COLLEGE friends find themselves strangely confronted, sometimes, in after life ; rivals, perhaps, for prizes more important than a high place in a commencement programme. In January, 1779, the Virginia Legislature had to choose a governor to succeed Patrick Henry, whose third term would expire on the 1st of June. The favorite candidates were no other than John Page and Thomas Jefferson, fellow-students at William and Mary, who had exchanged love-confidences, and gone with thumping hearts together to meet their sweethearts at the balls in the Raleigh Tavern at Williamsburg ; and not so very long before either. In 1779, they were still young men, — thirty-six, both ; Page being fifteen days the elder. The gilding was still bright on some parts of the state coach which Lord Botecourt had brought over from England about the time of their entering public life ; and “ the palace ” had not yet been defaced by vandal hands. Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts saw that tremendous vehicle, as late as 1781, in an outhouse near the palace ; “ a clumsy machine,” he thought it ; “ as heavy as two common wagons ” ; “ gilded in every part, even the edges of the tires of the wheels, and the arms of Virginia painted on every side.” On the day, ten years before, when these two young friends had smiled derision at this historic coach, as it bore the new governor to the Capitol, who were less likely than they to be candidates for the right to ride in it? Things had changed, indeed, in Virginia, since young Jefferson had put his fiddle under his arm, and gone to the palace to take his part in one of Governor Fauquier’s weekly concerts.
Page’s strong point was, that, though born a member of the plantation aristocracy, possessing a great estate, inhabiting the largest house ever built in Virginia, and enjoying the honor most coveted by his class, a seat at the viceregal Council board, he had, from the beginning of the controversy with the king, sided with his country. The contest was a warm one between the friends of the candidates ; but between the candidates themselves there was no contest. It was part of the recognized etiquette of politics then, which both of these gentlemen observed, that the candidates for a responsible executive post should take no part, either by word or deed, in the canvass. Jefferson was elected by a majority of a very few votes. His old friend wrote him a letter of apology and congratulation, and Jefferson replied with the tact which good-nature inspires. “It had given me much pain,” he said,
“ that the zeal of our respective friends should ever have placed us in the situation of competitors. I was comforted, however, with tire reflection that it was their competition, not ours, and that the difference of the numbers which decided between us was too insignificant to give you a pain or me a pleasure, had our dispositions toward each other been such as to admit those sensations.” Twenty-three years later, when Jefferson was President, he had the pleasure of congratulating his friend Page on his election to the governorship of their native State.
The governor elect took the lead in one important administrative act before he was sworn in. The war was gasping for money ; for the legal-tender notes were rushing down the sharp decline that led from par to zero ; and, as yet, the French troops had not begun to scatter coin about the country, nor Dr. Franklin to coax more millions from the French treasury than were needed to freight a few ships with military stores. One of Jefferson’s friends in the House, who had rented four thousand acres of good land before the war to tenants at six pounds a year per hundred acres, and received his rents in 1778 in the legal-tender currency, had not money enough from that estate to buy twenty barrels of corn. Governor Jefferson’s magnificent salary of four thousand five hundred pounds a year was not enough, when he began to receive it, to supply the inmates of the palace with food; and when he went out of office, it would hardly buy the governor a new saddle. This was the period when members of Congress — the ruling power of the United States — had to borrow little sums from their landladies in order not to be quite penniless. Elbridge Gerry, member from Massachusetts, a man of good estate in Marblehead, was behind with his board, in 1779, a hundred and forty-seven dollars, besides being obliged to borrow twentyseven from his landlady, and going in debt sixteen to his tailor and shoemaker. At the head of the Finance Committee, which had to deal with millions, he had not sixpence in his personal pocket with which to buy a pair of shoestrings.
