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MONTICELLO, -RESIDENCE OF THOMAS JEFFERSON.
But little is known of them. Peter Jefferson, the father of Thomas, was a man of handsome property and of considerable
culture. He married Jane Randolph, a young lady of nineteen, of opulent parentage, born in London, and accustomed to the refinements of life. Mr. Peter Jefferson, from his worth of character and mental attainments, acquired considerable local distinction, and was at one time professor of mathematics in William and Mary College.
Peter, with his young bride, took an estate of fourteen hundred acres upon the slopes of the Blue Ridge, in what is now called Albemarle County, and in the vicinity of the present town of Charlottesville. The plantation was called Shadwell, from the name of the parish in London where his wife was born. His home was literally hewn out of the wilderness. There were but few white settlers within many miles of the mansion, which consisted of a spacious story and a half cottage-house. A wide hall and four large rooms occupied the lower floor. Above these, there were good chambers and a spacious garret. Two huge outside chimneys contributed to the picturesque aspect of the mansion. It was delightfully situated upon a gentle swell of land upon the slopes of the Blue Ridge, and commanded a sublime prospect of far-reaching mountains and forests.
Here Thomas was born, the oldest child of his parents, on the 2d of April, 1743. When he was fourteen years of age, his father died, leaving a widow and eight children. We know but very little about these parents. Mr. Jefferson seldom alluded to them. His most distinguished biographer says, "He was singularly shy in speaking or writing of matters of family history." It is only known of his mother, that she was a beautiful and accomplished lady, an admirable housekeeper, a good letter-writer, with a great fund of humor. Mr. Jefferson used to mention as his earliest recollection that of being carried by a slave on a pillow on horseback, when he was but two years of age, in one of the journeys of the family.
His father and mother belonged to the Church of England. Thomas was naturally of a serious, pensive, reflective turn of mind. From the time he was five years of age, he was kept diligently at school under the best teachers. He was a general favorite with both teachers and scholars; his singular amiability winning the love of the one, and his close application to study and remarkable proficiency securing the affection and esteem of the other. It is not usual for a young man to be fond both of
mathematics and the classics; but young Jefferson was alike devoted to each of these branches of learning. He has often been heard to say, that, if he were left to decide between the pleasure derived from the classical education which his father had given him and the large estate which he inherited, he should have decided in favor of the former.
In the year 1760, he entered William and Mary College. He was then seventeen years of age, and entered an advanced class. Williamsburg was then the seat of the Colonial Court, and it was the abode of fashion and splendor. Young Jefferson lived in college somewhat expensively, keeping fine horses, and much caressed by gay society. Still he was earnestly devoted to his studies, and irreproachable in his morals.
It is strange that he was not ruined. In the second year of his college course, moved by some unexplained inward impulse, he discarded his horses, society, and even his favorite violin, to which he had previously given much time. He often devoted fifteen hours a day to hard study; allowing himself for exercise only a run in the evening twilight of a mile out of the city, and back again. He thus attained very high intellectual culture, alike excelling in philosophy and the languages. The most difficult Latin and Greek authors he read with facility. A more finished scholar has seldom gone forth from collegiate halls; and there was not to be found, perhaps, in all Virginia, a more pureminded, upright, gentlemanly young man.
Immediately upon leaving college, he entered the law-office of Mr. Wythe, one of the most distinguished lawyers of the State. Mr. Jefferson was then not twenty-one years of age. But there was something in his culture, his commanding character, and his dignified yet courteous deportment, which gave him position with men far his seniors in age and his superiors in rank. The English governor of the colony, Francis Fauquier, was a man of great elegance of manners, whose mansion was the home of a very generous hospitality. He had three especial friends who often met, forming a select circle at his table. These were the eminent counsellor, George Wythe; Dr. Small, a Scotch clergyman, one of the most distinguished professors in the college; and Thomas Jefferson. It is said that that polish of manners which distinguished Mr. Jefferson through life was acquired in this society.
In the law-office he continued his habits of intense application
to study. In the winter, he rose punctually at five o'clock. In the summer, as soon as, in the first gray of the morning, he could discern the hands of the clock in his room, he sprang from his bed. At nine o'clock in summer he retired; at ten o'clock in winter. His vacations at Shadwell consisted only of a change of place there was no abatement of study. His politeness to all shielded him from incivility, and he never became engaged in any personal rencounter. Gambling he so thoroughly detested, that he never learned to distinguish one card from another. Ardent spirits he never drank, tobacco in any form he never used, and he was never heard to utter an oath.
He was fond of music, and had studied it both practically and as a science. Architecture, painting, and sculpture had attracted so much of his attention, that he was esteemed one of the best of critics in the fine arts. The accurate knowledge he had acquired of French was of immense use to him in his subsequent diplomatic labors. He read Spanish, and could both write and speak the Italian. The Anglo-Saxon he studied as the root of the English, regarding it as an important element in legal philology. Thus furnished, he went forth to act his part in life's great conflict.
While a student at law, he heard Patrick Henry, who had suddenly burst forth as Virginia's most eloquent orator, make one of his spirit-moving speeches against the Stamp Act. It produced an impression upon Jefferson's mind which was never effaced. In 1767, he entered upon the practice of the law. His thoroughly disciplined mind, ample stores of knowledge, and polished address, were rapidly raising him to distinction, when the outbreak of the Revolution caused the general abandonment of the courts of justice, and introduced him to loftier spheres of responsibility, and to action in an arena upon which the eyes of the civilized world were concentrated.
Jefferson, though so able with his pen, was not distinguished as a public speaker. He seldom ventured to take any part in debate. Still, wherever he appeared, he produced a profound impression as a deep thinker, an accurate reasoner, and a man of enlarged and statesman-like views.
He had been but a short time admitted to the bar ere he was chosen by his fellow-citizens to a seat in the Legislature of Virginia. This was in 1769. Jefferson was then the largest slave