« ZurückWeiter »
Death took another of Jefferson's cherished friends, in 1818. Mrs. Adams died near the close of October, and as soon as the sad intelligence reached Monticello, the following letter was written :
To John ADAMs.
Monticello, Norember 13, 1818. The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and
never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction. Th. JEFFERson.
The publication of Wirt's glowing life of Henry, produced some reclamations in other quarters. Jefferson's assertion, quoted in the work, that “Mr. Henry certainly gave the first impulse to the ball of revolution,” drew a letter from Dr. Waterhouse of Massachusetts, questioning the accuracy of this statement. Jefferson replied (March 3d):
“I well recollect to have used some such expression in a letter to him, and am tolerably certain that our own State being the subject under contemplation, I must have used it with respect to that only.
* * * * * # * *
The fact is, that one new idea leads to another, that to a third, and so on through a course of time, until some one, with whom no one of these ideas was original, combines all together, and produces what is justly called a new invention, I suppose it would be as difficult to trace our revolution to its first embryo. We do not know how long it was hatching in the British cabinet before they ventured to make the first of the experiments which were to develop it in the end and to produce complete parliamentary supremacy. Those you mention in Massachusetts as preceding the stamp act, might be the first visible symptoms of that design. The proposition of that act in 1764, was the first here. Your opposition, therefore, preceded ours, as occasion was sooner given there than here, and the truth, I suppose, is, that the opposition in every colony began whenever the encroachment was presented to it. This question of priority is as the inquiry would be who first, of the three hundred Spartans, offered his name to Leonidas?”
Several letters have been quoted in this work, giving Mr. Jefferson's views on a proper course of education for young men. The following answer (March 14th, 1818) to inquiries from N. Burwell, contains, it is believed, his fullest expression on a proper course of education for females:
“A plan of female education has never been a subject of systematic contemplation with me. It has occupied my attention so far only as the education of my own daughters occasionally required. Considering that they would be placed in a country situation where little aid could be obtained from abroad, I thought it essential to give them a solid education, which might enable them, when become mothers, to educate their own daughters, and even to direct the course for sons, should their fathers be lost, or incapable, or inattentive. My surviving daughter accordingly, the mother of many daughters as well as sons, has made their education the object of her life, and being a better judge of the practical part than myself, it is with her aid and that of one of her élèves, that I shall subjoin a catalogue of the books for such a course of reading as we have practised. A great obstacle to good education is the inordinate passion prevalent for novels, and the time lost in that reading which should be instructively employed. When this poison infects the mind, it destroys its tone and revolts it against wholesome reading. Reason and fact, plain and unadorned, are rejected. Nothing can engage attention unless dressed in all the figments of fancy, and nothing so bedecked comes amiss. The result is a bloated imagination, sickly judgment, and disgust towards all the real businesses of life. This mass of trash, however, is not without some distinction; some few modeling their narratives, although fictitious, on the incidents of real life, have been able to make them interesting and useful vehicles of a sound morality. Such, I think, are Marmontel's new moral tales, but not his old ones, which are really immoral. Such are the writings of Miss Edgeworth, and some of those of Madame Genlis. For a like reason, too, much poetry should not be indulged. Some is useful for forming style and taste. Pope, Dryden, Thomson, Shakspeare, and of the French, Molière, Racine, the Corneilles, may be read with pleasure and improvement. The French language, become that of the general intercourse of nations, and from their extraordinary advances, now the depository of all science, is an indispensable part of education for both sexes. In the subjoined catalogue, therefore, I have placed the books of both languages indifferently, according as the one or the other offers what is best. The ornaments, too, and the amusements of life, are entitled to their portion of attention. These, for a female, are dancing, drawing, and music. The first is a healthy exercise, elegant, and very attractive for young people. Every affectionate parent would be pleased to see his daughter qualified to participate with her companions and without awkwardness at least, in the circles of festivity, of which she occasionally becomes a part. It is a necessary accomplishment, therefore, although of short use; for the French rule is wise, that no lady dances after marriage. This is founded in solid physical reasons, gestation and nursing leaving little time to a married lady when this exercise can be either safe or innocent. Drawing is thought less of in this country than in Europe. It is an innocent and engaging amusement, often useful, and a qualification not to be neglected in one who is to become a mother and an instructor. Music is invaluable where a person has an ear. Where they have not, it should not be attempted. It furnishes a delightful recreation for the hours of respite from the cares of the day, and lasts us through life. The taste of this country, too, calls for this accomplishment more strongly than for either of the others. I need say nothing of household economy, in which the mothers of our country are generally skilled, and generally careful to instruct their daughters. We all know its value, and that diligence and dexterity in all its processes are inestimable treasures. The order and economy of a house are as honorable to the mistress as those of the farm to the master, and if either be neglected, ruin follows, and children destitute of the means of living. This, sir, is offered as a summary sketch on a subject on which I have not thought much. It probably contains nothing but what has already occurred to yourself, and claims your acceptance on no other ground than as a testimony of my respect for your wishes, and of my great esteem and respect.”
When the above list of approved novels for young ladies' perusal is examined, the modern reader will not be likely to forget that Waverley, Guy Mannering, the Antiquary, and Old Mortality were then before the world. Rob Roy and the Heart of Mid Lothian appeared in 1818. It is easy to see why such writers as Radcliffe and Godwin–to say nothing of an earlier English school of able, but immoral, or at least indelicate authors—were excluded from the catalogue. But Scott's works are generally thought to exhibit vastly more perfection as novels, than any Mr. Jefferson named; and surely he did not sigh for higher standards of character, more beautiful delineations of every virtue, more certain visitations of the avenging Nemesis to the bosom of guilt, more terrible retributions for crime, than are uniformly interwoven into the plot and moral of the “Waverley Novels.”