Hard money alone, as it was thought, could restore the currency. Jefferson’s Italian neighbor, Philip Mazzei, who had once been in office under the Duke of Tuscany, told him that the Duke, like his Highness of Hesse-Cassel, was a great hoarder of money, and, only three years before, had had “ ten million crowns lying dead in his treasury ” ; part of which, Mazzei thought, he could borrow for the United States, if he could be sent over properly authorized. Jefferson wrote to John Adams on the subject, stating the facts, and commending Mazzei as “a native of that duchy, well connected there, conversant in courts, of great understanding, and equal zeal in our cause.” Nothing came of this suggestion, so far as is known, and those ten million crowns remained in the Duke’s strong box, though the struggling States needed them so much, needed them more and more. Doubtless the two neighbors talked over those precious crowns often enough as they sat by Jefferson’s fireside on Monticello, or strolled about in Mazzei’s young vineyards. Indeed, whenever, in this impecunious world, there is known to be a large lump of money “lying dead” anywhere, there are sure to be individuals scheming for its resurrection. Besides, was not the Duke of Tuscany, though an Austrian prince, a brother of Marie Antoinette, queen of France, known to be enthusiastic for Franklin and the noble insurgents ? And had not Philip Mazzei sent his Duke an Italian translation of the Declaration of Independence? How plausible, on the breezy heights of Albemarle, seemed the scheme of getting some of those dead crowns from Tuscany, and giving them life in Virginia !
Philip Mazzei, who had all an Italian’s ardor for the American cause, offered to go himself without compensation to his native land, and negotiate the loan ; and soon after the election of Jefferson to the governorship, he sailed, commissioned by Governor Henry and his Council, to borrow from his prince a sum not to exceed nine hundred thousand pounds sterling, and to buy with part of it a quantity of supplies for Virginia’s quota of troops. Not to exceed ! It is always prudent to limit strictly the powers of an agent. Mazzei might, in his excessive zeal, carry off the whole ten million crowns !
It was a costly mission to poor Mazzei. His misfortunes began before he left home. He rented his house to the Hessian general, Baron Riedesel, who moved in, with his Amazon of a wife and his large military family, before the Italians could move out. It was a tight squeeze, as the Baroness recorded ; and Mazzei, it seems, had no notion of the amount of sustenance required by so many Hessian warriors and a baroness who rode astride. “ We looked impatiently forward,” wrote the lady, “ to the time of his departure, and that of his wife and daughter, on account of the smallness of the house and the scarcity of provisions.” She took the liberty of remarking one day, that a calf’s head and tripe was not enough for twenty persons’ dinner ; but the frugal Italian replied that “ we could make a very good soup of it” He did, however, add to the repast “ two cabbages and some stale ham,” and this, says the Baroness, “ was all we could obtain from him.” The Italians left the house at last ; and long before they had made their way across the sea, the Hessians’ horses had trampled their vineyards, planted with so much care, and watched by Jefferson and by all intelligent Virginia with so much interest, into irremediable ruin.
In Paris, face to face with practical Dr. Franklin, the project of extracting nine hundred thousand pounds sterling from the coffers of an Austrian duke addicted to hoarding, at an interest of five per cent, for a Province four thousand miles off, whose independence the duke had not acknowledged and would not acknowledge, did not wear so feasible an aspect as it had on Jefferson’s piazza, overlooking the rich garden of Virginia. If the Duke of Tuscany was brother to a romantic queen of France, he was also brother to an emperor of Austria, who reminded Paris patriots that he was a king by trade. Tuscany ! The very name was enough to put even the placid Franklin out of temper ; for he had had an eye himself upon those Tuscan crowns, knew they could not be got, and was in full quarrel with Ralph Izzard of South Carolina for drawing twenty-five hundred pounds sterling per annum, in his character of Tuscan minister, though unable to do so much as to get permission to enter Tuscany. Franklin was barely civil to the sanguine and generous Italian. At their first interview, the moment he learned Mazzei’s errand, he dashed cold water upon the scheme. “ So many people,” he said, “ have come to Europe on that kind of business, that they have ruined our credit, and made the money-men shy of us.” 1 Mazzei argued in vain. As often as he went out to Passy and broached the subject, Franklin “never failed,” as Mazzei reported to Governor Jefferson, “giving some mark of disapprobation and displeasure.” And well he might, since he had already offered six per cent for the very crowns which Virginia hoped to get for five. The Duke of Tuscany kept his money ; Mazzei returned to Virginia to find his estate in ruins, and to seek in vain compensation for his losses ; and the governor passed his two terms in torture, with hostile fleets ravaging the shores, and hostile armies menacing the interior, while every effort to defend the State was “ cramped for want of money.”
