College Days of Thomas Jefferson

JEFFERSON was a stripling of seventeen, tall, raw-boned, freckled, and sandy-haired, when, in 1760, he came to Williamsburg from the Far West of Virginia, to enter the College of William and Mary. With his large feet and hands, his thick wrists, and prominent cheek-bones and chin, he could not have been accounted handsome or graceful. He is described, however, as a fresh, bright, healthylooking youth, as straight as a gunbarrel, sinewy and strong, with that alertness of movement which comes of early familiarity with saddle, gun, canoe, minuet, and country dance, — that sure, elastic tread and ease of bearing which we still observe in country-bred lads who have been exempt from the ruder toils of agriculture, while enjoying, in full measure, the freedom and the sports of the country. His teeth, too, were perfect, which alone redeems a countenance destitute of other charm ; his eyes, which were of hazel - gray, were beaming and expressive ; and his demeanor gave assurance of a gentle heart and sympathetic, inquisitive mind.

Such lads, eager and unformed, still come to college from honest country homes, in regions where agriculture is carried on upon a scale that allows some leisure to the farmer’s family, some liberality of expenditure, books, music, a tincture of art, and hospitable habits. How welcome, how dear, to instructors worthy of them, are such unhackneyed minds in bodies unimpaired !

The abode of this youth was a hundred and fifty miles to the northwest of Williamsburg, among the mountains of Central Virginia, near where the river Rivanna, an important tributary, enters the James. His home was a plain, spacious farm-house, a story and a halt high, with four large rooms and a wide entry on the ground floor, and many garret chambers above. The farm was nineteen hundred acres of land, part of it densely wooded, and some of it so steep and rocky as to be unfit for cultivation. The fields near the river were strong land, not yet (though soon to be) worn past the profitable culture of tobacco ; but the upper portions were well suited to the grains and roots familiar to the farmers of the Middle States. For sixty years the staple product of all that fine mountain region, with its elevated fields, its far-reaching valleys and rapid streams, was wheat, which the swift tributaries ground into flour, and the yellow James bore down its tranquil tide to Richmond, distant from the Jefferson home two days’ ride. The rustle of wheat-ears was familiar music to Thomas Jefferson from infancy to hoary age.

The farm was tilled, at this period, by thirty slaves, — equivalent to about fifteen farm hands. The circumstances of the family were easy, not affluent. Almost every common thing they consumed was grown or made at home, — all the common fabrics and ordinary clothing; and of home-made commodities they had an abundance ; but the thirty pounds sterling per annum in cash, which the student was to expend at Williamsburg for his board and tuition, was not so light a charge upon the estate as it sounds to us. The entire expense of his maintenance away from home may have been fifty pounds a year ; which was probably not less than half the sum that could be taken properly from the annual product of the farm and shops, after all the home charges had been paid. The yeomen of Virginia, though they enjoyed a profusion of the necessaries of life, were sometimes sorely put to it when a sum of money was to be raised.

This student of seventeen, through the death of his father three years before, was already the head of the family, and, under a guardian, the owner of the Sbadwell farm, the best portion of his father’s estate.

The happy results that spring from the intermingling, by marriage, of families long cultured, with families more vigorous and less refined, has been often remarked. Such conjunctions gave us Shakespeare and Goethe. A novelist of the day tells us of a ducal house which, on system, married a plebeian estate every other generation, which renewed, at once, its blood and its fortunes. The material point was the renewal of the blood, which brings with it the brain, the stamina, and the self-control by which great houses are founded and all great things are done. If, at the present time, there is an aristocracy in Europe which in any respectable degree earns its wages, it is that aristocracy which has oftenest renewed itself by the strenuous blood of men who have won commanding places by sheer strength of mind and purpose. The world would never have heard of the Palmerstons if the second lord had not wooed and won the admirable daughter of a Dublin tradesman ; nor of Brougham, if the father of the late lord had married, as he intended, in his native country and class. Nature so delights in uniting opposites, that she seals with the unmistakable signet of her approbation the coming together of opposites artificially produced, ancient culture and plebeian force.

Peter Jefferson, the father of the student, was a superb specimen of a class nearly extinct in Great Britain which used to be called yeomen, — farmers who owned the soil they tilled, but had no pretensions to aristocratic rank, — a class intermediate in a parish between the squire and his tenants. In old Virginia, yeomen were farmers who, beginning life with little capital besides a strong arm and an energetic will, had taken up a tract of land to the westward of the great tobacco region of Virginia, and gradually worked their way to the possession of a cleared farm and a few families of slaves. In this manner Peter Jefferson, and his father before him, had achieved an independent position ; stanch yeomen both, of strong, unlettered sense, and of signal ability in the conduct of business ; enterprising and methodical; liberal but exact; good at figures, with a clear, careful handwriting, and an aptitude for mechanics. The family was of Welsh extraction. The first of the name in Virginia, it is well worth noting, was a member of that Virginia Assembly of 1619, the first legislative bodyever convened on the Western continent, the summoning of which ended the twelve years’ anarchy that followed the planting of the Colony, and notified the colonists that, in crossing the sea, they had lost none of the rights of Englishmen. All that is important, characteristic, and hopeful in the history of America dates from the meeting of that Assembly ; and an ancestor of Thomas Jefferson was a member of it. Virginia then contained six hundred white inhabitants. The church nearest his farm was called the “Jefferson Church ” for a hundred years after his death, and the ruins of it were visible as late as 1856.

Peter Jefferson, a younger son, and therefore having little to expect from his father, made his entrance into responsible life by the door which, many years later, admitted the son of another Virginia yeoman, George Washington. He learned the art of surveying land,—a kind of liberal profession in a new country. He practised this profession in his native county of Chesterfield, and in all the region trodden by the Confederate armies and torn by Federal cannon during the long siege of Richmond and Petersburg, — cities which then existed only in the prophetic minds of men like Colonel Byrd, who marked both as the sites of towns when as yet not a tree of the primeval forest had been felled. Like George Washington, too, this young surveyor owed his rise in the social scale to a marriage; though it was Peter Jefferson’s happier fortune to win a maiden heart, and to create for her the home over which he asked her to preside. What a pretty romance it was ! The athletic youth, master of his surveyor’s chain and knowledge, a natural Prince of the Frontier, becomes knit in an ardent, young man’s friendship with William Randolph, son of one of those flourishing Randolphs who lived in such lordly state, in the good old barbaric days, when the soil of Virginia was still unworn, when negroes were twenty-five guineas “ a head,” and tobacco brought four pence a pound in London docks. Together they visit an uncle of William Randolph, seated on a vast plantation on the James, some miles below the mouth of the Rivanna, — one of the few grand houses of Virginia where knowledge and taste were more conspicuous than pride and profusion. Isham Randolph was the name of this tobacco lord, and his eldest daughter was Jane. She was born while the family were living in London, where her father knew Peter Collinson, wool merchant, botanist, and friend of Pennsylvania; also Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum, and all that circle of the Royal Society’s more active members.

