Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

laurels were hardly earned and will wear well, and at long as "truth is left free to eombat errour," must remain untarnished and unsullied.

The reader may form and justly appreciate the publiek character of Mr. Jefferson, from the memoirs which he has perused. In that character will, we think, be distinguished, independence of mind, firmness and frankness of conduct, undaunted resolution, and indefatigable perseverance. And all these, aided by an intellect no less powerful than acute, no less comprehensive in its grasp than minute in its discernment. But perhaps the most distinguishing trait in his publiek character, was firm and undeviating consistency. He was swayed by the purity of democracy throughout. He has stood before two generations; and the same political doctrines which he first espoused, he advocated with persevering consistency unto the end! Forming his judgements after the best reflections that he could bestow, and after the fullest information he could collect, he ever after adhered to them. This may sometimes have been the cause of errour, but it was also the foundation of that political and moral firmness which may be traced from the very first moment of his entering upon life, until its close.

It has been well observed, that Mr. Jefferson's mind partook of the character which he wished to communicate to society. His speculations all manifest a feeling of independence, which allowed no authority to restrain him in the indulgence of his thoughts. It is remarkable that he never quotes the opinion of any other as the foundation or motive of his own. In whatever respect he held the reputation of the great or learned, he did not pay them the deference of re« ceiving their belief or their doctrines without investigation; for there are few fancies so extravagant in morals or philosophy, as not to have received, at some period or other, the countenance of great names, and to have been allowed by their sanction to pass current in society.

As we have already seen, the principal attempt in which his philanthropick efforts were unsuccessful, was the gradual emancipation of slaves, and the immediate inhibition of the traffick; and it will also be perceived that, in his draft of the Declaration of Independence, one of the grievances, charged upon the abjured sovereign, was the constant negative which he put upon all laws passed in the colonies for the abolition of the slave trade. His advocacy of the cause of slaves is a proof, if any were wanting, that his motive for reform was not the desire of popularity, and that he was not disposed to flatter publick opinion in order to obtain its support. On the contrary, he dared to attack it in a point where it was the most sensitive and intractable. In espousing the cause of the slaves, he excited for the most part the jealousy of their masters. He could have no motive but the honour of his country and the impulse of humanity.

"Mr. Jefferson resembled Dr. Franklin in the character of his mind, and in his fortunes. Neither of them had a predilection for political concerns. The studies most congenial to their minds were the speculations of philosophy, the discoveries of science, and the pursuits of natural history. They each had a fondness for the mechanick arts. Engaged in similar objects, they enjoyed abroad the same scientifick correspondence, and arrived at the same classical honours; and the traveller sees with pride their names associated and inscribed on the contributions which America has made to the learned cabinets of Europe.

"Dr. Franklin, also, is more known as a writer than an orator. Some of his speeches are reported. Though they are distinguished by the peculiar and extraordinary features of his mind, and were always delivered with effect, yet it is remarked, that he never spoke longer than ten minutes. Mr. Jefferson too, wanting strength of voice, relied altogether upon his power of writing; and as nature is observed to compensate the loss of one sense by giving more force to another, so Mr. Jefferson's disuse of publick speaking seems to have thrown additional energies in his written composition."

Mr. Jefferson was the acknowledged head of the republican party, from the period of its organization, down to that of his retirement from publick life. The unbounded praise and blame which he received as a politician, must be left for the judgement of the historian and posterity.

In person, Mr. Jefferson was tall, erect, and well formed, though thin; his countenance was bland and expressive; his conversation fluent, imaginative, various, and eloquent. Few men equalled him in the faculty of pleasing in personal intercourse and acquiring ascendency in political connexion. His complexion was fair, and his features remarkably expressive; his forehead broad, the nose not larger than the common size, and the whole face square, and expressive of deep thinking-. In his conversation he wa3 cheerful and enthusiastick; and his language was singularly correct and vivacious. His manners were simple and unaffected, mingled, however, with much native but unobtrusive dignity.

In disposition, Mr. Jefferson was full of liberality and benevolence. His charity was unostentatious, but bountiful; a certain portion of his revenue was regularly applied to maintain and extend it; and it has been remarked, that those who, since his death, have travelled in that part of Virginia where he resided, could not fail to be struck with the repeated, the grateful, and the unpremeditated tributes which are every where paid to his memory—the constant appeal to his opinions, the careful remembrance and relation of every anecdote affecting his person and his actions. In his family he was hospitable to a degree which caused poverty to throw some dark shadows over the evening of his life; he was kind to his domesticks, by whom it was remarked, that no instance had ever occurred in which he had lost his temper; he was warmly attached and devoted to his children and relatives, whom he loved to assemble around him; and we have seen how bitterly he felt the blow which deprived him of one of his two children—a calamity which seems to have shaken his affectionate nature to its centre. The simplicity of the domestick habits of Mr. Jefferson, have been already discovered in our extracts from his correspondence.

The correspondence of Mr. Jefferson was varied and extensive, to a degree that became extremely irksome in his latter years. On this subject, in the year 1822, he thus expressed himself to Mr. Adams: "I do not know how far you may suffer, as I do, under the persecution of letters, of which every mail brings a fresh load. They are letters of inquiry, for the most part, always of good will, sometimes from friends whom I esteem, but much oftener from persons whose names are unknown to me, but written kindly and civilly, and to which, therefore, civility requires answers. I happened to turn to my letter list, some time ago, and a curiosity was excited to count those received in a single year. I found the number to be one thousand two hundred and sixty-seven, many of them requiring answers of elaborate research, and all to be answered with due attention and consideration."

A few words respecting the religious opinions of Mr. Jefferson, and we close the volume. He has been represented as it suited party rancour: at one time, as the atheistical desperado, warring against the God of heaven,; at another, as the ribald scoffer, throwing malignant sneers upon the declarations of His word. But he was far, very far, from being either of these. However opposed Mr. Jefferson may have been to what he considered the corruptions Or abuses of Christianity, yet to the spirit and precepts of the gospel he was strongly attached; and of the character of our Saviour he was a warm and professed admirer. His correspondence is full of declarations to this effect, and they are given as the frank and undisguised sentiments of his heart. In a letter to his friend, Dr. Rush, he thus gives him his views of the Christian religion: "They are," says he, "the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian

« ПредишнаНапред »