In sending Mazzei upon this mission to a reigning prince, Virginia performed the act of a sovereign State. In the same spirit, and, evidently, without a thought of impropriety, the Legislature, on the second day of Jefferson’s governorship, June 2, 1779, formally ratified the treaty with France. Such acts as these throw a valuable light upon the subsequent State Rights controversy. This ratification seems to me so remarkable, that I will copy the resolutions by which it was authorized : —
“ Resolved, NEMINE CONTRADICENTE, That it is the opinion of this Assembly that the treaties of alliance and commerce between his Most Christian Majesty of France on the one part, and the Congress of the United States of America, on behalf of the said States, on the other part, ought to be ratified and confirmed, and the same are accordingly hereby ratified, confirmed, and declared binding on this Commonwealth.
“Resolved, That the governor be desired to notify to the minister of his Most Christian Majesty, resident at Philadelphia, the above ratification, under the seal of the Commonwealth.”
On the 1st of June, then, 1779, Mr. Jefferson became his Excellency, the second republican governor of Virginia. In his public life hitherto, all had been plain sailing, for wind and tide had been strongly in his favor, and the services which he had been called upon to render were such as his character and habits had fitted him to perform. How different the task which confronted him now ! Not more difficult nor nobler, but far more difficult to him. And from the time of his election in January, to the day when he was sworn in, the situation had been growing, every week, more complicated and menacing. If, in January, he had been gratified by the honor done him, probably on the 1st of June he shrunk dismayed from the responsibility which that honor brought with it.
The French alliance, he now knew, was working ill in two ways, — in relaxing the vigor of the States, and rendering the foe more unanimous and more savage. The three British commissioners had announced to all the world that the nature of the contest was changed by the alliance with France. Britain was, thenceforth, going to use all the means for subduing rebellious Colonies which “God and Nature had placed in her hands.” Since America might erelong become an accession to France, the common law of self-preservation (said the commissioners) “will direct Great Britain to render that accession of as little avail to her as possible.” The Colonies were to be subdued by being destroyed. America was to be laid waste. This declaration, published in October, 1778, was acted upon at once by Henry Hamilton, commandant of Detroit, who marched into the Western wilderness to rouse the Indians to war against Virginia. The State over which Jefferson ruled extended to the Mississippi, and embraced all the territory which we now call Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky, besides a great part of what is now Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. I need not remind the reader that that rich and wellwatered region swarmed with Indians, among the best and bravest of their race. Taking post at Vincennes on the Wabash, a hundred miles from its junction with the Ohio, Colonel Hamilton spent the winter in “ talking” with chiefs, gathering supplies, and preparing for a desolating swoop over Kentucky into the settlements of Virginia. An Indian war, therefore, was among the difficulties preparing for the governor elect while he was receiving the congratulations of his friends. He knew it not, however. It was a good “express” who could keep either his despatches or his scalp while making his way from the Wabash to the James in 1779.
British commanders at the South executed the threats of the commissioners not less. They, too, were to ravage and devastate a country which they had tried in vain to conquer. The war was now to be transferred to the South, too thinly settled to resist, it was thought, yet offering an inviting field for spoliation. Americans as they wander about the dusty interior of St. Paul’s cathedral in London remark with surprise that the most showy monument there commemorates a soldier associated in their minds with defeat, — the great defeated Cornwallis. He certainly behaved at the South more in the style of a bandit than a soldier ; not disdaining petty larceny, it appears, when he saw a precious object that could be conveniently pocketed and carried off. His system being to wreak the king’s vengeance, rather than promote his country’s interest, his orders were to imprison and despoil every man who would not take arms in his service, and to hang every man who, after being thus impressed, made his escape and joined his brethren in arms on the other side.