She was not too lightly won, this daughter of a stately house. Peter Jefferson was twenty-eight and she seventeen when he mounted and rode a hundred miles to the northwest of his home, and fifty miles beyond hers, and bought his first thousand acres on the Rivanna, and began to hew out a farm and home. Within half a day’s ride, the smoke of only three or four settlers’ cabins floated up through small clearings to the .sky, and the trail of Indians was to be seen in the woods. For two years he wrought there in the forest, aided, doubtless, by a slave family or two ; and when he had cleared a few fields and built something a little better than a cabin, he went to Dungeness, and brought home his bride, Jane Randolph. To do her honor, he named their abode Shadwell, because it was in a London parish of that name that she first saw the light. He was married in 1738. Five years after — April 13, 1743 — his third child was born, whom he named Thomas, that student who stands at the threshold of William and Mary College, waiting our convenience to be admitted.

Of this adventurous lady, who gave her hand to Peter Jefferson and rode by his side to their home in the woods, we only know that she was the child of an intelligent and hospitable father ; and this one fact comes to us by a strange and pleasant chance. There was a Quaker farmer near Philadelphia, at the beginning of the last century, named William Bartram, who, while he was resting from the plough one day, under a tree, pulling a daisy to pieces, and observing some of the more obvious marvels of its construction, suddenly awoke to bis pitiful ignorance of the vegetable wonders in the midst of which he had lived and labored from childhood. He resumed his toil, but not with the stolid content with his ignorance that he had enjoyed so long. On the fourth day after, raging for knowledge, he hired a man to hold his plough, while he rode to Philadelphia, and brought home a work upon botany in Latin and a Latin grammar. In three months, by a teacher’s aid, he could grope his way in the Latin book; in a year he had botanized all over the region round about, and cast longing eyes over the border into Maryland and Virginia. By good management of his farm and servants, — emancipated slaves, — he was able to spend the rest of his life in the study of nature, making wide excursions into neighboring Colonies, until he knew every plant that grew between the Alleghany range and the Atlantic Ocean ; becoming at length botanist to the king, at fifty guineas a year, and founding on the banks of the Schuylkill the first botanical garden of America. He and his garden flourished together to a green old age, and he died, at the approach of the British Army during the Revolutionary War, of terror lest the pride of his life should be trampled into ruin by the troops. Among his European correspondents was that assiduous friend of Pennsylvania and of Franklin, Peter Collinson, with whom for fifty years he exchanged letters, seeds, roots, trees, slips, nuts, grafts, birds, turtles, squirrels, and other animals ; and it is to their correspondence that Europe owes the profusion of American trees and shrubs that adorn so many parks, gardens, and highways. To the same interchange America was indebted, among other benefits, for those rare kinds of plums, cherries, apricots, gooseberries, and other fruits that flourished for a time, though the climate has since proved too harsh and exacting for them. In a singularly quiet, homely way, those two excellent men, at the cost of a few guineas per annum, conferred solid and lasting benefits upon countless generations of the inhabitants of two continents.

It is in the letters of Peter Collinson to his American friend, that we find allusions to the father of our Jefferson’s mother. William Bartram may have seen Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph married ; for, a few months before that event, when the botanist was about to make a botanical tour in Virginia, Collinson sends him the names of three or four gentlemen of that Province who were interested in “our science,” one of whom was Isham Randolph. “No one,” he remarks, “will make thee more welcome ” ; and he adds, “I take his house to be a very suitable place to make a settlement at, for to take several days’ excursions all round, and to return to his house at night.” The worthy Quaker favors his somewhat too plain American friend, who was also of Quaker family, with a piece of advice, that gives us some information. “One thing,” he says, “ I must desire of thee, and do insist that thee oblige me therein : that thou make up that drugget clothes ” (a present from Collinson to Bartram) “to go to Virginia in, and not appear to disgrace thyself or me; for though I should not esteem thee less to come to me in what dress thou will, yet these Virginians ' (having in his mind’s eye his old acquaintances, Isham Randolph and his young family) “are a very gentle, well-dressed people, and look, perhaps, more at a man’s outside than his inside. For these and other reasons, pray go very clean, neat, and handsomely dressed in Virginia. Never mind thy clothes; I will send more another time,” The benevolent Peter was a dealer in woollens, and sent the rustic Bartram many a good ell of cloth to wear at the great houses in the country.

The botanist visited Isham Randolph’s mansion on the James, in and about which, it is said, a hundred servants attended. There he must have seen the eldest daughter of the house at the time when she was busy with preparations for her marriage, and he may have stayed to the wedding feast, and cheered the bride and bridegroom as they rode away on horseback to their new home. He had generous entertainment ; of which he sent grateful accounts to his patron in London. Collinson replies, that it was no more than he expected of his friend Isham. “ I did not doubt his civility to thee. I only wish to have been there, and shared it with thee.” In another letter, the worthy merchant mentions that “our friend, Isham Randolph (a generous, good-natured gentleman, and well respected by most who are acquainted with him)” had agreed to correspond with him on their beloved science. When the news came of Isham Randolph’s death, Collinson wrote of him as “ the good man ” who had gone to his long home, and, he doubted not, was happy.

These glimpses of the father of Jefferson’s mother are slight, but they are the more interesting because they confirm the tradition that it was from his mother he derived his temper, his disposition, and his sympathy with living nature.

Though his mother had been the tenderest of women, his father had strength to match her tenderness. Tradition, current in the county where he lived, and gathered by Mr. Randall, whose extensive and sympathetic work 1 must remain the great reservoir of information respecting the Jeffersons, reports Peter Jefferson a wonder even of physical force and stature. He had the strength of three strong men. Two hogsheads of tobacco, each weighing a thousand pounds, he could raise at once, from their sides, and stand them upright. When surveying in the wilderness, he could tire out his assistants, and tire out his mules ; then eat his mules ; and still press on, sleeping alone by night in a hollow tree, to the howling of the wolves, till his task was done. He loved mathematics. He managed his affairs so well that, in twenty years, he was master of a competent estate, and could assign a good plantation to his younger son, after leaving the bulk of his estate to his eldest. But with this strength of character there was genuine intelligence. He relished Shakespeare ; and Shakespeare alone can be a liberal education. His fine edition of Shakespeare, still preserved among his relics, attests by its appearance that the man whose property it was loved it, and repaired often to it, during many years, for solace and delight. The Spectator, a new work in his day, and some volumes of Swift, are among the books, once his, that his descendants possess.

County honors, which, at that time and place, could mean nothing but public duties, always difficult, often perilous, never compensated, made him at length the unquestioned chief of that frontier region. When the county was set off and named Albemarle, Peter Jefferson was appointed one of its three justices of the peace; afterwards, county surveyor; then, colonel of the county, chief of provincial honors in old Virginia, in which capacity he was the defender of the frontier against the Indians ; finally he was sent to represent his county in the House of Burgesses, which sat at Williamsburg, the capital of the Province. In politics, he was a British Whig, like most of the Western yeomen of the early day; the great planters of the lower country generally affecting Tory politics. For many years he was vestryman of his parish church.

