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insure me their approbation? I am certain that this mode of deciding on my conduct, tended more to correctness than any reasoning powers I possessed. Knowing the even and dignified line they pursued, I could never doubt for a moment which of two courses would be in character for them." * * * "Be assured, my young friend, that these little returns into ourselves, this self-catechising habit, is not trifling nor useless, but leads to the prudent selection and steady pursuit of what is right."
Here is a hint at the shaping influences of his early life; they came from men whom he knew to respect and honor, from teachers whom he loved, from characters whose course of life had the approval of the good and true. In the same letter, he says: "I was often thrown into the society of horse-racers, cardplayers, fox-hunters, scientific and professional men, and of dignified men; and many a time have I asked myself, in the enthusiastic moment of the death of a fox, the victory of a favorite horse, the issue of a question eloquently argued at the bar, or in the great council of the nation: Well, which of these kinds of reputation shall I prefer? That of a horse-jockey, a fox-hunter, an orator, or the honest advocate of my country's rights?" Here was the young man settling his own destiny, in the midst of all sorts of characters which he might choose for models. He loved the fleet horse, the chase, the social pleasantry? He was fond of physical sports, the dance, the wild-wood ramble. He saw men before him giving their lives to such things. Should he do likewise? He loved books also, and saw the glory of a noble life, and men about him who were examples of right living and manly dignity. Should he follow them? When a young man seriously debated such questions in his mind, could there be much doubt as to which way he would decide to go?
This was the formative period of his character. He had been well reared and instructed in his home and church, which was the church of England; he was warm-hearted, enthusiastic, social, imaginative; he was healthy, strong, buoyant in spirit; now he had met the world in all its characters, and the question had come to him: With what class shall I identify myself?
After leaving college, through the aid of Dr. Small he entered the law office of George Wythe, and became the acquaintance and friend of Governor Fauquier, one of the ablest men of that time. He mentions in his memoir, that he and Wythe and Doctor Small often dined with the governor, forming a social quartette, and that "to these habitual conversations he owed much instruction." It seems clear that to good books and good men, Jefferson was much indebted. They did much to make him. Yet he had the wisdom to choose to be educated and directed by them.
Governor Fauquier made him a companion of all hours; they practiced on musical instruments together and talked on gay and serious subjects as though equals,-one the acknowledged great man and gentleman of the state, the other a youth of twenty-one. This intimacy indicates an early developement of talent and manly power, and a personal magnetism above his years, in young Jefferson.
George Wythe was one of the most erudite and accomplished lawyers of his day, and young Jefferson felt himself happy in enjoying his instruction and companionship. Jefferson's extensive reading of the best authors; his fine manners, and cheerful, social enthusiasm, won such friends for him. And there can be no doubt but the bright promise of his coming career was reflected to these men, in his unusual wisdom and brilliancy.
To the study of law he gave five years. If his college course was short, his law course was long, and he made it a thorough study. The summers he spent at Shadwell, his home, and the winters at Williamsburg; and at both places kept up his rigid college habits of studying fifteen hours a day. No native talents, no brilliancy of mind or favoring opportunity, made him the man he came to be without hard study. Till he was twenty-four he plied the work of his education with diligence and plodding fidelity.
He was tall and slender in comparison, standing six feet two inches in height. His face, though angular and far from beau
tiful, beamed with intelligence, with benevolence, and with the cheerful vivacity of a happy, hopeful spirit. His complexion was ruddy and fair; his hair was chestnut, of a reddish tinge, fine and soft; his eyes of a hazel gray. He was lithe, active, graceful. His manners were simple and cordial. In conversation he was peculiarly agreeable, so much so, that in later years his enemies attributed to him a seductive influence through his art and charm of speech. Possessing the accomplishments, he avoided the vices of the young Virginia gentry of the day. He did not gamble; or drink; or use tobacco; or swear. He had an aversion to strong drink, and was temperate at the table. With frankness, heartiness, humane sympathies and sanguine hopefulness, he had strong personal influence over those who came near him. This was Thomas Jefferson at twenty-four, when he entered upon the practice of law.
