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desperate; and in the phrenzy of the moment, began to resuscitate the deceased and damming project of Dictator. Some, indeed, were so infatuated as to deem the measure not only salutary and advisable, but as presenting the only hope of deliverance at this alarming juncture. An individual,” who had borne a distinguished and exemplary part in the anterior transactions of the Revolution, was already designated for the contemplated office. But it was foreseen with dismay by the dictator men, that no headway could be made with such a proposition, against the transcendant popularity and influence of the present Executive; it was necessary, as a first measure, that he should be put completely hors de combat. For this purpose, his official character was attacked; the misfortunes of the period, were imputed to the imbecility of his administration; he was impeached in a loose, informal way, and a day for some species of hearing, at the succeeding session of the Assembly, was appointed. But no evidence was ever offered to sustain the impeachment; no question was ever taken upon it, disclosing in any manner, the approbation of the legislature; and the hearing was appointed by general consent, for the purpose, as many members expressed themselves, of giving Mr. Jefferson an opportunity of demonstrating the absurdity of the censure. Indeed, the whole effort at impeachment was a mere feint, designed to remove Mr. Jefferson out of the question, for the present, and to make manifest, if possible, the necessity of a Dictator. It failed, however, in both objects; the effect on Mr. Jefferson was entirely the reverse of what had been intended; and as to the proposed dictatorship, the pulse of the Assembly was incidentally felt in the debates on the state of the Commonwealth, and in out-door conversations, the general tone of which, foretold such a violent opposition to the measure, as induced the original movers to abandon it with precipitation. This was the second instance of a similar attempt in that State, and of a similar result, caused chiefly by the virtuous and insuperable ascendancy of the same individuals. While these things were going on at Staunton, Mr. Jefferson was distant from the scene of action, at Bedford, neither interfering himself, nor applied to by the Legislature for any information touching the charges preferred against him; but so soon as the project for a dictator was dropped, his resignation of the Government appeared. This produced a new scene; the dictator men insisted upon re-electing him; but his friends strenuously opposed it, on the grounds, that as he had divested himself of the government to heal the divisions of the Legislature, at that critical season, for the public good; and to meet the accusation upon equal terms, for his own honor, his motives were too strong to be relinquished, and too fair to be withstood. Still, on the nomination of General Nelson, the most popular man in the State, and without an enemy in the Legislature, a considerable portion of the Assembly voted for Mr. Jefferson. On the day appointed for the hearing before mentioned, Mr. Jefferson appeared in the House of Delegates, having been intermediately elected a member. No one offered himself as his accuser. Mr. George Nicholas, who had been seduced to institute the proceeding, and who afterwards paid him an homage equally honorable to both,” having satisfied himself, in the interim, of the utter groundlessness of the charges, declined the further prosecution of the affair. Mr. Jefferson, nevertheless, rose in his seat, addressed the House in general terms upon the subject, and expressed his readiness to answer any accusations which might be preferred against him. Silence ensued. Not a word of censure was whispered. After a short pause, the following resolution was proposed, and adopted unanimously by both Houses.t “Resolved, That the sincere thanks of the General Assembly be given to our former Governor, THOMAs JEFFERson, Esq. for his impartial, upright and attentive administration, whilst in office. The Assembly wish in the strongest manner to declare the high opinion which they entertain of Mr. Jefferson's ability, rectitude; and integrity, as Chief Magistrate of this Commonwealth, and
mean, by thus publicly avowing their opinion, to obviate and to remove all unmerited censure.”
A few days after the expiration of Mr. Jefferson's constitutional term of office, and before the appointment of his successor, an incident occurred which has been so strangely misrepresented, in later times, as to justify a relation of the details.
* G. Nicholas' letter to his constituents—Kentucky.
+ Most of this relation is copied with verbal precision from the statement of an eye witness of the whole transaction, inserted in the Appendix to the Continuation of Burk's History of Virginia.
Learning that the General Assembly was in session at Charlottesville, Cornwallis detached the “ferocious Tarlton,” as notoriously styled, to proceed to that place, take by surprise the members, seize on the person of Mr. Jefferson, whom they supposed still in office, and spread devastation and terror on his route.