His qualifications were recognized by the royal government. He was out, when his boy was six years old, for several weeks on the line between Virginia and North Carolina, as joint commissioner with Joshua Fry, Professor of Mathematics in William and Mary College, completing the boundary between these two Provinces. Two years after, he was associated with Professor Fry in the construction of the first map of Virginia ever attempted since Captain John Smith’s conjectural sketch of 1609. The boy of eight must have seen the surveys and broad sheets spread upon the great table in the family room. Perhaps this honorable connection with one of the college professors may have strengthened, may have originated, the fondest purpose of Peter Jefferson’s heart, which was to give his son the best chance for education the Colony afforded.

From this natural chief of men Thomas Jefferson derived his stature, His erectness, his bodily strength, — in which only his father excelled him of the men known or remembered in that county, — his self-reliance, his habit of waiting upon himself, his aversion to parade and ceremony, his tendency to humane politics, His curious exactness in matters of business, his strong bias toward mathematics, mechanics, and architecture. He may have derived from him, too, some traits that limited his ability as an executive chief. One of his father’s maxims was, “ Never ask another to do for you what you can do for yourself.” A man who has to direct extensive affairs and control many men must reverse this maxim, and never do anything himself which he can properly get another to do.

We can hardly imagine a boy better placed for the equal development of mind, body, and character than Thomas Jefferson was during his father’s lifetime. That region combines both the charms and the advantages of mountain and plain; for the heights are not too difficult of access, and the lowlands are not insalubrious. He could shoot wild turkeys, deer, and all flying game, without going off his father’s estate ; and past his native fields flowed a river, over which he was early taught to swim his horse. The primeval wilderness covered the mountains, and waved luxuriant in many a valley, —the most conspicuous fact of nature around him till he was long past boyhood. But by the time he was a well-grown lad there were neighbors near and numerous enough for society. His father’s official position made him the arbiter between contentious men, and the minister of justice. The lad must have seen his father try many a petty case, and settle many a difference, as well between white men as between whites and Indians.

That liking for Indians which we observe in the writings of Jefferson resulted from his early acquaintance with some of the best of the uncorrupted chiefs who used to visit and stay with his father on their journeys to and from the capital of Virginia. The Indians held his father in that entire respect which they were apt to feel for men who never feared and never deceived them. One of the most vivid recollections of his boyhood was of a famous chief of the Cherokees, named Ontassetè, who went to England on behalf of his people. The boy was in the camp of this chief the evening before his departure for England, and heard him deliver his farewell oration to his tribe, — a scene that he used to describe with animation seventy years after its occurrence. The moon was in full splendor that evening, and it seemed as if it was to that lustrous orb the impassioned orator addressed prayers for his own safety and the protection of his people during his absence. The powerful voice of the speaker, his distinct articulation, his animated gestures, and the silence of the listening Indians sitting motionless in groups by their several fires, filled him with awe and veneration, although he did not understand a word that was spoken. All the important circumstances of his home come to mind as we brood over scattered indications in old and new Virginia books. We see that giant of a father, steadfast, reserved, even austere, but not ungentle, busy with official labors and the details of farm and barn during the day, and in the evening giving his boy (his only son for many years) lessons in bookkeeping and arithmetic ; two elder sisters, perhaps, taking their turn at slate and pencil, or sitting with their mother plying the needle : the father, not unfrequently, treating the group to a favorite paper from the Spectator. The morning scene, too, with the mother and her servants, we can infer with much probability from descriptions of similar interiors preserved from that period.

Deeply as Jefferson came to hate slavery, clearly as he foretold the ruin enclosed in the system, he saw it only in its better aspects at his own home. He saw his father patiently drilling negroes, not long from their native Africa, into carpenters, millers, wheelwrights, shoemakers, and farmers. He saw his mother of a morning in her sitting-room, which was well furnished with contrivances for facilitating labor, seated with her daughters and her servants, like Andromache surrounded by her maidens, all busy with household tasks. We possess authority for the picture. Have we not been favored with a glimpse of Mrs. Washington’s morning-room at Mount Vernon, — that room which was so “ nicely fixed for all sorts of work”? " On one side sits the chambermaid with her knitting ; on the other, a little colored pet, learning to sew. An old, decent woman was there with her table and shears, cutting out the negroes’ winter clothes, while the good old lady directs them all, incessantly knitting herself. She points out to me several pairs of nice colored stockings and gloves she had just finished, and presents me with a pair half done, which she begs I will finish and wear for her sake.” Bishop Meade, who quotes this interesting passage from an old Virginia manuscript, adds that, in other houses (like the home of the Jeffersons) less opulent and containing many children, the mother would have her daughters with her in the same apartment, one spinning, another basting, another winding yarn, another churning, — all vigorously at work ; for, at that day, a plantation was obliged to be nearly self-supplying, and the family at the great house had to do the thinking, contriving, cutting, and doctoring for a family of as many helpless, improvident children as there were slaves.

In such a busy, healthy home as this, with father, mother, two elder sisters, four younger sisters, and a little brother, Thomas Jefferson lived in his boyhood. He was singularly happy in his eldest sister, Jane, whose mind was akin to his own. She was his confidant and companion, and shared his taste for the arts, particularly his early love of music. The family were all reared and baptized in the Church of England, and this sister greatly excelled in singing the few fine old psalm-tunes which then constituted the whole psalmody of the Protestant world. For a century, it is said, there were but five tunes sung in the colonial churches. By the fireside in the winter evenings, and on the banks of their river in the soft, summer twilight, there were family singings, Jane Jefferson’s melodious voice leading the choir ; to which was added, as the years went on, the accompaniment of her brother’s violin. There must have been much musical feeling in the family to have generated in this boy so profound a passion for music as he exhibited. He speaks of three early tastes as “the passion of his soul,” — music, mathematics, and architecture, — and of these the one first developed was music.

The massive instruments with which we are familiar—the piano and the organ — would have been unattainable in a Virginia farm-house at that period, even if they had been sufficiently perfected to warrant transportation so far. The violin, called by its old-fashioned name of the fiddle, king of instruments, was almost the only one generally known in the back countries of the Colonies. In Virginia, when Jefferson and Patrick Henry were merry lads together, both of whom played the fiddle, it appears that almost every farm-house which had a boy in it could boast a fiddle also. Mr. Rives, in bis Life of Madison, among many other precious things, preserves the programme of the rustic festivities arranged for St. Andrew’s day in 1737, in the next county but one to Jefferson’s, Albemarle. It throws light on his early violin, besides showing how English the tone of Virginia was at that period.

