over Republican Government was evidently the favorite sentiment. An apostate I could not be, nor yet a hypocrite, and I found myself for the most part, the only advocate on the Republican side of the question." "Hamilton's financial system had then passed. It had two objects first, as a puzzle, to exclude popular understanding and inquiry; second, as a machine for the corruption of the Legislature; for he avowed the opinion that man could be governed by one of two motives only, force or interest; force, he observed, in this country, was out of the question, and the interest, therefore, of the members, must be laid hold of, to keep the Legislature in unison with the executive. And with grief and shame it must be acknowledged that his machine was not without effect; that, even in this, the birth of our Government, some members were found sordid enough to bend their duty to their interests, and to look after personal rather than public good."

Thomas Jefferson opposed Hamilton's National Bank because it allowed a private corporation to hold grants of land; because aliens could be stockholders, and thus landlords; because this holding nullified the law of Descents; because its lands were beyond forfeiture and escheat; because chattels were to be transmitted in a certain line, contrary to common law; because it was a monopoly; because the States could not control the Bank, therefore it was paramount. He did not believe the States had delegated power to the Government to authorize any such private monopoly, to the prejudice of other citizens in the States. In rendering such an opinion to the President, he at the same time warned this officer, that if the constitutional arguments, pro and contra, hung balanced in his mind, he ought to sign rather than to cross the will of the legislative arm, as he considered the veto power only a guard against constitutional error the most manifest. The will of the people, right or wrong, was the only ultimate law that Thomas Jefferson fully respected—yet he did not really believe the body of the people were ever wholly wrong.

It was not long before Jefferson was sure General Washington was annoyed by the growth of etiquette, especially the formality of the levees, and he entered in his diary with satisfaction that the President did not appear to relish the kingly hints that were frequently poured into his ear. The conduct of General Washington, even under the preternaturally suspicious eye of Thomas Jefferson, does not offer the slightest subject of reproach.

It does not appear that either General Washington or Thomas Jefferson had foreseen how soon the Treasury Department would become the most potent part of the Government, dwarfing the importance of the other branches, and nothing could have disappointed Jefferson more. The rapid increment of political power in this region, with an excited speculation in "stocks" (Government obligations) at New York was the first disillusionment of the great Democrat. "As the doctrine is that a public debt is a public blessing, so they think a perpetual one is a perpetual blessing, and there-fore wish to make it so large that we can never pay it off."

But Hamilton had outgeneraled Jefferson by ensnaring him in what is now known in politics as "a log-rolling deal." If Jefferson would bring to Hamilton votes enough to secure the national assumption of the debtor States' debts (to the prejudice of the creditor States), Hamilton in turn would carry over votes enough to pass the bill for the District of Columbia. This was done, and when it was accomplished, although Virginia might be gratified, it could no longer be said with exact truth that Thomas Jefferson was not a politician who, like Hamilton, could sacrifice nice points in carrying legislation. To this unwise though complacent arrangement, Jefferson attributed the rapid advancement in public estimation of the Secretary of the Treasury. As the gap widened and the two political parties formed, the newspapers teemed with articles, largely anonymous, criticising public men, and, at last, writers on Jefferson's side who had little width of view began to blame even the President, evidently believing that he personally directed the proceedings of Hamilton—a thing far from the truth. As Jefferson was a Democrat, and warmly for France, Hamilton tactically or naturally took the English side, and to a man like Jefferson this could evoke only horror, contempt, and suspicion. When the nations declared war on France, Hamilton thought the United States ought to join England. The reader may obtain, in Jefferson's own words, a description of the interest which the Secretary of the Treasury took in the proper affairs of the Secretary of State. At a Cabinet meeting Jefferson produced the draft of messages to Congress on the relations of France and England. "Hamilton objected to the draft in toto; said that the contrast drawn between the conduct of France and Eng-land amounted to a declaration of war; he denied that France had ever done us favors; that it was mean for a Nation to acknowledge favors; that the dispositions of the people of this country toward France, he considered as a serious calamity; that the Executive ought not, by an echo of this language, to nourish that disposition in the people; that the offers in commerce made us by France, were the offspring of the moment, of circumstances which would not last, and it was wrong to receive as permanent, things merely temporary; that he could demonstrate that Great Britain showed us more favors than France." "Knox joined Hamilton in every-thing." Jefferson tried as well as he could to please Hamilton, but failed, and finally General Washington stood for that day with his Secretary of State against the three other Ministers, as duly recorded in that entry of the Annals. Hamilton wrote against Jefferson anonymously, after the fashion of the time, Jefferson preferring that others, especially the journal of a place-holder named Freneau, should champion his cause. When Freneau, in his columns, unwisely attacked Gen-eral Washington, so high was Jefferson's regard for free speech and free press, that he would not discharge Freneau from an office worth $250. On May 23, 1793, when the French Republic was out of favor through killing the King and the Girondists, Jefferson had an interview with General Washington, which tested his Democratic principles. The President did not like the use of the word "Republic" in Freneau's paper—he feared it meant government wholly by a Legislature of one House, which would degenerate into anarchy. He did not speak of the personal attacks on himself, but deplored the public tone of Freneau's article. Jefferson says of General Washington : "He was evidently sore and warm; and I took his intention to be that I should interpose in some way with Freneau—perhaps withdraw his appointment of translating clerk to my office. But I will not do it. His paper has saved our Constitution ["institutions" should here be understood], which was galloping fast into monarchy, and has been checked by no one means so powerfully as by that paper. It is well and universally known, that it has been that paper which has checked the career of the monocrats; and the Presi-dent, not sensible of the designs of the party, has not, with his usual good sense and sang froid, looked on the efforts and effects of this free press, and seen that, though some bad things have passed through it to the public, yet the good have preponderated immensely."