Governor Jefferson, therefore, from the watch-tower of his high office, had sometimes to look half a dozen ways at once. The flower of the men of Virginia were, of course, in the army under Washington. They must be looked to and their numbers kept up. But that new enemy in the Carolinas, able, enterprising, relentless, must be opposed with all the force which Virginia could spare ; since to defeat Cornwallis in North Carolina was the only way to keep him out of Virginia : it was self-defence. The Indians were a third object of attention. The thousand British and German prisoners in Albemarle occasioned constant solicitude ; and the more, as the war drew nearer the borders of the State, and as the men of the State were drawn away to serve in distant camps. On the side of the ocean there was always a wide and an open door to danger. Nothing but a fleet will ever be able to shut out a fleet from Chesapeake Bay ; and what was Virginia’s navy then? Four little cruisers, carrying in all sixty-two guns. And as to Hampton Roads and the mouth of the James River, military men think that even now, in this year 1872, after fifty-seven years’ work upon Fortress Monroe and the Ripraps, there is nothing there which could stop a good iron-clad. Certainly, there was nothing in 1779 that could stop a wooden frigate. Three weeks before Jefferson’s inauguration, a fleet of a dozen vessels, with two thousand troops on board, had run in without firing or receiving a shot, and landed troops without the least molestation. These troops carried out their part of the new programme. They spent several days in ravaging, burning, plundering, murdering, “while the militia fled helpless; for in Virginia, in 1779, there was only one musket left to every four or five men, and the unarmed militia of the region could not even limit the area of spoliation. When at last Governor Henry had got together an armed force of some magnitude, tire bold marauders ceased destroying turpentine, tobacco, and pork, ceased despoiling farmhouses and burning villages, and went at their leisure on board their ships, and sailed away. The smoke of their burnings had not ceased to ascend to heaven when Jefferson took the oath. What had been done once, he well knew, could be done again.
That was the situation : front door open to hostile fleets ; back door, to hostile Indians, General Washington wanting all that Virginia had of men, money, arms, and food ; a powerful foe at the South, anxious to get over the border ; one gun to four or five men, and a most plentiful lack of all other warlike material, which can only be got with money. This was the task which had fallen to the lot of a lawyer of thirty-six, with a talent for music, a taste for art, a love of science, literature, and gardening. But mind is mind, intelligence is intelligence. I would not choose Mr. Emerson or Mr. Darwin to command an expedition or govern a country ; but if, in the course of events, it fairly fell to their part to undertake either of those tasks,
I should confidently look to their acquitting themselves respectably. Moreover, the individual at the head of a free republic does really have at command, and may utilize, its whole intelligence, as we saw Mr. Lincoln do during the late war. Jefferson had to aid him a Council and Assembly which contained the best sense which Virginia could spare from the field.
The gloom which hung over the State in consequence of the late unchecked and unpunished ravages of the enemy near the sea was dispelled, before the new governor had been many days in office, by most cheering news from the opposite quarter.
Virginia had in the field, at that time, two eminent heroes : one so known to all mankind, that he need not be named; the other, now almost fallen out of memory : one, at the head of the armies of America ; the other in the far West, twelve hundred miles from the capital of Virginia, with a band of a hundred and fifty kindred spirits, holding back, by the force of his single will, the Indians from the frontiers of his native State. George Rogers Clarke was the name of this other hero. He was a native of Jefferson’s own county of Albemarle; “our Colonel Clarke,” he calls him ; a neighbor of the governor ; not twenty-six years old when Governor Henry sent him into the wilderness, in the spring of 1778, to protect the border. This hero is not as famous as Leonides or Hannibal only because be has not had such historians as they. But he defended the western homes of Virginia precisely as Hannibal would have done. By way of giving the Indians something to do in their own country, he floated and marched to the post of Kaskaskias on the Mississippi, took it, held it as a base ; struck for other posts near by ; terrified some tribes ; seduced others ; broke the spell of British influence ; became lord paramount in the land of the Illinois ; showing himself a most swift, alert, tough, untiring, closely calculating commander. No order from home helped or hindered him. “ Not a scrape of your pen,” he wrote to the governor in April, 1779, “have I received from you for near twelve months.”
