Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]





THE LIFE of THOMAS JEFFERSON, author of the Declaration of Independence, President of the United States, and one of the most prominent actors in the stirring scenes of the revolution, cannot, we presume, be unacceptable to any American reader. The incidents of his distinguished life, his talents, the exalted stations which he filled, his intimate connexion with those illustrious men whom we delight to honour, and his association with the most important events in the revolutionary struggle, must always afford him a conspicuous place in the history of our country. Shaken as he has been by the storms of the time, and so furiously assailed by political opponents, there was danger, while they contemplated nothing beyond the downfall of the executive, that their weapons might pass through his shield, and strike into the bosom of their country; yet now, when the fury of the day has passed over, candour will do justice to his talents, appreciate his merits, and render gratitude for his services. The

clouds are rolling off from the darkened landscape, and the excellencies of his character can now be distinguished on the horizon in all their native brightness.

It has been remarked, that certain stated times and periods have been prolifick of great men. Nature seems then to have exerted herself with a more than ordinary effort, and to have poured them forth with unusual fertility. But at no time or period did any country produce greater men, or those better qualified to conduct affairs to a successful issue, than at the commencement and during the progress of our combat for independence. The commanders were ardent and enterprising, and possessing an almost intuitive know)edge of their profession; our counsellors were firm, prudent and sagacious; and the continental Congress possessed a collective body of wisdom which the world has seldom witnessed. The people themselves, enthusiastick in the cause of liberty, deeply imbued with a detestation of tyranny, and with all their wrongs and remembrances about them, were brave and determined, unrepining in the midst of hardships, and free from cruelty and licentiousness. With such instruments, under the direction of a benignant Providence, the result was glorious, and its effects and consequences have been beneficially felt over a great part of the globe.

History," said professor Silliman in 1820, "presents no struggle for liberty which has in it more of the moral sublime than that of the American revolution. It has of late years been too much forgotten in the sharp contentions of party, and he who endeavours to withdraw the publick mind from these debasing conflicts, and to fix it on the grandeur of that epoch, whick,


magnificent in itself, begins now to wear the solemn livery of antiquity as it is viewed through the deepening twilight of almost half a century, certainly performs a meritorious service, and can scarcely need a justification.” But if a subject of interest when con templated in this view-if to the philosopher it affords a profound and gratifying theory in his annals of manhow vastly more important, and what a matter of exultation, must it be to those who reflect that it was their fathers who exhibited this noble spectacle to the world, and that the rights and privileges which they enjoy are the splendid result of their exertions! Their characters must become not only the subjects of curiosity, but their names of enduring gratitude, and the events of their lives not only the theme of frequent conversation, but familiar as household terms. It is under these impressions that these memoirs are presented to the publick; the memoirs of him whose name is one of the brightest in the revolutionary galaxy.

Thomas Jefferson was descended from a family who had long been settled in Virginia, the province of his nativity. His ancestors, according to a late biographer, had emigrated there at an early period; and although bringing with them, as far as is known, no fortune beyond that zeal and enterprize which are so useful and necessary to adventurers in a new and unknown coun try, and no rank beyond a name which was free from dishonour, they had a standing in the community highly respectable, and lived in circumstances of considerable affluence. “The tradition in my father's family," says the subject of this sketch, in his modest and idteresting memoirs, "was, that their ancestor came to

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

this country from Wales, and from near the mountain
of Snowden, the highest in Great Britain. I noted
once a case from Wales in the law reports, where a
person of our name was either plaintiff or defendant,
and one of the same name was secretary to the Virgin- .
ia Company. These are the only instances in which
I have met with the name in that country. I have
found it in our early records; but the first particular
information I have of any ancestor, was of my grand-
father, who lived at the place in Chesterfield called
Ozborne's, and owned the lands afterwards the glebe of
the parish. He had three sons: Thomas, who died
young; Field, who settled on the waters of Roanoke,
and left numerous descendants; and Peter, my father,
who settled on the lands I still own, called Shadwell,
adjoining my present residence. He was born Feb-
ruary 29, 1707—8, and intermarried, 1739, with Jane
Randolph, of the age of 19, daughter of Isham Ran-
dolph, one of the seven sons of that name and family,
settled at Dungeness, in Goochland. They trace their
pedigree far back in England and Scotland, to which

one ascribe the faith and merit he chooses." Thomas Jefferson was born April 2, old style, 1743, at Shadwell, in Albemarle county, Virginia, and was the eldest of eight children. His father, though his education had been entirely neglected in early life, yet, being a man of strong mind and sound judgement, he, by subsequent study, acquired no inconsiderable knowledge and information. His progress must have been not only rapid but profound, since we find him appointed in the year 1747 one of the commissioners with Joshua Fry, Professor of Mathematicks in William and

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

To the young

Mary College, for determining the division line between Virginia and North Carolina ; an appointment no less creditable to his talents than his integrity, a confidence in the latter of which is peculiarly necessary in setding the boundaries between jealous and independent territories. After this service, he was again employed with the same gentleman to make a map of Virginia, the first which had ever been made, that of Captain Smith being indebted more to fancy and conjecture than to fact. The father of Thomas Jefferson died August 17, 1757, leaving a widow, who lived until 1776, and six daughters and two sons. est son he left his estate on James River; to the eldest, with whose life we are engaged, the lands on which he was born, and lived, and died.

Young Jefferson was placed at an English school at the age of five years; and at a Latin one at the


of nine, where he continued until the death of his father. When that event happened, he was placed under the tuition of the Reverend Mr. Maury, whom he represents as a "correct classical scholar," and with whom he remained two years; when in the spring of 1760 he entered William and Mary College, and continued there the space of two years more.

At the latter place it was his great good fortune, and what he considered as fixing the destinies of his life, that Doctor William Small, of Scotland, was then Professor of Mathematicks in the institution; "a man," says his pupil, “profound in most of the useful branches of science, with a happy talent of communication, of correct and gentlemanly manners, and with an enlarged and liberal mind.” An attachment was soon formed between these

« PředchozíPokračovat »