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'HE life of Thomas Jefferson was, in a degree, associated with the birth
and development of a nation. To him who gave to a distracted country that incomparable declaration "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and to those associated with him, was due the step that at once sundered the bonds which bound the colonies to the mother country, and prepared a way for progress from the confederacy of states of 1776 to the formation and development of the well-nigh perfect government of a later century. Taking life in hand as each subscribed his name to that immortal document, he hazarded even more than death; should the elements of cohesion between the states, on which all depended for support in the inevitable contest already begun, prove inadequate to unity of action, not only would life be forfeited, but property confiscated, and families relegated to disgrace and ignominy. With what sublime courage, then, did they risk everything in making a stand for the rights of all.
Encompassed by perils on every side, clear-headed statesmen were needed to direct the new ship of state into smooth waters, steering clear of breakers and rocks on either side, as she threaded the narrow and tortuous channel that led to the open sea of prosperity. In Thomas Jefferson, Samuel and John Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, the Lees, the Randolphs, and all that splendid fellowship that stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight, were found safe counsellors, pure
statesmen, unflinching patriots, and men with no ambition that conflicted with their country's good. No one among them better deserved the honor of his countrymen than did Thomas Jefferson. No one did more arduous service in every stage of the contest than did he. With what unwavering fidelity he served in the legislature of his native state, in the halls of the Continental Congress, as governor of Virginia, as an ambassador to foreign courts, and chiefest of all, as the Executive of the republic he had helped to form,-all this can be but briefly told in these pages.
That Jefferson was a man imperfectly understood by those not person. ally and intimately acquainted with him, is certain. While his life was spent in the service of his country, and his every effort directed toward her welfare, men who differed from him regarding the means to be employed, were unceasing in devices to defeat his plans. By deepest persuasion a republican, he met the opponents of his views with moderation that accorded well with the spirit of the man. Never violent in his utterances, he yet pressed his points with courage and fearlessness, and left a record that will endure while the union of states shall exist. The spirit of the time and the environment of this early band of patriots, were calculated to the highest development of the character of men, and their effect is evinced in the lives of his contemporaries-lives like his own, marked not less by honesty and bravery, than by the wonderful wisdom which directed the infant struggles of their country.
Thomas Jefferson was, by education and natural endowment, fitted to be a leader in the stirring contests of his time, as he would be pre-eminent did he live in this era of the world's history. Great intellects then directed the course of the state,-intellects governing men of principle, with aims above the measures of party, to which they owed small allegiance. Statesmen were born and educated to the duties of life, and the cares or office came to them unsought. Men like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson would scorn to stoop to the petty expedients adopted by the men of to-day in their greed and ambition for place. They scorned even the use of personal influence in their favor, and were content to abide the verdict of the people as to their merits. A man the peer of any man, Thomas Jefferson took the place assigned him by the suffrages of the people, while yet young in years. Necessarily many of the views and actions of the man, in his well nigh fifty years' connection with the public service, came under adverse criticism from those who honestly differed with him, yet time has justified the wisdom of the greater number of these acts. Of that life, passed amid the tumults of war, and in the quiet of peace, let what follows tell the story.
The settlement of Virginia was begun at Jamestown, in 1607. Within a few years isolated communities were gathered at various places, and during the century that followed the English obtained a strong foothold, gradually forcing the aborigines toward the mountains by the power of a
superior civilization. It was soon after the close of the first century of settlement in America-in 1612—that the first of the Jefferson family arrived. Thąt the progenitor of the Jeffersons was a person of influence among his fellows is apparent from the fact that the name occurs in the list of the twenty-two members of the first general assembly of Virginia, which met in Jamestown, in the year 1619-the first legislative body ever convened in America. Of the after life of this Jefferson and of his descendants nothing is known. More than a century later the grandfather of Thomas Jefferson lived at Osbornes, in Chesterfield county, and there reared a family consisting of three sons: Thomas, who died young; Field, who settled on the waters of the Roanoke and died, leaving numerous descendants; and Peter, who settled in Albemarle county, where he made a home which he called Shadwell, after the parish in England where formerly lived his wife.
Peter Jefferson was born February 29, 1708, and in 1739 married Jane, daughter of Isham Randolph, whose ancestors had early settled at Dungeness, in the county of Goochland, Virginia. Mrs. Jefferson was aged nineteen at the time of her marriage, was well educated for the time—when a very simple course of lessons was deemed sufficient for a woman—and was a fit companion to share the home and life of the energetic Peter Jefferson. As a young man he was possessed of little more than the rudiments of an education ; but strong in mind, sound in judgment, and eager in the pursuit of knowledge, he read and improved himself so that eventually he became prominent and influential in the province. Some years previous to his marriage he was chosen, with Joshua Fry, professor of mathematics in the college of William and Mary, as a commission to define the boundary-line between Virginia and North Carolina, which survey had been begun by Colonel Byrd. So satisfactorily were these duties performed that the same gentlemen were afterward employed to make the first map of Virginia that had ever been made from definite surveys. No difficulty was experienced in performing that part of the work to the east of the Blue Ridge, but the portion to the west of that range was little known and required weary weeks of travel and unremitting labor to make it in any respect complete. This work gave him a very correct idea of the topography and soils of the province, and decided him in the location of a home on the Rivanna river, a tributary of the James. Here he entered a patent for one thousand acres of land, his intimate friend, William Randolph, selecting twenty-four hundred acres adjoining. The land Mr. Jefferson had chosen possessing no eligible site for a house, he purchased from Mr. Randolph four hundred acres, the price being, as stated in the deed still in possession of the family, “Henry Weatherbourne's biggest bowl of arrack punch. On the land thus acquired he built a plain, weather-boarded house, and to this place brought his bride soon after marriage. They were among the first to settle in this portion of the country, and were subject to all the
inconveniences arising from their isolation. Here they lived six years, when they removed to the home of Colonel William Randolph, of Tuckahoe, who on his decease had appointed Peter Jefferson to the guardianship of his son, Thomas Mann Randolph. To this trust he remained faithful seven years, then returned to Shadwell, where he died, August 17, 1757, leaving a widow—who lived until 1776—with six daughters and two sons.