In the midst of his success, when he had held the Indians quiet for nine months, Colonel Hamilton interposed, marching from Detroit, and taking post at Vincennes on the Wabash, right between Clarke and Virginia. Instantly, the whole aspect of things was changed ; for Hamilton was a man of energy and skill, long familiar with Indians, unscrupulous, willing to let his Indians wage war in the Indian manner. Whole tribes fell off from Clarke, and joined Hamilton, who had guineas, wampum, weapons, red cloth, and all that an Indian prizes. War parties streaked the prairies and glided through the woods. The Indians of the whole Western wilderness, from the Alleghanies to the Great River, were agitated or astir. Clarke prepared to sell his post as dearly as he could ; for, as he said, he had not men enough to stand a siege, and was too remote to send for aid. But while he was in the rush of preparation, calling in his outposts, burning superfluous or obstructive houses, making all tight and snug for a desperate fight, came news that Hamilton had sent out so many parties from Vincennes, that he had but eighty men left to defend the post. His resolution was taken ; for, really, lie had but one chance. Let him wait at Kaskaskias till the spring opened, and he would have Hamilton, British troops,and thousands of Indians upon him, against whom his little band could fight only to be at last tortured and burnt alive.
The distance from Kaskaskias to Vincennes was a hundred and fifty miles ; Clarke’s force, about one hundred and fifty men. Sending a barge round by river with the artillery and stores, he struck across the country with a hundred and thirty soldiers, joined on the way by a few young men of the country. It was in the midst of the great February thaw, the rivers all overflowing, the swamps under water, the prairies soft, the woods soaked and dripping. On the eleventh day they were within nine miles of Vincennes ; but those nine miles were covered with the waters of the overflowing Wabash. It took the band five days to accomplish the distance, “ having to wade often,” says the heroic leader ; and, the last six miles, “up to our breasts in water.” They must have perished, he added, if the weather had not been warm. Reaching dry land an hour after dark, they saw the place before them ; when, all chilled and wet as they were, they began the attack ; and, after an eighteen hours’ fight, took the post and all its garrison without the loss of a man. It was Clarke’s audacity, fortitude, and skill that won this victory, which in its consequences was one of the most important of the war; for, besides relieving the whole frontier of apprehension from the Indians, it confirmed Virginia’s claim to the possession of the country, and had its due weight in the final negotiations.
The victors were bountifully rewarded. A few days after, they made an easy capture of forty men and ten thousand pounds’ worth of goods, floating down the river to reinforce Colonel Hamilton. In short, George Rogers Clarke was lord of the West, vice Henry Hamilton, deposed, and sent as a prisoner of war, with his chief officers, to the governor of Virginia. “But what crowned the general joy,” wrote Clarke to the governor, “ was the arrival of William Morris, my express to you, with your letters, which gave general satisfaction. The soldiery, being made sensible of the gratitude of their country for their services, were so much elated that they would have attempted the reduction of Detroit, had I ordered them.” William Morris was despatched with tidings of this new triumph ; but, as he was killed on the way, it was not until the beginning of June, a hundred days after the event, that Jefferson received the intelligence.
The success of Colonel Clarke, though it relieved the governor’s mind from an ever-present dread, devolved upon him a painful duty. Hamilton and two of his officers reached Williamsburg, prisoners, charged with having incited the Indians to scalp, massacre, torture, and burn ; Hamilton himself having confined in a dungeon without fire, and loaded with chains, and cruelly tormented, an American citizen. For four years Congress and the people had seen, with a sorrowing and indignant amazement, the cruelty with which English commanders had uniformly treated American prisoners of war, and they had sought to avenge the wrong by heaping coals of fire upon their heads, — treating English and Hessian prisoners with an extravagance of generosity. In their unique manifesto of October 30, 1778, the Congress of the United States had declared to the world that, “ considering themselves bound to love their enemies,” they had “ studied to spare those who were in arms against them, and to lighten the chains of captivity.” This was the simple truth. The British prisoners had been courted and petted, rather than abused. Jefferson and his neighbors had personally striven to render the stay of the Burgoyne prisoners in Albemarle, not endurable merely, but delightful.