First, twenty horses were to run round a three-mile course for a prize of five pounds, no one “ to put up a horse unless he had subscribed for the entertainment and paid half a pistole.” Next, a hat of the value of twenty shillings was to be cudgelled for. Then, a violin was to be played for by twenty fiddlers, — “ no person to have the liberty of playing, unless he bring a fiddle with him.'” When the prize had been awarded, all the performers were to play together, each a different tune, and to be treated by the company. Next, twelve boys, twelve years of age, were to run one hundred and twelve yards for a hat worth twelve shillings. A “ quire of ballads was to be sung for by a number of songsters, all of them to have liquor sufficient to clear their windpipes.” A pair of silver buckles was to be wrestled for by “a number of brisk young men.” “ A pair of handsome shoes ” was to be “ danced for.” A pair of handsome silk stockings of one pistole value was to be given to “ the handsomest young country maid that appears in the field.” A “handsome entertainment” was also to be provided for the subscribers and their wives ; “and such of them as are not so happy as to have wives, may treat any other lady.” Drums, trumpets, and hautboys were to play, and, at the feast, the healths of the king and of the governor were to be drunk. The programme concluded by notifying the public that, “as this mirth is designed to be purely innocent and void of offence, all persons resorting to these are desired to behave themselves with decencyand sobriety ; the subscribers being resolved to discountenance all immorality with the utmost rigor.”

The prominence assigned to the violin contest in these festivities explains the frequent allusions to it in the early memorials of Virginia, and lessens our surprise at Jefferson’s statement, that, during twelve years of his early life, he practised on the violin three hours a day. The innocent instrument, it appears, had an ill name among the stricter religious people of the mountain counties, where “ evangelical ” principles prevailed. Our zealous young amateur may have heard a sermon once preached in a parish church near his home by Rev. Charles Clay, — cousin of the eloquent Kentuckian, — in which the preacher warned his hearers against the “profanation” of Christmas day by fiddling, dancing, drinking, and such like ” ; practices, he said, which were only too common in Albemarle. Then, as now, it was the drink that did the mischief; though the fiddle and the dance had to share the blame.

Peter Jefferson began early to execute his heartfelt intention of educating his son. This was not so difficult as has been represented. Twenty years before the child was born, the Bishop of London, in whose diocese Virginia was, addressed certain questions to the Virginian clergy. One of the questions was, “ Are there any schools in your parish ? ” All the clergymen, except two or three, answered, “ None ”; and the two or three who did not make this answer could only claim that their parishes had “ a charity school.” Another question was, “ Is there any parish library ? ” To this, all the clergy, except one man, answered, “None”; and that one man made this reply, “ We have the Book of Homilies, the Whole Duty of Man, and the Singing Psalms.” But by the time Jefferson was old enough to go to school there were a few schools in the more densely peopled counties of Virginia ; and several of the more learned and decent of the clergy received pupils into their houses for instruction in Latin and Greek.

He was fortunate in his teachers, as in all things else. At five he went to a school where only the English language was employed; at nine, his education seriously began, when he entered a Scottish clergyman’s family as a boarding scholar, where he learned Latin, Greek, and French. Entries in Peter Jefferson’s account-book, still existing, show that he paid the Rev. William Douglass sixteen pounds sterling a year for his son’s board and tuition. This first instructor of Thomas Jefferson came over from Scotland as tutor in the family of Colonel Monroe, father of President Monroe ; and, settling on the James, near Peter Jefferson’s tobacco plantation, spent a long life in teaching young and old. He was of what we now call the “evangelical ” school, and regarded Dr. Doddridge’s works as more precious than gold, “ the best legacy” he could leave his children. Peter Jefferson was a vestryman of his church. The boy was evidently much at home during the five years he spent at this school, — always, probably, on Saturdays and Sundays, — and his father took care that the boy did not neglect a child’s first and chief duty, which is to grow. He also instructed him in arithmetic and the rudiments of mathematics, then generally neglected in classical schools.

But this excellent father was not destined to experience the noblest triumph parents know, — that of seeing his child a full-formed man, and better equipped for life’s journey than himself had been at starting. His great strength did not avail to bring him to old age. In 1757, when he was but fifty years old, he died, of a disease not recorded.

After Braddock’s defeat in 1755, there could have been little rest for such a colonel of a frontier county as he was ; and, indeed, there are indications pay-rolls and other military documents and entries—among his existing papers, showing that he was active against the exulting foe. Nothing was heard of for a time on the borders but massacre and fire, and the flght of whole counties of settlers to the lower country. It is of this period, in the midst of which Colonel Jefferson died, that the youthful commander of the Virginian forces, Colonel Washington, wrote that despatch from the frontier which startles every reader of his letters by its burst of vehement pathos. “ The supplicating tears of the women and moving petitions of the men,” he wrote, “melt me with such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myself a willing sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would contribute to the people’s ease.” The county colonels were all in arms during that time of terror. Colonel John Madison, in Orange, the next county to Albemarle, and nearer the scene, saw some of the horrors of the war from his own front door. His son James, four years old at the time of Braddock’s defeat, always remembered the terror and desolation of the two next years. Exposure and fatigue may have rendered the colonel of Albemarle County liable to the attack of one of the summer diseases, for it was on the 17th of August that he died.

His death is spoken of as sudden ; but this good father, it seems, had time and strength, sudden as his death may have been, to render his eldest son one last service. _ Dying, he left an injunction that his son’s education should be completed, and enjoined those in whose charge he was to be not to permit him to neglect the exercises requisite for his body’s development. This strong man valued strength. He used to say that the weakly in body could not be independent in mind ; and, therefore, among his dying thoughts was solicitude for his son’s healthy, unchecked growth. He died leaving his wife still young, not quite forty ; one daughter, seventeen ; another, sixteen; his son Thomas, fourteen ; another daughter, thirteen ; another, eleven ; another, five ; and a boy and girl, twins, aged twenty-two months. To the end of his days, Jefferson spoke of his father, thus early lost, with pride and veneration, and he especially loved to think that his dying command was that his son’s mind should not be wronged of its due culture and nourishment. He used to say, that if he had to choose between the education or the estate his father gave him, he would choose the education.

His lathers death left him his own master; for he says in one of his later letters, that “at fourteen years of age the whole care and direction of myself was thrown on myself entirely, without a relation or friend qualified to advise or guide me.” The first use he made of his liberty was to change his school.

Fourteen miles away was the parsonage of Rev. James Maury, a man of great note in his time, and noted for many things ; from whose twelve children have descended a great number of estimable persons of the name still living. Of Huguenot descent and genuine scholarship, he was free both from the vices and the bigotry which the refuse of the young English clergy often brought with them to Virginia in the early time. Pamphlets of his remain maintaining the right and liberal side of questions bitterly contested in his day. He was one of the clergyman of the Established Church in Virginia who opposed, with voice and pen, that senseless persecution of Dissenters, which at last brought the Church itself to ruin. He went so far as to say, in a printed address, that he should feel it an “honor and happiness” to promote the spiritual good of “ any one honest and well-disposed person of whatever persuasion ” ; and though he prelerred his own church, he thought he saw errors in it, as well as in the othei sects, and should be glad to assist in the correction and improvement of both !