Elated with the idea of an enterprise so congenial to his dispo. sition, and confident of an easy prey, Tarlton selected a competent body of men, trained to habitual licentiousness by unrestrained indulgence and the demoralizing influence of example, and proceeded with ardor on his ignoble expedition. Early in the morn. ing of June 4th, when within about ten miles of his destination, he detached a troop of horse, under Captain M'Cleod, to Monticello, the well known seat of Mr. Jefferson; and proceeded himself with the main body, to Charlottesville, were he expected to find the Legislature unapprised of his movement. The alarm, however, had been conveyed to Charlottesville, about sunrise the same morning, and thence quickly to Monticello, only three miles distant. The Speakers of the two Houses, were lodging with Mr. Jefferson at his house. His guests had barely time to hurry to Charlottesville, adjourn the Legislature over to Staunton, and, with most of the other members, to effect their escape. He immediately ordered his carriage, in which Mrs. Jefferson and her children were conveyed to the house of Colonel Carter, on the neighbouring mountain, while himself tarried behind, breakfasted as usual, and completed some necessary arrangements preparatory to his departure. Suddenly, a messenger, Lieutenant Hudson, who had descried the rapid advance of the enemy, drove up at half speed, and gave him a second and last alarm ; stating that the enemy were already ascending the winding road, which leads to the summit of Monticello, and urging his immediate flight. He then calmly ordered his riding horse, which was shoeing at a neighboring blacksmiths, directing him to be led to a gate opening on the road to Colonel Carter's, whither he walked by a cross path, mounted his horse, and, instead of taking the high road, plunged into the woods of the adjoining mounting, and soon rejoined his family. In less than ten minutes after Mr. Jefferson's departure, his house was surrounded by the impetuous light horse, thirsting for their noble prey. They entered the mansion of the patriot, with a flush of expectation proportioned to the value of their supposed victim; and, notwithstanding the chagrin and irritation which the firstdiscovery of their disappointment excited, a sacred and honorable regard was manifested for the usages of enlightened nations at war. Mr. Jefferson's property was respected, especially his books and papers, by the particular injunctions of M'Cleod. So much does the conduct of soldiers, depend on the principles and temper of their officers. This is the famous adventure of Carter's mountain, which has been so often and so scandalously caricatured in the licentious chronicles of partisan controversy. Had the facts been accidentally stated, it would have appeared, that this favorite fabrication amounted to nothing more, than that Mr. Jefferson did not remain in his house, and there fight, single handed, a whole troop of horse, whose main body, too, was within supporting distance, or suffer himself to be taken prisoner. It is somewhat singular, that this egregious of fence was never heard of until many years after, when most of that generation had disappeared, and a new one risen up. Although the whole affair happened some days before the abortive attempt at impeachment, yet neither his conduct on this occasion, nor his pretended flight from Richmond, in January previous, were included among the charges. Having accompanied his family one day's journey, Mr. Jefferson returned to Monticello. Finding the enemy retired, with few traces of depredation, he again rejoined his family, and proceeded with them to an estate he owned in Bedford; where, galloping over his farm one day, he was thrown from his horse, and disabled from riding on horse-back for a considerable time. But the federal version of the story found it more convenient to give him this fall in his retreat before Tarlton, some weeks anterior, as a proof that he withdrew from a troop of horse, with a precipitancy which Don Quixote would not have practiced. M'Cleod tarried about eighteen hours at Monticello, and Tarlton about the same time at Charlottesville, when the detachments reunited, and retired to Elkhill, a plantation of Mr. Jefferson's. At this place, Cornwallis had now encamped, with the main army, and established head quarters. Some idea may be formed of the van. dalism practiced by the British, during their continuance at Elkhill, and, indeed, through the whole succeeding part of that campaign, from the following extract of a letter, written by Mr. Jefferson, on a special request. It is dated July 16th, 1788, and addressed to Dr. Gordon, one of the compilers of our revolutionary history.
“Cornwallis remained in this position ten days, his own headquarters being in my house, at that place. I had time to remove most of the effects out of the house. He destroyed all my growing crops of corn and tobacco; he burned all my barns, containing the same articles of the last year, having first taken what corn he wanted; he used, as was to be expected, all my stock of cattle, sheep, and hogs, for the sustenance of his army, and carried of all the horses capable of service; of those too young for service, he cut the throats; and he burned all the fences on the plantation so as to leave it an absolute waste. He carried off also about thirty slaves. Had this been to give them freedom, he would have done right; but it was to consign them to inevitable death from the small-pox and putrid fever, then raging in his camp. This I knew after wards to be the fate of twenty-seven of them. I never had news of the remaining three, but presume they shared the same fate. When I say that Lord Cornwallis did all this, I do not mean that he carried about the torch in his own hands, but that it was all done under his eye; the situation of the house in which he was, commanding a view of every part of the plantation, so that he must have seen every fire. I relate these things on my own knowledge, in a great degree, as I was on the ground soon after he left it. He treated the rest of the neighborhood somewhat in the same style, but not with that spirit of total extermination with which he seemed to rage over my possessions. Wherever he went, the dwelling-houses were plundered of every thing which could be carried off. Lord Cornwallis' character in England would forbid the belief that he shared in the plunder; but that his table was served with the plate thus pillaged from private houses, can be proved by many hundred eye-witnesses. From an estimate I made at that time, on the best information I could collect, I supposed the State of Virginia lost under Lord Cornwallis' hands, that year, about thirty thousand slaves; and that of these, about twenty-seven thousand died of the small-pox and camp-fever, and the rest were partly sent to the West Indies, and exchanged for rum, sugar, coffee, and fruit, and partly sent to New York, from whence they went, at the peace, either to Nova Scotia or England. From this last place, I believe they have been lately sent to Africa. History will never relate the horrors committed by the British army, in the southern States of America. They raged in Virginia six months only, from the middle of April to the middle of October, 1781, when they were all taken prisoners; and I give you a faithful specimen of their transactions for ten days of that time, and on one spot only. Ea pede Herculem. I suppose their whole devastations during those six months, amounted to about three millions sterling.”