« ZurückWeiter »
of fortune and, therefore, without that incentive which has spurred most men to cxertion, has devoted himself so perseverirgly to the acquirement of knowledge. His morals were equally praiseworthy. He neither drank to excess, played cards, used profane language, or tobacco. It would seem then that Mr. Parton
not exaggerating when lie avers :
“I think it safe to say, that of all the public men who have figured in the United States he was comparatively the best scholar and most accomplished
The American Democrat can proudly point to the apostle of his political creed, and boast that his conduct mirable as his intelligence was commanding."
A recital of all the events with which Mr. Jefferson was connected would be the history of the times in which he lived. Having commenced the practice of the law, he was immediately in possession of a large practice, and in 1769, then twenty-six years of age, he entered into political life as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. At this, his first session, he took a moderate stand against slavery, and introduced a bill enabling owners to liberato their slaves with the least possible loss or trouble. At the age of twenty-nine years, January 1, 1772, he was married to Mrs. Martha Skelton, a lady then twenty-two years of age, of great personal beauty, rare accomplishments, and possessed of a large fortune. This marriage
most felicitous, but his liappiness was destroyed. by her death in 1782. His grief at this occurrence was very great, and many years after his own decease, in the inmost recesses of his writing desk, were found envelopes containing locks of hair of his wife and little ones whom he had lost in their infancy, with many endearing expressions written upon them, and bearing evidence of having ben frequently handled.
In 1773 he was appointed on the celebrated coinmittee of correspondence, in which situation he had the opportunity of forming the acquaintance of the leading men in the new political movement to oppose the encroachments of the English government. In 1774 he was the author of A Summary View of the Rights of British America, which was a Lold and clear recital of the rights of the colonies to resist taxation, and was printed in Virginia and in England, and caused his name to appear on the list of those whom the British government would not pardon.
In 1775 he was chosen to represent Virginia in Congress, and was warmly welcomed at Philadelphia. John Adams says “he had the reputation of a masterly pen, and writings of his were handed about remarkable fur felicity of expression.
All attempts at conciliation having failed, he was placed on the committce with Franklin,
John Adams and others, to draft the Declaration of Independence. Не was unanimously pressed to undertake the draft, which he did, the others offering but few alterations. The. debate the propriety of making the declaration occupied three days, and finally ended in its adoption July 4, 1776.
This document has secured for itself and its author more renown than any other State paper ever before written. It has been sometimes asserted that it is
copy of the celebrated Mecklenberg declaration of 1775, so called from the town in North Carolina in which it originated. There is certainly a great likeness in the two instruments, though both Jefferson and John Adams stated they had never it at the time the Declaration of Independence was written. Resigning his 'seat in Congress, he was returned to the State Legislature, and was employed on the committee to revise its constitution, where his influence procured important changes, of which the repeal of the law of primogeniture and the establishment of religious freedom were the most valuable. He continued to serve in the House until 1779, when he was chosen Governor, and held that office until 1782, when he again entered Congress. Here he prepared our present decimal currency, which was then adopted, and devised a plan for the government of the Northwestern Territory, prohibiting slavery, which was also
accepted. In 1784 he was appointed Minister to Europe, with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, when several important treaties were negotiated. In 1785 he was appointed Minister to France, where he represented the United States while the Constitution was being framed in 1787. He not entirely pleased with that instrument, but afterwards gave it his support. In 1789 he returned to America, and immediately entered Washington's Cabinet aš Secretary of State. Thus in 1790 commenced the struggle between Jefferson and Hamilton, which soon gave rise to the Republican and Federal parties. The first contest over the finances resulted in the establishment of the United States Bank, in opposition to Mr. Jefferson's views.
In 1793 Jefferson resigned his seat in the Cabinet and retired to his home at Montecello, to attend to his private affairs, which had become somewhat disarranged. In 1796 Washington, having declined a third term, the two parties nominated Jefferson and Adams respectively. Adams, having three votes majority; was declared elected President, and Jefferson, having received the second largest number of votes, was declared Vice-President, such being the law at that time. The then existing between France and England was great
of contentior, finally culminating in the passage of the alien and sedition laws of 1798, attended with intense
political excitement. In the elections following, in 1800, Jefferson and Aaron Burr, the Republican candidates, were elected, but à curious struggle ensued between them. Both having received an equal number of electoral votes, the election went to the House of Representatives, where the Federalists attempted to elect Burr as President, but on the thirty-sixth ballot Jefferson was declared elected.
The new President avoided all the stately shows which Washington and Adams had indulged in, rode unattended on horse-back to the capitol, instead of in a coach and six with liveried servants; and he immediately proceeded to institute many reforms in the civil
civil service. Everything that resembled aristocracy was abolished, and the humblest citizen could call on the President with the certainty of being rcceived with proper courtesy. In 1803 the
the purchase of Louisiana effected, the great and manifest advantages of that
measure impelling the President to that course, despite his scruples of power delegated to the general government for that purpose.
In 1806 Jefferson was re-elected President by 148 out of 175 electoral votes. The war still existing in Europe, was, as we have said, the occasion of much excitement in this country, resulting in the “Embargo Act," forbidding our vessels to leave port-a temporary measure, soon repealed-bat the occasion of much political feeling