Peter Jefferson had accumulated a large landed estate, which at his death was apportioned between his two sons, as was the law in those days, the daughters being left dependent on the generosity of the heirs to the property. To his younger son he left the estate on the James river, called Snowdon, after the supposed birth-place of the ancestors of the family, near the mountain of that name in Wales. To his oldest son, Thomas Jefferson, he left the family home of Shadwell.
Thomas Jefferson was born at Shadwell, April 13, 1743. The death of his father left him, then a youth of fourteen, the owner of a large estate, beside a considerable number of negro slaves. From his earliest youth he received careful training, mental as well as physical. When but five years of age he was placed in the family of Rev. William Douglas, where he acquired a primary education, and also pursued the study of the Greek, Latin, and French languages. He inherited from his father that inordinate thirst for knowledge which he pursued with avidity throughout his busy
Returning home on the death of his father, he soon after became a pupil of Rev. Mr. Maury, an enthusiastic and correct classical scholar. Under such wise tuition he made good progress, and acquired a taste for the writings of the ancient philosophers and poets that he retained during life. Two years were thus spent in the most profitable manner, at the end of which, in the spring of 1760, when seventeen years of age, he was enabled to enter the college of William and Mary. He continued in college two years, and while here it was his good fortune to be brought into intimate association with Dr. William Small, a learned Scotchman, at that time professor of mathematics in the college. A mutual attraction drew these two together, and the time not occupied in the school-room, was passed in daily companionship. This resulted in giving a broader scope to the thought of the pupil, enlarged his views, and encouraged him to devote more time to abstruse and metaphysical studies. From Dr. Small he obtained his first insight into the realm of science and philosophy. The chair of philosophy becoming vacant soon after Jefferson entered the college, his friend and teacher was appointed to its duties, and delivered the first lectures on ethics, rhetoric, and belles-lettres ever given in the institution. Dr. Small occupied the chair of philosophy barely two years, when he returned to Scotland, first, however, procuring for his favorite admission to the law office of George Wythe, who afterwards became chancellor of the state. Mr. Wythe introduced Jefferson to the acquaintance and friendship
of Governor Fauquier. To the intelligent conversation of these gentlemen was the young man much indebted for the early impressions that afterward developed into habits of thought and life, and shaped his career.
At this time Mr. Wythe was about thirty-five years of age, ardent in temperament, and with ideas in advance of his time. He early took the ground that "the only link of political union between the colonies and Great Britain, was the identity of the executive ; that parliament had no more authority over us than we over them, and that we were co-ordinate nations with Great Britain and Hanover." He was chosen a member of Congress, and in 1776 signed the Declaration of Independence. It was but natural that the impressible nature of Jefferson should be infused with the spirit of his preceptor in law. In 1767, under the instruction of Mr. Wythe, Jefferson was inducted into the legal practice at the bar of the general court, in which practice he continued until the beginning of hostilities connected with the Revolution closed all courts of justice. During the period of his continuous practice of the law he acquired very considerable reputation, and there still exists a digest of reports of adjudged cases in the higher courts of Virginia, as a monument to his painstaking care and labor in early life.
The assiduous study and labor of Jefferson had developed a naturally strong and vigorous intellect to quick and mature habits of thought, and his practice in the courts of justice had brought him into intimate acquaintance with his fellow-citizens of all degrees. So well were all agreed upon his mental and moral qualifications, that, in 1769 he was called by the county in which he lived, to represent it in the legislature. In that body he soon attained prominence, and was recognized as one holding advanced views upon subjects appertaining to the present and future welfare of the province. It was while yet a young member of the legislature that he introduced a res. olution providing for the emancipation of slaves, but public opinion was not educated to look with favor upon a measure that promised to curtail comfort and ease.
At the time of the promulgation of the stamp act, Mr. Jefferson was a student at law, and during the discussion of the resolutions of 1765, in regard to that oppressive measure, from the door of the lobby to the house of burgesses he listened with rapt attention to the impassioned utterances of Patrick Henry, which were such words as he never heard from any other
He said of them: “He appeared to me to speak as Homer wrote. That Jefferson was deeply impressed with the injustice of Great Britain toward the colonies is evident from his own words: “The colonies were taxed internally and externally; their essential interests were sacrificed to individuals in Great Britain; their legislatures suspended; charters annulled; trials by jury taken away; their persons subjected to transportation across the Atlantic, and to trial by foreign judicatories; their applications for