The coming of this clergyman into the mountain region about the time of Jefferson’s birth was evidently a welcome event; for a glebe of four hundred acres was at once set off for him, and so spacious a parsonage was built, that he was able to add to his own large family some pupils from the adjacent counties. By the time Jefferson was fourteen, an important school had grown up about him, the best, it is thought, then existing in the Province ; and it continued to flourish, under one of Mr. Maury’s sons, as late as the year 1808, when one of its pupils was President of a nation which the founder of the school did not live to see established.

We do not know what Jefferson read in Latin and Greek during the two years that he remained at Mr. Maury’s school, but we know that he learned nothing but Latin and Greek. A classmate and an associate of his at this school was the second son of the master, also named James ; to whom Mr. Jefferson, when Secretary of State under President Washington, gave the Liverpool consulship, which he held for forty-five years. The consul, on his return to Virginia in old age, used to say that Jefferson was noted at his father’s school for scholarship, industry, and shyness. If a holiday was desired, it was not he who could be induced to ask it, though he urged others to ask ; and, if the request was granted, he would, first of all, withdraw from the noisy crowd of his schoolfellows, learn next day’s lesson, and then, rejoining them, begin the day’s pleasure. Their favorite diversion was hunting on a mountain near by, which then and long after abounded in deer, turkeys, foxes, and other game. He was a keen hunter, as eager after a fox ns Washington himself, swift of foot and sound of wind, coming in fresh and alert after a long day’s clambering hunt.

After two years’ stay at this school, he began, like other students, to be impatient to enter college. He had never yet seen a town, nor even a village of twenty houses, for there were none such within his range ; and he doubtless had the curiosity of youth to behold the glories of the capital. He found plenty of reasons for gratifying his wish, some of which he laid before his guardian. He lost a fourth of his time, he said, by company coming to Shadwell and detaining him from school, which added very much to the expenses of the estate in housekeeping. At the college, too, he could learn “ something of mathematics ” as well as the languages, and “ could get a more universal acquaintance, which may hereafter be serviceable to me.” His guardian consenting, he bade farewell to his mother and sisters, and set off, early in the spring of 1760, for Williamsburg, five days’ long ride from his home.

It was not the custom of this young gentleman, nor of Virginians generally then, to perform their journeys with straightforward rapidity. They took friends’ houses on the way, were easily persuaded to remain over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and made the most of the opportunity. Such was eminently the habit of young Jefferson, related as he was to half the families of the Province, and seldom going far from, home without his fiddle, and perhaps a roll of “ new minuets ” from London, so welcome to young ladies in the remoter counties. It was always impressed on his memory that he began this interesting journey before Christmas, and stayed over for the holidays at a merry house in Hanover County, where he met, for the first time, a jovial blade named Patrick Henry, only noted then for fiddling, dancing, mimicry, and practical jokes. He was mistaken, however. An existing letter of the time shows that he had not thought of going to college till after Christmas, and did not consult his guardian on the subject till January was half gone. He probably spent the holidays with Patrick Henry, returned home, and then entered upon the project of going to college. But it was always his custom, in his journeys to and from Williamsburg, to make long visits to friends on and near the road, and it was this, perhaps, that led to the error. He remembered the future orator merely as the prime mover of all the fun of the younger circle, and had not a suspicion of the wonderful talent that lay undeveloped within him. As little, doubtless, did Patrick Henry see in this slender, sandy-haired lad a political leader and associate, — the Pen of a Revolution of which himself was to be the Tongue.

On reaching Williamsburg, we may be sure he did not see that metropolis with our disparaging eyes. In the old letters and memoirs we read delusive accounts of its splendors and gayeties, — of the “ vice-regal court,” “ vying in elegance with that of St. James,” of the grand equipages of “the gentry,” and of all the pomp and circumstance of old Virginia gathered there in the winter. It was “ the centre of taste, fashion, and, refinement,” we are told, and the entertainments given at “the palace ” were a blending of refinement and sumptuosity “ worthy of the representative of royalty.” Such statements do not prepare the cold investigator to discover that the capital of Virginia was an unpaved village of a thousand inhabitants, surrounded by an expanse of dark green tobacco-fields as far as the eye could reach. Andrew Burnaby, an English clergyman who visited it eight months before the arrival of our student, estimates the number of its houses at “ about two hundred,” and its population at “one thousand souls, whites and negroes.” He mentions, also, that “ there are ten or twelve gentlemen’s families constantly residing in it, besides merchants and tradesmen,” But he adds that in the winter, when the Legislature and the great court of the Colony were in session, the place was “ crowded with the gentry of the country,” and then there were balls and gayeties , but as soon as business was over the gentry return to their plantations, and “ the town is in a manner deserted.”

Williamsburg, insignificant as it may seem to us, furnished the pattern for the city of Washington. It consisted chiefly of one street, a hundred feet broad and three quarters of a mile long, with the Capitol at one end, the college at the other, and a ten-acre square with public buildings in the middle. It was well arranged to display whatever of equipage or costume the town could boast. As the great planters’ families travelled in their own huge coaches, which at least had been gorgeous in the fashion of the age,— coaches drawn of necessity by six horses, — and as the dress of the period was bright with color and picturesque in style, we may well believe that this broad avenue presented during the season a striking and animated scene.

The public buildings, as they appeared to Jefferson’s maturer judgment, were of a mongrel description, generally unpleasing and inharmonious. The Capitol, in which he was to witness such thrilling scenes and take part in such important events, he thought “ a light and airy structure,” — heavy and dull as it looks in the old pictures,— and the governor’s palace, though not handsome without, was large and commodious, and surrounded by agreeable grounds ; but the college and the hospital he condemns utterly. They were “ rude, misshapen piles, which, but that they have roofs, would be taken for brick-kilns.” This, however, was the remark of a connoisseur in architecture. The main edifice of the college resembled those brick barracks of Yale and Harvard built in the same period ; two stories high, with a steep roof and a row of windows in it, and a small belfry on its summit ; quite good enough for young gentlemen who kept dogs and guns in their rooms, and considered it the chief end of students to frustrate the object for which they were sent to the institution. This building, with two solid-looking professors’ houses near it, all standing in a square of four acres, marked with well-worn paths, and not wanting in large trees, presented, upon the whole, a respectable appearance. The arriving student probably did not think it so despicable as the author of the “ Notes on Virginia.” The private houses of Williamsburg, according to Mr. Burnaby, were “ of wood, covered with shingles, and but indifferently built.” The site of the town, however, was agreeable, — an elevated plateau, midway between the York and the James, six miles from both. Those breezes which swept across the peninsula, and raised the clouds of dust in Williamsburg streets that annoyed the English traveller, tempered the burning heat of the summer, and, as he records, kept the town free from mosquitoes.

Such was Williamsburg in 1760, the chief residence of Jefferson for the next seven years, the most important period of his life ; for it was then that he acquired his knowledge and his opinions. Whatever Williamsburg may have been to others, it was to him a true university ; because, coming into familiar contact there with a few universal minds, he was capable of being instructed by them. He brought with him to college the three prime requisites of the successful student, — perfect health, good habits, and an inquisitive intellect. He had come from a pure and honest home, where he had learned nothing but what was good and honorable, and he had come, in good faith, to fulfil his father’s fond intention of making him a scholar.

