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Had his voice been all right, it is not likely he would have spoken with great power. His mind was organized to express itself with the pen rather than with the tongue. And had his mind been formed for the orator, it is altogether likely that his voice would have responded loyally, and his parched throat would have been oiled and active in the service of his mind.
No contrast between the speaker and writer was ever more sharply drawn than between Mr. Jefferson and his friend, Patrick Henry.
LOSS BY FIRE.
On the first of February, 1770, the family mansion at Shadwell, with every paper he had in the world and almost every book," and all his father's papers and books, was consumed by fire. Had it been their cost-value in money, he said, "it would not have cost me a sigh."
Later in life he was wont to have his facetious story over this fire, as the news was brought to him by one of his negroes. "But, were none of my books saved?" he asked. "No, massa," was the doleful reply; "but," with a quick brightening face, he said, "we saved de fiddle.”
The fiddle was dear to Mr. Jefferson, not only because he loved its music, but because it was intimately associated with his sister Jane, the eldest of the family who had died some five years before, at about twenty-five years of age. He regarded her as a person of a very superior mind and of great excellence of character. She was almost his constant companion in the later years of her life. She shared much of his study and reading, held similar opinions and had kindred sentiments. She was devout and loved her church, the church of England in which they were brought up, and was an excellent singer. He was a good bass singer, and entered heartily into much of the music of his church, which he believed was the best in the world. This music they sang much together accompanied with his violin. It was their practice to go often into some grove, or quiet natural retreat, and sing their favorite pieces, enjoy together the natural scenery, and what was more to them, enjoy each
other's society. This violin saved from the fire, was a perpetual reminder of his sister and those halcyon seasons of sacred affection and communion.
The year before the loss of the old family mansion, Mr. Jefferson had begun to build a residence for himself on Monticello, a portion or wing of what was afterward his famous house. Into that a part of the family went, and the rest into the overseer's house.
New Year's day, 1772, was made memorable to Thomas Jefferson and Mrs. Martha Skelton, by their marriage. She was the youthful widow of Bathurst Skelton, Esq., and daughter of John Wayles, a lawyer of eminence in his time. She is represented by the annalists of the time as beautiful, accomplished and sensible; as being a fine singer, and playing skillfully on the spinet and harpsichord; as joining her voice with Jefferson's and her instruments with his violin to produce the music in which their souls flowed together; as having many suitors and great wealth, bringing to him a fortune fully equal to his own. On the day of their marriage there was a snow storm which thickened as they went, so that the last eight miles of their journey had to be made on horse-back, after dark and alone. They reached Monticello through. two feet of snow, after the servants were all abed and the house cold, to find no supper, no welcome, no light or fire, and only such cheer as their young hearts could produce. But chilly and forbidding as was the beginning of their wedded life, they turned it all into the joy of triumph and made a world for each other that was full of sunshine and success. Such is the mystery of young love.
Their united fortunes made them wealthy. His estate was five thousand acres and hers forty thousand acres; but hers was so encumbered with debts that he had to sell much of it to own it clear. He had forty-two slaves and she one hundred and thirty-five. He had an income, before his marriage, of five thousand dollars a year. His income after was uncertain till
he had cleared her estate of its indebtedness. This condition of
his affairs for a few years, gave opportunity for his political enemies to make capital against him as a bad financier. He seems to have been a sagacious business man; orderly in his habits; prompt and exact in his dealings; careful in expenditures, yet generous according to his circumstances; keeping always exact records of all his affairs to the smallest details.
It is clear to see from the style of life in which he and his associates were reared, that colonial Virginia, and that whole sections of America, was looked to from England as a new and ample field for the extension of the great English estates; for the broadening and enriching of the English aristocracy; for an increased support of the English crown, and a safe depository of English power. Mr. Jefferson's debts to be paid were chiefly in England; his business was largely with England; and so was that of all the great southern estates. The people got their styles of life from England. Society in Virginia was a transcript of society in England.