The unhappy episode of Citizen Genet's arrival in America as Ambassador of Jacobin France, carrying the torch of Liberty, and inviting the people to throw off all orderly forms of government, has been touched upon in the article on George Washington. Jefferson, who had apologized for nearly every act of the French Revolution, was compelled to demand the recall of Genet, and the British party in America seemed for a time certain to hurl the Nation into war with France. On this Jefferson desired to leave the Cabinet. His influence and ideas had not been paramount, but this seemed to be due to his own reluctance rather than to General Washing-ton's inhibition, and the President deplored an abandonment of the Portfolio. Jefferson had persuaded the President to acept a second term, and now the General regarded this defection as unfair, for he, equally with Jefferson, was displeased with recent aspects of public life, which were bitterly mingled with criticism. "I," says Jefferson, " expressed to him the particular uneasiness of my situation in this place, where the laws of society oblige me always to move exactly in the circle which I know to bear me peculiar hatred; that is to say, the wealthy aristocrats, the merchants connected closely with England, the new-created paper fortunes; that thus surrounded, my words were caught, multiplied, misconstrued, and even fabricated and spread abroad to my injury." His retirement, Jefferson told the President, would remove a potent cause of discord. But to this the President retorted that Hamilton wished to resign, too, but wanted Jefferson to wait for him a little, so they could go out together. Jefferson would not remain, and the burdens of the President were increased, for he was without party bias, other than that he desired to maintain the Constitution intact.

The interests hostile to Great Britain, friendly to France, and suspicious of Hamilton and the Treasury, at once secured an ideal leader when, at the close of 1793, Thomas Jefferson retired to Monticello. There he was to remain for three years. He plunged into the actual business of farming, but continued, by constant letter-writing, to declare solemnly to his countrymen "the shameless corruption of a portion of the representatives to the First and Second Congresses, and their implicit devotion to the Treasury." He saw with regret his "countrymen groaning under the insults of Great Britain." He hoped that the wrath of the people of Europe would be kindled "against those who had dared to embroil them in such wickedness, and would bring at length Kings, nobles, and priests to the scaffold, which they have been so long deluging with human blood. I am still warm whenever I think of these scoundrels, though I do it as seldom as I can." He thought the denunciation of Democratic societies "one of the extraordinary acts of boldness, of which we have seen so many from the faction of monocrats." When General Washington attacked these societies in his message, Jefferson wrote that it was "wonderful, indeed, that the President should have permitted himself to be the organ of such an attack on the freedom of writing, printing, and publishing." He roundly denounced Jay's treaty with England, and was delighted to see the anger of the body of the people. The Democratic party had grown to such an extent, when General Washington refused a third term of the Presidency, that it controlled the votes of sixty-eight Electors, while the Federalists had only seventy-one, or at most less than eighty, on a more rigid showing than was made. As the voting arrangement was poor,* the proponents of John Adams, in securing to him the first place, lost the second to Jefferson—a matter that was of little importance save that it weakened the Federalist party in the end. John Adams, as President, came toward Jefferson in the early days of the Administration of 1796, evidently hoping to succeed to the non-partisan eminence of General Washington, but soon withdrew, and never afterward counseled with the Vice-President, whose occupancy of a hybrid and anomalous office was as well-understood then as today. The Alien and Sedition laws,* of course, were abhor-rent to Jefferson, who at once drew the insurrectionary "Kentucky resolutions;" those of Virginia were nearly as radical. In these views he was supported by Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and others of the great fathers of liberty. At the same time, while Hamilton was hurrying John Adams forward, that astute patriot flung off all restraint, righted himself before posterity, and made possible a reconciliation with France, our bene-factor. This tore the Federalist party in twain, and Hamilton defeated the re-election of Adams. In the autumn of 1800 Jefferson and Burr won seventy-three Electors each, and the choice fell to the House of Representatives, to see which candidate should be President. After a violent strain on the then clumsy Constitution, Jefferson was named, Hamilton making it possible (greatly to his credit). The balloting lasted seven days. John Adams, outraged in every fiber of his being, appointed Federalists till midnight of March 3, 1801, and then took horse to escape from an atmosphere which for so many coining years was to be Democratic. Washington was dead. There was no other person for whose personal feelings Thomas Jefferson was willing to waive certain forms of Democracy which he desired to see established.