It was an ill-starred institution, this College of William and Mary. It had existed sixty-eight years, having been founded in 1692 by the sovereigns whose names it bore. They gave it an endowment, as an old historian records, of “nineteen hundred and eighty-five pounds fourteen shillings and ten pence,” besides twenty thousand acres of land, and certain taxes that yielded three hundred pounds a year. Other benefactors had bequeathed and given it property, until it enjoyed an annual income of three thousand pounds ; which was enough, with the tuition fees, to maintain an efficient college. But, tike Harvard and Yale, the institution was hampered by the incongruous conditions imposed by donors of its capital. One important estate was given for the express purpose of maintaining Indians at the college ; and Indians were maintained accordingly. But Indians cannot receive our civilization. If the college had any success with an Indian youth, he was no sooner tamed than he sickened and died. The rest may have assumed the white man’s habits while they remained at Williamsburg ; but the very day that they rejoined their tribe they threw off their college clothes, resumed their old costumes and weapons, and ran whooping into the forest, irreclaimable savages. And so this fondly cherished project of the benefactors ended in utter failure. But the estate remained ; its income could only be spent in one way ; and hence the Indian nuisance still clung to the college, wasting its resources and lessening its attractiveness.

A leading object of the founders was to provide learned ministers of the Established Church ; and consequently there was a professor of “ divinity,” another of moral philosophy, and the only special duty assigned to the president, in return for his two hundred pounds a year and his handsome house, was the delivery of four theological lectures per annum. As if to give still greater prominence to the department of theology, the reverend president usually held the office of commissary, or bishop’s representative, at a hundred pounds a year, and had charge of the parish church of Williamsburg, which swelled his income to about six hundred a year, — an official revenue only exceeded by that of the governor. Those who know for what kind of reasons the fat things in church and state were usually given in the good old times will not be surprised to learn that one of the commissary-presidents of the college, in Jefferson’s youth, could not proceed against the clergy for drunkenness, because he was himself a drunkard ; nor will he be at a loss how to explain the indications of college riot that lurk in the letters of the time.

Moreover, the chief object of the founders was not accomplished. As the parishes were usually assigned to English clergymen, whom the Bishop of London sent to Virginia because there was nothing for them in England, few young Virginians entered the college with a view to compete for a church living of sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco per annum. Yet the costly professorships of divinity had to be kept up, and the college was obliged to continue a theological seminary without theologians.

Dead branches are not merely inert and useless : they injure and disfigure the tree. This college, which ought to have attracted all the élite of Virginia youth, and sent them home strong and enlightened to save beautiful Virginia from the blight of tobacco, repelled many of them, and seldom regenerated those who came. Young men whose fathers could afford the expense went to English Eton, Oxford, and Cambridge, often returning as ignorant as they went out, and dissolute beyond hope of reform. Of late years the college had been filling up, more and more, with boys who came to learn the rudiments of Latin ; and it was some time before a clear distinction was made between these and the students proper of the College. Jefferson found the institution a medley of college, Indian mission, and grammar school, ill-governed, and distracted by dissensions among its ruling powers. The Bishop of London, who, as chancellor of the institution, had the nomination of its professors, sometimes sent out men so manifestly incompetent or unfit, that the trustees would not admit them ; and others, being admitted, led scandalous lives, and filled the college, as the trustees said, with riot, contention, and dissipation. On Sundays, we are told, when the divinity professors and reverend president were away performing parochial duties, the more orderly students went off shooting, with their dogs behind them, and the others made the village resound with their noise. It was not until several years after Jefferson’s time, that the rights of the several authorities of the college were so defined that the suppression of these disorders became possible.

But out of this chaos Thomas Jefferson contrived to pick a genuine university education ; because, among the crowd of its schoolmasters, mission teachers, divinity professors, and bishop’s protégés, there was, by some strange chance, one man of knowledge and ability, one man who did not “ survey the universe from his parish belfry,” one skilful and sympathetic teacher. “It was my great good fortune,” he says, in his too brief autobiography, “ and what probably fixed the destinies of my life, that Dr. William Small of Scotland was then professor of mathematics. A man profound in most of the useful branches of science, with a happy talent of communication, correct and gentlemanly manners, and an enlarged, liberal mind. He, most happily for me, soon became attached to me, and made me his daily companion when not engaged in the school ; and from his conversation I got my first views of the expansion of science, and of the system of things in which we are placed, Fortunately, the philosophical chair became vacant soon after my arrival in college, and he was appointed to fill it per interim ; and he was the first who ever gave, in that college, regular lectures in Ethics, Rhetoric, and BellesLettres.” It is a pleasure to copy a passage like this, one more testimonial to add to the long list of similar ones, from Marcus Aurelius to Lord Brougham, which attest the immeasurable value of an enlightened teacher of youth.

I wish we had something more particular of this gentleman. Jefferson’s college intimate, John Page, governor of Virginia in later years, speaks of him as “ my beloved professor,” who was “ afterward the great Dr. Small of Birmingham, the darling friend of Darwin.” And he confesses that he did not derive all the benefit from his instruction that he might ; for he was “too sociable to study as Mr. Jefferson did, who could tear himself away from his dearest friends to fly to his studies.”

Another friend of Jefferson, John Burk, author of a History of Virginia, insinuates that Dr. Small was not too orthodox in his opinions. The professors, he remarks, were usually chosen from “the licensed champions of orthodoxy ” ; by which he appears to mean the clergy: but, “ now and then, in spite of the jealous scrutiny of the metropolitan, some unbeliever would steal into the fold.” This, he adds, was particularly the case with the mathematical department, for which divines were generally incompetent ; and he illustrates this observation by mentioning “ the friend and companion of the poetic and philosophic Darwin,” Professor Small, who had formed the minds of so many of the youth of the Province. It is certain the college was beginning to nave an ill name among the religious people, not on account of the bad lives and inefficient teaching of some of “ the divines ” connected with it, but the heretical opinions supposed to prevail among the students. The true reason, it is said, why James Madison went to Princeton College, was the dread his parents had lest he should imbibe those opinions, if he attended the college nearer home. Edmund Randolph, who succeeded Mr. Jefferson in the office of Secretary of State, was a student of William and Mary about this time. He used to say that such heresies were much in vogue at the college, and he had a vivid recollection of a scene that followed his utterance of something in unison with the prevailing tone. One of the leaders of the new opinion patted him on the head, and called him a promising youth for daring to express so bold a thought. The fact remains, however, that all the professors were required by law to subscribe to the Thirty - nine Articles, and all their pupils to say the Church-of-England Catechism.