This relegation of Scott must have been intentional. Mr. Jefferson had read none of his fictions, because he would not read them. But, at the entreaties of grand-daughters, he had listened to occasional passages or pages from several of them. They were not to his taste. In prose as in poetry, he did not relish the romantic school. He detested the political civilization of the middle ages, and especially the feudal system, as cordially as Scott admired them. He as warmly sympathized with common humanity as Scott did with kings and nobles. In short, he was as thorough a radical in heart and grain as the great novelist was a tory. He thought, therefore, that the pictures of social and political civilization drawn by the latter had an untruthful, if not dangerous coloring. But the issue taken with the delineator was rather ludicrous than serious. His taste in regard to the romantic was similar to that of Cervantes—per
haps had been fashioned on it. The Bois-Guilberts and the Front de Boeufs, to him were all cousin-germans of Don Quixote. It is recollected by members of his family, that he could not endure the character of the stately and chivalrous Norman race of men—always speaking of them as “tyrants and robbers.” His partiality for the Saxon element in English character, laws and manners, was strong and often avowed.
Jefferson expressed the following views in regard to the people of the western American States, in a letter to Mr. Adams (May 17th, 1818):
“They are freer from prejudices than we are, and bolder in grasping at truth. The time is not distant, though neither you nor I shall see it, when we shall be but a secondary people to them. Our greediness for wealth, and fantastical expense have degraded, and will degrade, the minds of our maritime citizens. These are the peculiar vices of commerce.”
In a letter to Robert Walsh (Dec. 4th), he paid a beautiful tribute to the character of Franklin, and inclosed that paper of anecdotes concerning him which is now familiar to the reading
public.’ Here are the reform theories of a temperate man on the subject of temperance, forty years ago, in a letter to M. de Neu
“I rejoice, as a moralist, at the prospect of a reduction of the duties on wine, by our National Legislature. It is an error to view a tax on that liquor as merely a tax on the rich. It is a prohibition of its use to the middling class of our citizens, and a condemnation of them to the poison of whisky, which is desolating their houses. No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whisky. Fix but the duty at the rate of other merchandise, and we can drink wine here as cheap as we do grog; and who will not prefer it? Its extended use will carry health and comfort to a much enlarged circle. Every one in easy circumstances (as the bulk of our citizens are) will prefer it to the poison to which they are now driven by their government. And the treasury itself will find that a penny apiece from a dozen, is more than a groat from a single one. This reformation, however, will require time. Our merchants know nothing of the
1 While he distinctly admitted that it was “to Mr. Adams's perseverance alone” he had always understood that our country was indebted for the reservation of the fisheries, in the first treaty of peace with England, he said he had “never heard on any authority worthy of notice,” that Franklin would have waived the formal recognition of our independence; and he declared on his own knowledge, that the charge against him of subserviency to France “had not a shadow of foundation.” He said, Franklin possessed the confidence of the French Government to such a degree “that it might be truly said. that they were more under his influence than he under theirs.” He attributed the misrepresentations of Franklin's conduct principally to Dr. Arthur Lee.—CSee vol. i. p. 156.)
infinite variety of cheap and good wines to be had in Europe; and particularly in France, in Italy, and the Graecian Islands.”
He wrote to his old friend, Mr. Macon, Jan. 12th, 1819:
“I read no newspaper now but Ritchie's, and in that chiefly the advertisements, for they contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper. I feel a much greater interest in knowing what has passed two or three thousand years ago, than in what is now passing. I read nothing, therefore, but of the heroes of Troy, of the wars of Lacedaemon and Athens, of Pompey and Caesar, and of Augustus too, the Bonaparte and particide scoundrel of that day. I have had, and still have, such entire confidence in the late and present Presidents, that I willingly put both soul and body into their pockets.”
The following letter gives too minute an account of Mr. Jefferson's physical habits and condition, and of his habits in some other particulars, not to be quoted entire.
To Doctor WINE UTLEY.
o - Monticello, March 21, 1819.
SIR,-Your letter of February the 18th came to hand on the 1st instant: and the request of the history of my physical habits would have puzzled me not a little, had it not been for the model with which you accompanied it, of Dr. Rush's answer to a similar inquiry. I live so much like other people, that I might refer to ordinary life as the history of my own. Like my friend the Doctor, I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, and that not as an aliment, so much as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet. I double, however, the Doctor's glass and a half of wine, and even treble it with a friend; but halve its effects by drinking the weak wines only. The ardent wines I cannot drink, nor do I use ardent spirits in any form. Malt liquors and cider are my table drinks, and my breakfast, like that also of my friend, is of tea and coffee. I have been blest with organs of digestion which accept and concoct, without ever murmuring, whatever the palate chooses to consign to them, and I have not yet lost a tooth by age. I was a hard student until I entered on the business of life, the duties of which leave no idle time to those disposed to fulfill them; and now, retired, and at the age of seventy-six, I am again a hard student. Indeed, my fondness for reading and study revolts me from the drudgery of letter writing. And a stiff wrist, the consequence of an early dislocation, makes writing both slow and painful. I am not so regular in my sleep as the Doctor says he was, devoting to it from five to eight hours, according as my company or the book I am reading interests me; and I never go to bed without an hour, or half an hour's previous reading of something moral, whereon to ruminate in the intervals of sleep. But whether I retire to bed early or late, I rise with the sun. I use spectacles at night, but not necessarily in the day, unless in reading small print. My hearing is distinct in particular conversation, but confused when several voices cross each other, which unfits me for the society of the table. I have been more fortunate than my friend in the article of health. So free from catarrhs that I have not had one (in the breast, I mean) on an average of eight or ten years through life. I ascribe this exemption partly to the