Dressed in plain clothes, he rode to the capital on horseback, without guard or servant, dismounted, and hitched his horse to the fence. To avoid the appearance of the "King's speech," he sent his message in writing by a private hand. Court etiquette, the code of precedence, and the weekly levees were abolished. The President objected to the titles of Excellency, Honorable, and Mister. He was himself Thomas Jefferson, and nothing else. He declared the President to be of no higher rank than the Governors. "If it be possible," he said, "to be certainly conscious of anything, I am conscious of feeling no difference between writing to the highest and lowest being on earth." He would not send Ambassadors abroad in Government vessels. He would not permit the celebration of his birthday by a State ball. He would not appoint days of fasting or thanksgiving, holding that they were religious rites, and had nothing to do with government on the American plan. It had puzzled General Washington and John Adams to obtain Cabinet officers, and John Adams did not dare to attempt a change of his predecessors' advisers; but Thomas Jefferson found not the least difficulty in surrounding himself with men who fully indorsed his ideas. He appointed James Madison Secretary of State; Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury; Henry Dearborn, Secretary of War; Robert Smith, Secretary of the Navy; Gideon Granger, Postmaster-General; Levi Lincoln, Attorney-General. He pardoned the convicts under the tyrannical Alien and Sedition laws. He sent vessels fo exterminate the pirates of the Barbary coast. The war between England and France placed America in a most lamentable position; from the time of Vergennes' death forward, it had seemed as if each Nation strove to outdo the other in its insults to the new power. In Congress Jefferson had a magnificent majority, led by John Randolph. It was thought best to sacrifice the interests of the northern seaports by an Embargo act, refusing a clearance to our vessels, and preventing their departure for foreign ports. This law weighed heavily on Massachusetts, and there were many threats of secession. But Jefferson thought an Embargo less costly than war, and considered that little commerce could be carried on at best. England would make no treaty that did not leave to her the right of search, and the Federalists criticised Jefferson because he would not subserviently accept this national indignity.

The memorable act of Thomas Jefferson's Administration was the purchase of Louisiana. He had been secretly negotiating for the mouth of the Mississippi when Napoleon, suddenly confronted by his second war, offered to sell the vast tract for about 80,000,000 livres. Out of this region thirteen great States have since been carved. There was no warrant in the Constitution for such a purchase, but France would eventually lose the territory to Great Britain, and the navigation of the Mississippi would be open to hostile vessels. Believing he could rely on the people, Jefferson bought the terri-tory, more than doubling the area of the Nation. His justificatory statement to the Nation was as follows : "The Constitution has made no provision for our holding foreign territory, still less for incorporating foreign nations into our Union. The Executive, in seizing the fugitive occurrence which so much advances the good of their country, have done an act beyond the Constitution. The Legislature, in casting behind them meta-physical subtleties, and risking themselves like faithful servants, must ratify and pay for it, and throw them-selves on their country for doing for them, unauthorized, what we know they would have done for themselves had they been in a situation to do it."