Under these circumstances, it was not to be expected that democracy would spring up in Virginia; that popular government would find its stout advocates in the House of Burgesses and on the great estates of the Old Dominion; that the representatives of the old and wealthy families of England settled in America would dissent from the English view of government, and become the enthusiastic leaders of a republican order of society. But so it turned out. The newness and freedom of American life gave a new order of manhood; produced new thinkers and actors; developed a new philosophy of society and humanity, and led American intelligence and justice to see the defects in the English society and administration of government. And these men of the largest calibre, like Washington and Jefferson, though inheriting most from England, were among the first to see the English faults.
Among the things they first deprecated in their new society was human slavery. They felt its injustice and foresaw its direful evils, and they sought its gradual abolition, but were overruled. Had Jefferson's proposition in the House of Burgesses to that effect been accepted, and slavery in Virginia gone out as
it did in New York and New England, the United States would have been double gainers by their independence; the great hindering evils of slavery would have been avoided; the sectionalism of our experience would not have been known; and the great civil war and its terrific loss of property, energy and life, would not have been. Jefferson was called the philosopher in his day; and the worth of his philosophy is far clearer now than it was to most people then.
He is a proof that men do sometimes rise above their circumstances; that humanity may grow to be a powerful and controlling sentiment in the midst of slavery; that democracy may have a vigorous development in the midst of aristocratic surroundings.
THE APPROACHING CONFLICT.
The House of Burgesses met in the spring of 1773. An event had just occurred to arouse such alert souls as Jefferson's to a sense of danger to come. The Gasper, a British vessel, stationed in Narraganset bay to enforce the obnoxious revenue laws, had been decoyed aground, and burned. Parliament immediately passed an act "for the better securing of His Majesty's ships, docks, etc.," which made punishable with death the least harm done to anything pertaining to the British marine service, and the transportation for trial of any one accused of such harm. Against such transportation Jefferson had offered a resolution in 1769. Now he joined with Patrick Henry, the Lees and Mr. Carr, his brother-in-law, to offer a series of resolutions against the injustice of such transportation, and against all laws "tending to deprive the colonies of their ancient, legal and constitutional rights," and in favor of seeking the earliest information of what parliament should do, and of appointing a committee of correspondence with the other colonies, to act in unison in opposition to British aggression, and especially instructing the committee of correspondence "to inform themselves particularly of the principles and authority on which was constituted a court of inquiry, said to have been lately held in Rhode Island, with powers to transport persons accused of
offenses committed in America to places beyond the seas to be - tried." The resolutions are supposed to have been drafted by Mr. Jefferson, offered in a very telling speech by Mr. Carr, and adopted without a dissenting vote by the House. This was one of the first movements for a committee of consultation from all the colonies. It was one of the seeds which ripened into a Colonial Congress.
The governor immediately dissolved the House. But the committee met the next day and prepared a circular to the colonies containing a copy of the resolutions, with a request that they might be laid before their assemblies, and asking them to appoint "some person or persons of their respective bodies to communicate from time to time with the Virginia committee." Mr. Jefferson is said to have believed that this was the germ of colonial union. But whether it was or not, it is proof of a kindredness of sentiment, and a preparedness for union and action in Virginia and Massachusetts. And this sentiment soon reached all the colonies.
During the spring session of the Burgesses in 1774, the news of the Boston port bill reached Virginia. Mr. Jefferson, believing that something startling should be done to arouse the people to a sense of the danger to their liberties, gathered about him a few kindred spirits in consultation. They agreed upon a resolution appointing a day of fasting and prayer. And as the Boston port bill was to go into operation the first of June, they fixed upon that day for a public fast day. They consulted with some of the older and more religious members, and got such a good understanding that it was agreed to without a dissenting vote. So on the day that the port of Boston was blockaded by British assumption of power, the people of Virginia were praying for the people of Boston and the preservation of their liberties. Mr. Jefferson said: "If the pulse of the people beat calmly under such an experiment by the new and until now unheard of executive power of the British Parliament, another and another will be tried, till the measure of despotism be filled up."
The governor dissolved the assembly the next day after the