網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

(ter. Henry faltered not for an instant; but rising to a loftier • attitude, and fixing on the Speaker an eye of the most deter

mined fire, he finished his sentence with the firmest emphasis,) -may profit by their example! If this be treason, make the most of it.

Virginia is understood to pride herself on her paramount right to provide the Union with orators as well as presidents. But work was at hand which required to be done, not talked about. Whilst Henry fell into comparative unimportance, Jefferson more than took his place; and succeeded out of nothing but plain sterling qualities, to establish an influence which, won early and honestly, seems in his case to have had the good fortune, unparalleled among his rivals, of increasing to his dying day. A feebleness of organ, and a sensibility which rendered his utterance inarticulate, when the full expression of his thoughts and feelings was most required, disqualified him for public speaking. The public, however, learned enough to confirm the opinion of his more eloquent friend and fellow-labourer. “Though 6a silent member,' says J. Adams, he was so prompt, frank, • explicit, and decisive, upon committees - not even Samuel Adams was more so that he soon seized

my.

heart.' From the moment that the obstinacy of the English government left no alternative but war or submission, Jefferson took as the motto to his seal, Resistance to tyrants is obedience to • God,' and dedicated himself, fearlessly and unreservedly, to his country's cause.

This creed was formed, he says, on unsheathing the sword at Lexington. The instructions which, in 1774, he proposed for the Virginia delegates, were ' a leap too

long as yet for the mass of the citizens; but are characteristic of his mind, in the straightforwardness with which he brings out bis whole case at the outset, and then pushes his principles to whatever length they can be driven, by the sort of sledge-hammer he uses on most occasions. This document contains the principal facts and arguments that must always exist between a parent state and its colonies. They are the same as would open to-morrow on us and our West India planters, were they in a situation seriously to think of independence. Whilst others admitted the right of the English parliament to legislate for regulation, not revenue, Jefferson and Wythe (bis professional master) alone insisted, from the first, that the relation between Great Britain and the colonies was exactly the same as that of England and Scotland after the accession of James, and until the Union; and the same as her present relations with Hanover, baving the same political chief, but no other necessary political connexion, When the Declaration of Independence came to be

[ocr errors]

drawn, the committee gave it up to Jefferson alone, and the al. terations made by Adams and Franklin were only verbal. Only two clauses of any consequence were struck out of the original by Congress, from the pusillanimous idea of having friends in England worth keeping terms with.' Of these, one was in assertion of the above doctrine; the other, in reprobation of the slave trade, especially that the King of England, being deter

mined to keep open a market where men should be bought and • sold, had prostituted his negative for prohibiting every legisla• tive attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable com6 merce.'

It is natural that the honour of having been selected to draw up this Magna Charta of their separate and sovereign existence, should have ever afterwards identified Jefferson in the minds of his countrymen with the American constitution. The main task of defending this declaration in immediate debate, fell to the share of Adams. In this glorious partnership, he is described by Jefferson as coming out with a power, both of thought and ex

pression, which moved us from our seats. A very interesting letter, written by Adams to his wife, on the day which intervened between the vote with closed doors and its publication, cannot but have described equally the feeling of both friends. • Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, that was ever • decided among men.

A resolution was passed unanimously, • " That these United States are, and of right ought to be, free

and independent states.” The day has passed. The second of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch in the history of • America. I am apt to believe, it will be celebrated by succeed•ing generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with • pomps, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illumina• tions, from one end of the continent to the other, from this • time for ever! You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, blood, and treasure, it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and • defend these states; yet, through all the gloom, I can see a ray of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue-which I hope we shall not.'

It is agreeable to look back and recognise that the only penalty which the patriots had to pay, was their being made public men in their own despite. "Nothing, apparently, but the imperative claims of the crisis on which his lot was cast, would have forced Jefferson from his books, in the first instance, or

afterwards induced him to defer to so late a day the repose after which he longed, as the • Hermit of Monticello.' When Envoy at Paris, his recollections were recalled from his preferments to the attachments of his early life. I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage, with my books, my family, and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the • world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post

which any human power can give. His object, on returning home, was very different from the career which there awaited him. "You know,' (he writes to Madison,) the circumstances

which led me from retirement, step by step, and from one nomination to another, up to the present. My object is a return to the same retirement. On resigning the office of Secretary (1794,) he resumed his resolution. As to myself, the • subject has been thoroughly weighed and decided upon, and my

retirement from office had been meant from all office high or o low, without exception. My health is entirely broken down • within the last eight months; my age requires that I should • place my affairs in a clear state; these are sound, if taken care

of, but capable of considerable dangers if longer neglected; 6 and, above all things, the delights I feel in the society of my • family, and in the agricultural pursuits in which I am so ea'gerly engaged. The little spice of ambition which I had in my younger days, has long since evaporated, and I set still less store by a posthumous than a present name.' Notwithstanding all this determination, his alarm that republicanism was endangered by the supposed monarchial policy of the Federalists, kept him at the helm of public affairs till 1809. Writing to M. Dùpont de Nemours, among other things, for a couple of pairs of true-bred shepherd's dogs,— A valuable possession to a country