The student settled to his work. Without neglecting Latin and Greek, his chief employment since his ninth year, he now became, under Professor Small’s tuition, enamored of mathematics, That science, as he wrote in later years, became “ the passion of his life ” ; and he could read off, in his youth, “with the facility of common discourse,” processes which at seventy cost him “labor and time and slow investigation.” It is evident, from many trifling indications, that he subdued mathematics to his will, and employed it all his days, as a familiar, obedient servant. Part of his travelling apparatus, even on short journeys, was a box of instruments and a book of logarithms, and he always had a rule in his pocket. Professor Small, who left Scotland about the time (1756) that Professor Black was appointed to the chair of chemistry which he covered with immortal lustre, — James Watt and the improved steam-engine being among its incidental results,—shared in the new enthusiasm for applied science ; and he imparted it to his young companion. There was some apparatus, it appears, at William and Mary. Doubtless Professor Small possessed the electrical tubes, one of which Benjamin Franklin, printer, of Philadelphia, had rubbed with so much effect fifteen years before. Details of the student’s scientific course we do not possess ; but we know that he derived from his walks and talks with Professor Small the habit of surveying objects with the eyes of science, and of subjecting them to scientific tests, — one of the chief points of difference between the educated and the ignorant mind.

He worked hard in college, and ever harder, as his circle widened, — too hard at last, — fifteen hours a day, as he said himself when talking of college days. He kept a borse or two at Williamsburg, it appears (and riding on horseback should be part of every college course); but, as his love of knowledge grew, his rides became shorter and less frequent ; until the only exercise he allowed himself, on a regular workingday, was a rapid run out of town of a mile while it was getting dark enough for candles. The beloved violin was never quite laid aside ; he snatched a kiss, now and then, instead of his three-hour# wooing. Though related, through his mother, to most of the society of the place, and fond of society, he withdrew from it more and more. Few students could have indulged in such excess of mental exertion with impunity, nor could he for a long period, although “ blessed,” as he once wrote, “ with organs of digestion which accepted and concocted, without ever murmuring, whatever the palate chose to consign to them.” His habits, too, were excellent. The simple, oldfashioned cookery that gave the human race so many ages of good digestion, had not yet become one of the lost arts in Virginia ; and, like most of the wellnurtured young Virginians of that period, he was so happy as to escape the servitude of tobacco. Many planters of the olden time, who had grown rich by the culture of tobacco, held the use of it in contempt. One reason assigned in a letter of the period, why the young men of Virginia should not be sent to England for education, was that they were so likely to acquire there the horrid practice of smoking.

The number of persons much interested in the intellectual affairs has never been great in any community, not even in college towns. In the Williamsburg of that day we hear of but two individuals who could be associates of Professor Small. One was Francis Fauquier, the lieutenant-governor of the Province, who inhabited “ the palace,” and presided over the grand entertainments given therein. Jefferson speaks of him as the ablest governor colonial Virginia ever had. Perhaps, in saying so, he meant to damn him with faint praise. He appears to have been a gentleman of the school of Louis XIV., translated into England by Charles II., and into English by Lord Chesterfield. We find him spoken of as the most elegant gentleman Virginia had ever seen, a great patron of learning and literature, himself an admirable scholar, master of an excellent style both spoken and written. It was he who set the fashion of importing French literature, which filled so many Virginia libraries, a few years later, with Voltaire, Rousseau, D’Alembert, and Diderot. He it was also who introduced high play into the polite society of the Province, or, at least, made high play reputable ; which hastened the collapse of some showy Virginia fortunes, already eaten hollow by London creditors. Whatever his faults, he was a man of high personal and official honor. He was one of the few royal officers in the Colonies who disdained to increase their revenues by conniving at illicit commerce. Archdeacon Burnaby reports that, at a time when other governors were not so scrupulous, Governor Fauquier refused an offer of two hundred pounds for a permit to trade with the enemy. He was a gentleman, too, of eminent courtesy, of agreeable conversation, interested in knowledge and literature, acquainted with the polite world of cities,—a man of the metropolis residing for a while in a province.

Professor Small being the governor’s most familiar associate, our student, young as he was, became intimate with him also, and was thus brought into communication with the great world. The governor, among his other accomplishments, was a musical amateur. Once a week, he had a musical party at the palace, to which the guests brought their instruments. Jefferson was regularly present with his violin ; and, at these parties, for the first time in his life, perhaps, he heard music performed in concert.

But it was the governor’s conversation that did most to form his mind. It was during these years that Great Britain, by the conquest of India, Canada, and many islands of the sea, became imperial; and when the news of victory came, Fauquier could tell the student something of the mighty genius who found his country an island and left it an empire. In Jefferson’s first year at college, the “Williamsburg Gazette,” Virginia’s only newspaper, published the account of the accession to the throne of George III., who found his country an empire and left it an island. Of that young prince, welcomed to the throne by acclamations in every quarter of the globe, the governor could doubtless relate hopeful things, much to the content of his young Whig friend from Albemarle. The Jeffersons, as a Whig family, could not but hail with joy the accession of the first king of the Hanover line who was a native of England. They were loyal subjects ever; and none of them more so than this youth, the present head of the family. From Governor Fauquier, too, he heard, doubtless, something of the literary gossip of London, — fresh traditions of Addison, Swift, Thomson, Pope, and Bolingbroke. All this was education to the young student. He was getting knowledge of the world in a very agreeable way. Sitting, as he says, at “ the familiar table ” of the governor, with Professor Small opposite him, he was learning to estimate things by other than Virginian standards, and saw more of the universe than could be discerned from the parish belfry. Most happily, too, he was one of those who, as they go their way through life, get the good that chance companions have to offer them, without imbibing the evil that qualifies it. He caught the graces and escaped the vices of the Chesterfield period. In avoiding the governor’s habit of gambling, he went even to an extreme ; for, it is said, he never had a card in his house.

But the daily, familiar party at the governor’s table consisted of four persons. The fourth remains to be mentioned. It was George Wythe, a rising member of the bar of Virginia, who was destined to a distinguished and long career as lawyer, statesman, professor, and judge. He is the more interesting to us as the benevolent and wise preceptor by whom two persons of eminent note in the politics of the country were introduced to the profession of the law, and, through the law, to public life, — Thomas Jefferson and Henry Clay.

Virginia, during the hundred and twenty years of seeming prosperity given it by tobacco grown in virgin soil, cultivated by low-priced slaves, was an illustration of Mr. Buckle’s remark concerning the connection between leisure and knowledge. Without leisure, he observes, science is impossible ; and when leisure has been won, most of the class possessing it will waste it in the pursuit of pleasure ; but a few will employ it in the pursuit of knowledge. How perfectly this describes the Virginia of 1760! The great majority of the ruling class lived lives of thoughtless profusion and self-indulgence, with Governor Fauquier as the accomplished master of the revels. John Burk, historian of Virginia, very friendly to the memory of that brilliant personage, tells us that Fauquier found the Virginian gentlemen quite to his mind,—as profuse and fond of pleasure as himself, —and after spending a winter of elegant dissipation at the capital, he would enter upon a round of visits to the great proprietors ; among whom, adds Burk, “ the rage for playing deep, reckless of time, health, or money, spread like a contagion.”