At the end of four years he regretfully announced his candidacy for a second term. He had against him the nearly unanimous voice of the ancient clergy, the bar, the financiers, the ancient families, and the Federalist editors. "The unbounded calumnies of the Federal party," he said, "have obliged me to throw myself on the verdict of my country for trial. They force my continu-ance. If we can keep the vessel of State as steadily on her course for another four years, my earthly purposes will be accomplished." He was re-elected by the astonishing vote of 162 to 14 Electors. Clinton was the Vice-Presdent. John Randolph, who had been his House leader, now turned in heated opposition, carrying ten members with him; Aaron Burr, who had been Vice-President, elected on the Democratic ticket, was arrested for treason, and diligently prosecuted by Jefferson; the discontent of the seaports increased, and the flattering aspects of the Administration soon changed to the more fretful proceedings of a partisan and sectional polity. For this sort of strife Jefferson no more than Washington had any taste. He longed for private life, and though five States requested him to serve a third term, he firmly rejected the proposal, offering instead the example of himself and General Washington as likely to supply a defect of the Constitution and preserve the Nation from the ambition of a would-be usurper. He was able to hand the leadership to his pupil, James Madison, and retired from office in 18o9 with the knowledge that he had enlarged the Nation and reduced the debt. He had been in public office for nearly forty years. "To this day," says John T. Morse, an author who has written a book laboriously and artfully calculated to diminish Thomas Jefferson's glory, "the multitude cherish and revere his memory, and in so doing pay a just debt of gratitude to a friend who not only served them, as many have done, but who honored and respected them, as very few have done."

There followed, in the life of this sage, seventeen years of old age at Monticello, during which time his beloved pupils were Presidents of the United States, and the Government was carried on, as he would have it, in the best interests of the masses. That trust which the great plain people had so confidingly reposed in the Father of His Country while he lived, was placed, with even a still warmer and keener affection, in Thomas Jefferson, and he remained till death the chief man in the Republic. He was literally eaten out of house and home, dying insolvent, although no creditor lost by his estate. In Randall's "Life of Jefferson," there is the following passage : "We had persons from abroad, from all the States of the Union, from every part of the State, men, women, and children. In short, almost every day for at least eight months of the year brought its contingent of guests. People of wealth, fashion, men in office, professional men, military and civil, lawyers, doctors, Protestant clergymen, Catholic priests, members of Congress, foreign ministers, missionaries, Indian agents, tourists, travelers, artists, strangers, friends. Some came from affection and respect, some from curiosity, some to give or receive advice or instruction, some from idleness, some because others set the example." "The crowds," says Morse, "actually invaded the house itself, and stood in the corridors to watch Jefferson pass from one room to another; they swarmed over the grounds and gaped at him as he walked beneath his trees or sat on his piazza. Though Jefferson sometimes fled for a few days of hiding at a distant farm, he appears wonderfully seldom to have been lacking in the patient benignity" which was expected and required of him. The housekeeper at times had to provide fifty beds. His estate rapidly dwindled under the enormous strain thus put upon it with the rules of Virginia hospitality; nor did Thomas Jefferson desire that an exemplary democrat should cease to be an object of popular admiration and curiosity. When his needs were made known, popular subscriptions were opened and private funds sent to him, which he grate-fully accepted without misgivings. "No cent of this is wrung from the taxpayer," he said gratefully; "it is the pure and unsolicited offering of love." He wrote to Madison : "To myself you have been a pillar of sup-port through life. Take care of me when dead."

His published letters, beginning with one to Dr. Small in 1775, number nearly 900, and offer one of the best treasuries of our early national history; but they are still more valuable as a continual and never-dying inspiration to men who aim to do justice to their political fellows, in order that each citizen, so far as lies within human ingenuity, may receive from the government equal blessings, and be burdened only with equal duties.

His health broke rapidly in the winter of 1826, his eighty-third year. In the middle of March he made his will and prepared the original draft of the Declaration of Independence for posterity. Later he read the Bible and the Greek tragedies. He expressed a desire, as he grew very feeble with old age, to survive till the 4th of July, and the friends around his dying bed awaited the dawn of that celebrated day with affectionate anxiety, seeming to burden themselves only with this sacred hope of the grandsire. His wish was gratified, but he had sunk very low, and expired at i o'clock in the after-noon, preceding John Adams but a few hours in his exit from the stage of human events which they had both greatly distinguished.

The home at Monticello remains at this day a holy place to which devout democrats—by whatever party name they call themselves—resort, and make new pledges of their faith. The great apostle of liberty remains yet before us, simple and unmythical. There were no portents when he was born—no upheavals of nature when he died. His elevation and beatification have been the acts of love and gratitude in the lowly, who have none the less preserved their model as a fellow-man. Yet, take Thomas Jefferson, both by precept and example, and it is possible there will not, in the records of mankind, be found another person so strikingly worthy of the admiration of those who believe in equal rights for all and special privileges for none. He was proud of his kind and confident of its good intentions. He trusted his kind fondly and wisely. He was repaid by such a tribute of affection, and such an effort of the people to meet his ideals, that while the masses grew freer an d more jealous of their rights, his fame steadily increased, thus alluring other leaders to follow his un-selfish yet profitable example.

Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com