now beginning to pay great attention to the raising sheep,' he adds— Within a few days I retire to my family, my books, and

my farms; and, having gained the harbour myself, I shall look on my friends still buffeting the storm, with anxiety, indeed, • but not with envy. Never did a prisoner, released from his

chains, feel such relief as I shall, on shaking off the shackles • of power. Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in wbich I have lived, have forced me to • take a part in resisting them, and to commit myself on the

boisterous ocean of political passions. The emoluments and patronage of English" office, if not struggled for with greater eagerness, seem relinquished with more regret. The few of our statesmen who trust themselves to voluntary retirement, may look with some shade of envy on the account which he gives, a year afterwards, of his mode of life. It is better than writing Latin verses. Now a word as to myself. I am retired to Mon• ticello, where, in the bosom of my family, and surrounded by • my books, I enjoy a repose to which I have long been a stranger.

My mornings are devoted to correspondence. From breakfast S to dinner, I am in my shops, my garden, or on horseback Samong my farms; from dinner to dark, I give to society and • recreation with my neighbours and friends; and from can« dle-light to early bed-time, I read. My health is perfect, s and my strength considerably reinforced by the activity of the

course I pursue; perhaps it is as great as usually falls to the • lot of near sixty-seven years of age. I talk of ploughs and

harrows, seeding and harvesting, with my neighbours, and of 6 politics, too, if they choose, with as little reserve as the rest • of my fellow-citizens, and feel, at length, the blessing of being

free to say and do what I please, without being responsible for

it to any mortal. A part of my occupation, and by no means • the least pleasing, is the direction of the studies of such young ' men as ask it. They place themselves in the neighbouring « village, and have the use of my library and counsel, and make

a part of my society. In advising the course of their reading, · I endeavour to keep their attention fixed on the main objects • of all science—the freedom and happiness of man. So that,

coming to bear a share in the councils and government of their • country, they will ever keep in view the sole objects of all le* gitimate government. Two years later, wben (thanks to the mediation of Dr Rush) the friendship of early times was revived with Adams, after breaking ground a little upon politics, he exclaims, • Whither is senile garrulity leading me? Into

politics, of which I have taken final leave. I think little of • them, and say less. I have given up newspapers in exchange 6 for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid, and I find myself much the happier. Sometimes, indeed, I look back

former occurrences, in remembrance of our old friends • and fellow-labourers who have fallen before us. Of the signers

of the Declaration of Independence, I see now living not more • than half a dozen, on your side of the Potomac, and on this side, myself, alone. You and I have been wonderfully spared, and myself with remarkable health, and a considerable activity • of body and mind. I am on horseback three or four hours every day; visit three or four times a-year a possession I have ninety miles distant, performing the winter journey on horse6 back.

On being courted back to the public councils, he had the satisfaction of feeling, that he had surmounted the difficult

• upon

[ocr errors]

score.

point of knowing when to retire. I profess so much of the * Roman principle, as to deem it honourable for the general of 'yesterday to act as a corporal to-day, if his services can be use.ful to his country; holding that to be false pride, which post

pones the public good to any private or personal considerations. • But I am past service. The hand of age is upon me. The • decay of bodily faculties apprises me that those of the mind cannot be unimpaired, had I not still better proofs. Every year counts my increased debility, and departing faculties keep the

The last year it was the sight, this it is the hearing, • the next something else will be going, until all is gone. Of • all this I was sensible before I left Washington, and probably

my fellow-labourers saw it before I did. The decay of memory 6 was obvious: it is now become distressing. But the mind, . too, is weakened. When I was young, mathematics was the

passion of my life. The same passion has returned upon me, • but with unequal powers.'

Whilst Adams kept, to the last, his industry in epistolary correspondence, Jefferson would gladly have pushed aside his writing-table for his books-that comfort, without which, so great a part of life would not be worth having. • In place of this has

come on a canine appetite for reading. And I indulged it, . because I see in it a relief against the tædium senectutis,-a lamp ' to lighten my path through the dreary wilderness of time before

me, whose bourne I see not. Losing daily all interest in the * things around us, something else is necessary to fill the void. • With me, it is reading, which occupies the mind without the • labour of producing ideas from my own stock. People who wish for long life, and for the means of reconciling it with duties and amusements of opposite descriptions, may see (vol. iv. p. 231) the method by which Jefferson had contrived to solve this problem.

The exclusion of all familiar letters out of the present collection is not so complete, but that glimpses are let in by which we see that Jefferson took into private life the same energy of character, which was so remarkable in his public conduct. Nobody felt more strongly, how firm a link the idem velle et sentire de republicà adds to the chain of personal affections, however dear. Few of his youthful friends had stood by him in his political contentions : but the alienation of the rest was in part made up by the consistent friendship and cordial co-operation of Madison and Munro, to whom he frequently refers as the two pillars of his life. The interior of his home and family are kept sacred from the sight of strangers; but the incidental noLice of his own misfortunes in a single sentence of sympathy to

« 上一頁繼續 »