In the midst of such scenes grew up a few men — very few, but always a few — who sought knowledge with disinterested love, and with such success as almost to redeem the character of their Province and period. Three of the best educated gentlemen America has produced were young men during Fauquier’s term of service, — Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Wythe, — all of them men of singular moral purity and elevation of tone, and all eminently capable of public spirit It seems as if the very prevalence of the self-indulgent vices made these golden hearts recoil from them with the greater decision and firmness. Jefferson wrote once from the White House in Washington to a grandson at school : “ When I recollect the various sorts of bad company with which I associated from time to time, I am astonished I did not turn off with some of them, and become as worthless to society'as they were.” But, he adds, “ I had the good fortune to become acquainted very early with some characters of very high standing, and to feel the incessant wish that I could ever become what they were. Under temptations and difficulties, I would ask myself, What would Dr. Small, Mr. Wythe, Peyton Randolph, do in this situation ? What course in it will insure me their approbation ? I am certain that this mode of deciding on my conduct tended more to correctness than any reasoning powers I possessed. Knowing the even and dignified line they pursued, I never could doubt for a moment which of two courses would be in character for them. Whereas, seeking the same object through a process of much reasoning and with the jaundiced eye of youth, I should often have erred.” He tells his grandson that he was of necessity brought into contact with the extremes of character, — jockeys and moralists, racing men and philosophers, gamblers and statesmen,— and often, “in the enthusiastic moment of the death of a fox, the victory of a favorite horse,” and during a contest of mind in court or legislature, he has asked himself which of these triumphs he should prefer.

George Wythe was thirty-three years of age at the beginning of Jefferson’s college life. Though heir of a competent estate, he was wholly self-educated, except that his mother, as tradition reports, assisted him by keeping an eye upon an English Testament while he translated from the Greek. He became, as contemporaries agree, the best Greek scholar Virginia had ever seen ; to which Mr. Jefferson adds, the best Latin scholar also. Young Henry Clay, his amanuensis long after, not knowing a Greek letter, had trouble enough in copying his decisions, interspersed, as they were, with passages from Greek authors. The chancellor was an old man then, and this habit of quoting Greek was an old man’s foible ; but when Jefferson was a student at Williamsburg, he knew him as an able, vigilant lawyer, an enthusiast for all classical knowledge, and fond to an extreme of Greek literature and Grecian history. Jefferson’s preference would naturally have been for Greek if he had never seen George Wythe, but, doubtless, their similarity of taste was a bond of union between them, and nerved him for the supreme achievement of old-fashioned scholarship. — a conquest of the Greek language. Wythe was a man of nice conscience. He was among the first to perceive the incongruous iniquity of slavery in our modern world, and he early washed his hands of it by emancipating his slaves. Henry Clay went straight from his office and inspiration to Kentucky, where his first political act was an attempt to induce that young Commonwealth to start fair by abolishing slavery.

Such was the party oftenest gathered about the governor’s “familiar table” : Professor Small, the mathematician and man of science; George Wythe, the moralist, learned in law and Greek; Francis Fauquier, the man-of-the-world of the period ; Thomas Jefferson, a shy, inquisitive young man, quick to take in all which these accomplished men had to give, and contributing his share of the entertainment by the intelligent sympathy with which he listened. These men were his teachers : this table was his university.

Four persons so formed to entertain and improve one another need never expect to remain long together. The party was broken in 1762 by Professor Small’s removal to Birmingham, where he had a bright career. The young man whom he aided to form corresponded with him till the Revolutionary War. They did not agree, it seems, on the topics of the Revolutionary period ; but Jefferson not the less revered him as the person who met him at the threshold of life and directed his steps aright, who kept him out of the slough of mean provincial pleasures and excesses by awakening his intelligence, and guiding him to the sources whence its proper nourishment is to be drawn. An awakened mind, a hearty interest in intellectual things, is virtue’s strongest ally ; ancl Jefferson felt that he owed this unspeakable boon to Professor Small.

A profession was necessary to the student. His father’s tobacco farm on the James was the portion of his brother Randolph, still a child. The Shadwell estate was charged with the support of his mother and six sisters ; and Virginia estates were not apt to be very productive when the eye of the master was wanting. He can scarcely be said to have had a choice of vocations. He was the last person in the world to think of the army or navy as a career ; and if he had, it would not have been possible, perhaps, for him to get a commission. It was not as a “midshipman ” that Washington’s mother thought of sending her son to sea, but as a sailor before the mast ; such was the narrow choice a parent had then in Virginia for younger sons. The very letter which discloses this unexpected piece of information shows how few employments were exercised in the Province. Mrs. Washington mentioned the scheme of sending George to sea, to her brother, Joseph Ball, in London. That gentleman replied, that she had better put him apprentice to a tinker; “for,” said he, “a common sailor before the mast has by no means the common liberty of the subject ; for they will press him from a ship where he has fifty shillings a month, and make him take twenty-three, and cut and slash him, and use him like a negro, or rather like a dog.” And even (he proceeds to say) if the lad should work his way to the top of the ladder, and become the master of a Virginia ship, a “very difficult thing to do,”a planter “that has three or four hundred acres of land and three or four slaves, if he be industrious, may live more comfortably, and leave his family in better breed ” than such a captain can.2 And so the mother thought better of her project, and George Washington did not attempt the difficult achievement of rising to be master of a tobacco-ship.

There were no manufactures in the Province, except the very rudest and crudest. People sent to London for everything that slaves could not make, even window - sashes and the commoner implements. The commerce was in British hands. There was, of course, no art, no literature, no journalism, and nothing that could tempt intelligence or ambition in the medical profession. If Thomas JeffersoR had been reared in a European capital, the first wish of his heart would have been to be an artist of some kind. After toying with music for a while, he would perhaps have fixed upon architecture as his profession. In Virginia, at Williamsburg, with George Wythe for a daily associate, he must needs become a lawyer; and accordingly, in 1763, after two years’ residence at the college, he began, under Mr. Wythe’s direction, the study of the law.

Perhaps the example of his jovial young acquaintance, Patrick Henry, first turned his thoughts to the legal profession. In 1760, a few weeks after his arrival at Williamsburg, who should present himself at his room in the college but the merry Patrick ! But he had come on a serious errand. He was bent on a change in his mode of life, that had important consequences for his country as well as himself. He told the student that, since they had parted, after the Christmas holidays, two or three months before, he had studied law ! He had studied it, in fact, six weeks, and he had now come to Williamsburg to get a license to practise. And he got it ! Of the four examiners, only one, George Wythe, persisted in refusing his signature ; and the three names sufficing, he went off triumphant, to tend his father-in-law’s tavern for four years longer, until his opportunity came. Our student made no such haste. It was not in his nature to slight his work, and he prepared himself for a four-years’ course of reading.

Fames Parton.

  1. The Life of Thomas Jefferson, by Henry S. Randall, LL. D. Three vols. New York, 1858.
  2. Mende’s Old Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia, Vol. II. p. 128.