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Jefferson, and adds no fluttering pinion to his deathless
Ever since the year 1763, a spirit of opposition to the British government had been gradually arising in the province of Virginia, and this spirit was rapidly increasing, owing to the arbitrary measures of the mother country, which seemed to be the result no less of mado ness than determined oppression. The attachment to England was great in all the colonies, and in Virginia it was more than usually strong; many of the principal families, according to a popular writer, were connected with it by the closest ties of consanguinity; the young men of talent were sent thither to complete their education in its colleges; and by many, and those not the least patriotick, it was fondly looked to as their home. To sever so intimate a connexion could not be an undertaking of ordinary facility; yet such was the rash course pursued by the British ministry, that a very brief space was sufficient to dissolve in every breast that glowed with national feeling, those ties which had been formed by blood, by time, and by policy. A very short experience and a slight converse with the political history of the world were sufficient to convince every
mind that there were no hazards too great to be encountered for the establishment of institutions which would secure the country from a repetition of insults that could only end in abject slavery. It cannot be doubted that Mr. Jefferson was among the first to perceive and suggest the only course that could be adopted.. The convictions of his mind, and ardour of his feelings, may, in some measure, be judged, from his recollections of the powerful efforts of the celebrated Patrick Henry,
and of which he was a witness. “When the famous re. solutions of 1765 against the stamp act were proposed, I was yet a student of law in Williamsburgh. I attend. ed the debate, however, at the door of the lobby of the House of Burgesses, and heard the splendid display of Mr. Henry's talents as a popular orator. They were great indeed; such as I never heard from any other
He appeared to me to speak as Homer wrote." In Mr. Jefferson's opinion, Henry, one of the most eminent, but at the same time the most indolent of men, was the first who gave impetus to the ball of the revolution in the province of Virginia. Such are the effects of oratorial eloquence! Its power is almost irresistible: it penetrates, says one who seems to have been under the fascination of its influence, into the inmost recesses of the soul. It is able to excite or to calm the passions of men at will; to drive the multitude forward to acts of rashness, or to say to the contending passions, “Peace, be still.” It changes the whole current of our ideas concerning the nature and importance of objects, and of our obligations and advantages respecting them. It rouses from pernicious indolence, and renders the sentiments and dispositions already formed most influential. In a word, it has made of the human species both angels and monsters; it has animated to the most noble and generous exertions, and it has impelled to deeds of horrour.
It is in allusion to the events of the same period that Mr. Jefferson writes: “ The colonies were taxed internally and externally; their essential interests sacrificed to individuals in Great Britain; their legislatures suspended; charters annulled; trials by juries taken
away; their persons subjected to transportation across the Atlantick, and to trial by foreign judicatories; their supplications for redress thought beneath answer; themselves published as cowards in the councils of their mother country, and courts of Europe; armed troops sent amongst them to enforce submission to these violen
and actual hostilities commenced against them. No alternative was presented but resistance or unconditional submission. Between these, there could be no hesitation. They closed in an appeal to arms."
In 1769, shortly after the election of Mr. Jefferson to the provincial legislature, these discontents arrived at their crisis. In May of that year, a meeting of the General Assembly was called by the Governour, Lord Botetourt. To that meeting was made known the joint resolutions and address of the British Lords and Commons of 1768-9, on the proceedings in Massachusetts. Counter resolutions, and an address to the King, by the House of Burgesses, were agreed to with little opposition; and a spirit manifestly displayed itself of considering the cause of Massachusetts as a common one. The Governour dissolved the General Assembly in consequence of the sympathy which was thus exhibited by a majority of its members; but they met the next day in the publick room of the Raleigh Tavern, formed themselves into a convention, drew up articles of association against the use of any merchandise from Great Britain, and signed and recommended them to the people. They then repaired to their respective counties; and were all re-elected except those few who had declined assenting to their proceedings.
On the first of January, 1772, Mr. Jefferson married
the daughter of Mr. John Wayles of Virginia, an alliance by which he at once gained an accession of strength and credit, and received, in the intervals of publick business, that domestick happiness he was so well fitted to partake and enjoy. Its duration, however, was but short; in little more than ten years, death deprived him of his wife, and left him the sole guardian of two infant daughters; to whose education he devo- . ted himself with a constancy and zeal, which might, in some measure, compensate for the want of a mother's care and instruction. Mr. Wayles was an eminent lawyer of the province, and having by his great industry, punctuality, and practical readiness, acquired a handsome fortune, he died in May, 1773, leaving three daughters: the portion which came on that event to Mrs. Jefferson was about equal to the patrimony of her husband, and consequently doubled the ease of their circumstances.
After the dissolution of the Virginia legislature in 1769, nothing of particular excitement in the country occurred for a considerable length of time; the nation appeared to have fallen into an apathy or insensibility to their situation; although the duty on tea was not yet repealed, and the declaratory act of a right in the British parliament to bind them by their laws in all cases, was still supended over them. But they at length aroused from their stupor. A court of inquiry held in Rhode Island in 1762, with a power to send persons to England to be tried for offences committed here, was thought to have aimed a deadly stab at the most sacred rights of the citizen, and as demanding the attention of the legislature of Virginia. The subject was taken
up and considered at the spring session of 1773. On this occasion, Mr. Jefferson associated himself with several of the boldest and most active of his companions in the house, (" not thinking," as he says himself, "the old and leading members up to the point of forwardness and zeal which the times required,”) and with them formed the system of Committees of Correspondence, in a private room, in the same Raleigh Tavern. They were sensible that the most urgent of all measures was that of coming to an understanding with all the other colonies, to consider the British claims as a common cause to all, and to produce a unity of action; and for this purpose, that a committee of correspondence in each colony would be the best instrument for intercommunication, and that their first measure would probably be to propose a meeting of deputies from every colony, at some central place, who should be charged with the direction of the measures which should be taken by all. In furtherance of these views, the following resolutions were drawn up, and probably proceeded from his pen:
"Whereas the minds of his majesty's faithful subjects in this colony have been much disturbed by various rumours and reports of proceedings tending to deprive them of their ancient legal and constitutional rights:
“ And whereas the affairs of this colony are frequently connected with those of Great Britain, as well as the neighbouring colonies, which renders a communication of sentiments necessary; in order therefore to remove the uneasiness and to quiet the minds of the people, as well as for the other good purposes above mentioned:
“Be it resolved, that a standing committee of corres