MR. JEFFERSON A LAWYER.
In 1767, Mr. Jefferson was admitted to the practice of law at the bar of his native state. He was well prepared for his profession and met with success at once. His excellent connection with the good families of Virginia, his inherited fortune and his good personal bearing, gave him his business. His register of cases shows sixty-eight for 1767; one hundred and fifteen for 1768; one hundred and ninety-eight for 1769; one hundred and twenty-one for 1770; one hundred and thirty-seven for 1771; one hundred and fifty-four for 1772; one hundred and twentyseven for 1773; twenty-nine for 1774. It is probable that the troublesome times affected all business. These were his cases in the general court. He had much other legal business, according to the records left in his own writing. He had a strong legal mind which was recognized at once. While in the study and practice of law he made a collection of most of the early statutes of Virginia, and preserved them for later uses.
It was a habit of his to classify his knowledge, his business, and multitudes of little matters that most men would not think worth the time of writing. His account books, keeping the items for different articles separately, as for meat, bread, etc.;
his expenses, the number of persons in his family, the details of all his business-agricultural, legal, domestic-show a mind wonderfully given to a close observation of little things. He left an account carefully arranged and kept, of the earliest and latest appearance in the Washington market of thirty-seven different kinds of vegetables, during the whole eight years of his presidency. His garden book, farming book, weather record, expense accounts, notes on natural history, on Virginia, on reading, on legal study, and on almost everything that passed before him, show a remarkable interest in details. Had it not been for a fire which consumed his library and many of his private records, it is supposed he would have left almost his whole life in minute details. This not only indicates close powers of observation, but readiness to labor industriously to keep such extended accounts.
MR. JEFFERSON A LEGISLATOR.
In 1769, Mr. Jefferson was elected a member of the House of Burgesses. Lord Botetourt had now become governor. He opened the House with the customary address. Mr. Jefferson, at the request of some of the older members, drew the responding resolutions.
The House passed spirited resolutions on the action of Parliament in relation to Massachusetts. It reasserted the exclusive right of taxation in the colonies, their right to petition for a redress of grievances, and to procure the concurrence of the other colonies therein. The House also remonstrated against the proposition in Parliament to transport to England for trial persons in the colonies charged with treason.
The governor, on hearing what the House had done, without waiting for official statements, dissolved the assembly. The following day the members met at the Apollo, the large hall of the Raleigh tavern, and entered into an association, pledging themselves during the continuance of the act for raising revenue in America, not to import or purchase or use British merchandise; and they recommended their constituents to join them in this pledge.
Mr. Jefferson was one of the largest slave owners in Virginia, yet among the earliest movements he made was a proposition for the gradual emancipation of the slaves, but it was voted down by a strong majority. His humanity and political wisdom were manifest in this proposition. He had many sympathizers in Virginia at that time, in his disbelief in slavery. Washington was one of them. From that time on this began to be a subject of serious thought with many just minds..
JEFFERSON NOT A SPEAKER.
Though a fluent, graceful conversationalist, and believed by his political enemies, later in life, to have almost seductive charms in this way, and though a most accomplished and vigorous writer, he yet was not a public speaker. It is said that some defect in his vocal organs made his throat dry and husky after a little while, so that his speaking became painful to him as well as to those who heard him.
It is not often that the talent for speaking and writing is found in any marked degree in the same individual. They are separate talents, and for their marked expression require very different powers. Writing is a work of seclusion, done with deliberation, care, precision, with the mind bent upon accuracy, detail, elegance, finish, completeness. It depends solely on the power, furnishing and taste of the writer. He writes out of himself. His inspiration is in his theme and his own soul. If he is full of and on fire with his subject, he writes to instruct, warn and captivate his reader.
Speaking is a public act, in which the occasion, the audience, the voice, the face, the whole physical man, enters in to form a part of the moving power. Often passion commands the hour, and summoning all the powers to its service, moves upon its point of attack with a sort of dashing, stunning, overwhelming force.
Mr. Jefferson was the careful student, the close, painstaking thinker, who, from wide observation of facts, drew his conclusions and arranged them into orderly systems.