Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

gress. I never heard either of them speak ten minsutes at a time, nor to any but the main point whick: was to decide the question. They laid their shoulders to the great points, knowing that the little ones would follow of themselves. If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise, in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question every thing, yield nothing, and talk by the hour? That one hundred and fifty lawyers should do business together, ought not to be expected."

Early in December, letters were received from the commissioners in France, accompanied with the definitive treaty between the United States and Great Britain, which had been signed at Paris on the third of September. They were immediately referred to a committee, of which Mr. Jefferson was chairman.On the fourteenth of January, 1784, on the report of this committee, the treaty was unanimously ratified, thus putting an end to the eventful struggle between the two countries, and confirming the independence which had already been gained.

About this period an opportunity was offered to Mr. Jefferson, of expressing again, as he had already só frequently done, his earnest desire to provide for the emancipation of the negroes, and the entire abolition of slavery in the United States. Being appointed chairman of a committee to which was assigned the task of forming a plan for the temporary government of the Western Territory, he introduced into it the following clause: “That after the year 1800 of the christian era, there shall be neither slavery, nor invol

1

#tary servitude in any of the said states, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been convieted to have been personally guilty." When the report of the committee was presented to Congress, these words were, however, struck out.

On the 7th of May, Congress resolved that a Minister Plenipotentiary should be appointed, in addition to Mr. Adams and Dr. Franklin, for negotiating treaties of commerce with foreign nations, and Mr. Jefferson was elected to that duty. He accordingly left Annapolis on the 11th, taking with him his eldest daughter, then at Philadelphia, and proceeded to Boston in quest of a passage. While passing through the different states, he informed himself of the condition of the commerce of each, went on to New Hampshire with the same view, and returned to Boston. Thence he sailed on the 5th of July in a merchant ship bound to Cowes; which, after a pleasant voyage of nineteen days, reached the place of her destination on the 26th. After being detained there a few days by the indisposition of his daughter, he embarked on the 30th for Havre, arrived there on the 31st, left it on the 3d of August, and arrived at Paris on the 6th. He called immediately on Dr. Franklin, at Passy, communicated to him their charge, and wrote to Mr. Adams, then at the Hague, to join them at Paris.

“ Before I had left America,” states Mr. Jefferson in his memoirs, “ that is to say, in the year 1781, I had received a letter from M. de Marbois, of the French legation in Philadelphia, informing me, he had been instructed by his government to obtain such statistical accounts of the different states of our Union, as might

[ocr errors]

ay station,

be useful for their information; and addressing to me
a number of queries relative to the state of Virginia.
I had always made it a practice, whenever an oppor-
tunity occurred of obtaining any information of our
country, which might be of use to me in
publick or private, to commit it to writing. These
memoranda were on loose papers,

bundled

up

without order, and difficult of recurrence, when I had occasion for a particular one. I thought this a good occasion to imbody their substance, which I did in the order of Mr. Marbois' queries, so as to answer his wish, and to arrange them for

my own use. Some friends, to whom they were occasionally communicated, wished for copies; but their volume rendering this too laborious by hand, I proposed to get a few printed for their gratification. I was asked such a price, however, as exceeded the importance of the object. On my arrival at Paris, I found it could be done for a fourth of what I had been asked here. I therefore corrected and enlarged them, and had two hundred copies printed, under the title of Notes on Virginia. I gave a very few copies to some particular friends in Europe, and sent the rest to my friends in America. An European copy, by the death of the owner, got into the hands of a bookseller, who engaged its translation, and when ready for the press, communicated his intentions and manuscript to me, suggesting that I should correct it, without asking any other permission for the publication. I never had seen so wretched an attempt at translation. Interverted, abridged, mutilated, and often reversing the sense of the original, I found it a blotch of errours from beginning to end. I corrected some of the most

material, and in that form it was printed in French. A London bookseller, on seeing the translation, requested me to permit him to print the English original. I thought it best to do so, to let the world see that it was not really so bad as the French translation had made it appear." Such was the origin and history of the celebrated “ Notes on Virginia.”

This work comes recommended to us by its bland philosophy, the variety of its information, and the charming simplicity of its style. In it, the fanciful and absurd. theories of Buffon receive a gentle but most convincing refutation; and the greatest philosopher of his day is prostrated by a citizen of a then almost unknown and despised country. And when demanded, Mr. Jefferson can rise with his subject, and touch the pinnacle of loftiness in thought and sublimity of conception. But, as has been truly remarked, it is " in the interesting picture of Indian habits and man-ners; the records of their untutored eloquence; the vindication of their bravery, their generosity, and their virtue; in the delineation of the character, the fidelity, the kindly teelings of the enslaved negro race, whose champion he ever was, alike in the times of colonial subjection, and of established freedom ; in his investigations relative to religious and political liberty; in: his researches in science, philosophy, and antiquitythat every

reader will find much to instruct and amuse. He will not perhaps regret that he chose publick life as the great theatre of his ambition, but he will acknowledge, that his fame would probably have been as great in the more peaceful pursuits of science."

In this work is also contained the famous speech of Logan, the Mingo chief, which seems to be no less gratifying to the nobility of intellect, than attractive as the theme of schoolboy declamation. Whether this speech, delivered to Lord Dunmore, be really the speech of this implacable warriour, or whether it was coined for him by the poetick fancy of his messenger, , it would be difficult to decide. It is certainly characterized by the laconick and figurative style of the Indians. It would require, however, a keen vision to perceive in it that “tender sentiment” and “sublime morality," which some of the historians of Virginia say it possesses.

Is there any thing either tender or sublime in the declaration of savage vengeance, and the confession of having glutted himself with the blood of his enemies? The end of this cormorant chieftain corresponded with his life. After “having killed many, and glutted his vengeance with blood,” he went to Detroit, on his return from which place he was murdered. After the return of peace had compelled Logan to forbearthe use of the tomahawk and scalping knife, he became addicted to the Indian's besetting sin, to that degrading and debasing vice which paralyzes the physical powers of man, which bows his intellect to imbecility, and brings destruction on his temporal fortunes and future prospects—he became a confirmed and abandoned sot. The immoderate use of brandy had stupified his mental powers, and mingled with the demoniack ferocity of the savage, the delirious ravings of the drunkard.

But to return from this digression. Full powers were given by Congress to Mr. Jefferson and the other commissioners appointed by them, to form alliances of

« PředchozíPokračovat »