I can perfectly understand the feelings of the Virginians on this occasion ; because, during the late war, while Union prisoners were dying in anguish at Andersonville, unsheltered, and not permitted to shelter themselves from the blasting Georgia sun and rain, I saw, near Fortress Monroe, Confederate prisoners in an exquisite seaside hospital, nourished, while their wounds were healing, upon a diet of alternate broiled chicken and lamb-chop, with a glass of delicate hock (whenever ordered by the physicians) at eleven and four ; and as well treated, in all essential particulars, as Queen Victoria could be if she lay sick in Windsor Castle. Having seen this sight in September, 1864, I can understand how it was that the governor of Virginia and his Council, in June, 1799, came to the conclusion to discontinue the refined coals-of-fire system, and try the vulgar method of retaliation. The Council, in fact, “ resolved to advise the governor ” that the three prisoners from Vincennes “be put in irons, confined in the dungeons of the public jail, debarred the use of pen, ink, and paper, and excluded all converse, except with their keeper.” .
Each variety of human being has its own besetting foible. As a man of great executive force is apt to be cruelly reckless of others’ woe, so a person of scholarly habits and philanthropic character is generally too reluctant to be the instrument of inflicting pain, even when justice, necessity, and mercy all unite to demand it at his hands. I observe, therefore, with pleasure, in the voluminous correspondence relating to this affair, that Governor Jefferson rose superior to the natural and usual infirmity of men of his temperament, and went heart and hand with his legal advisers. He put those men in irons, and immured them in a dungeon. In those days, too (Howard was only just beginning his jail tours then), a dungeon was a dungeon. It was rotten straw, foul air, darkness, underground chill, and everything that was most dismal and repulsive. A hundred years ago, the Christian religion was just struggling into existence. It had not yet acquired force enough to purify the public jails of remote Virginia. But Jefferson, philanthropist as he was, and, indeed, because he was a philanthropist, adhered firmly to the system of retaliation ; perceiving, as he told General Washington, that retaliation in this instance was only a more far-reaching kind of mercy.
General Phillips, that “ proudest man of the proudest nation on earth,” prisoner of war in a pleasant mansion near Monticello, sent a vigorous, though moderate and respectful remonstrance to Governor Jefferson. His chief point was, that Hamilton having capitulated, it was a breach of faith on the part of Virginia to treat him otherwise than as a prisoner of war. The governor ransacked authorities, but found nothing to justify this view. It occurred to him, however, that military usage, not yet embodied in law, might have established the principle ; and he therefore, with the consent of his Council, referred the matter to the decision of General Washington. “ I have the highest idea,” he wrote to the General, “of those contracts which take place between nation and nation at war, and would be the last on earth to do anything in violation of them”; and “my own anxiety under a charge of violation of national faith by the executive of this Commonwealth will, I hope, apologize for my adding this to the many troubles with which I know you to be burdened.” The Commander-inChief, after much reflection and consultation with military men, thought it best, upon the whole, that Hamilton and his companions should have the benefit of the doubt. Their shackles were, therefore, taken off, and they were finally admitted to parole.
Not the less were the governor and Council resolved to adhere to the system of retaliation. A prison-ship, on the fell pattern of those used by the English in New York, was actually got ready, and the exchange of prisoners was stopped between Virginia and New York. “ Humane conduct on our part,” wrote the governor, “ was found to produce no effect ; the contrary was therefore to be tried. If it produces a proper lenity to our citizens in captivity, it will have the effect we meant; if it does not, we shall return a severity as terrible as universal.....Iron,” he added,
“ will be retaliated by iron, but a great multiplication on distinguished objects ; prison-ships by prison-ships, and like for like in general.” But, happily, Governor Jefferson, in November, 1779. received notification from head-quarters that the British generals, under the new commander, Sir Henry Clinton, had changed their system, and were treating prisoners of war with an approach to humanity. Virginians might be pardoned for thinking that the just, spirited, and firm conduct of their governor and Council had had something to do with this change.
Meanwhile, the governor had trouble enough with the thousands of Burgoyne prisoners near his own home. Their thriving gardens, attractive as they might be to a visitor, could not retain them when there was a chance to escape ; and whenever there was a British force operating in or near Virginia, no one could say, of a squad of soldiers on the tramp, whether they were deserters from that force, or prisoners escaped from Albemarle. “ Four hundred desertions in the last fortnight,” wrote Colonel Bland in July, 1779 ; and he had reason to believe, “with the connivance of some of the officers.” This news was not calculated to soothe the mind of the new governor.
But the grand object of Mr. Jefferson’s solicitude, during the first summer of his administration, was to enable the gallant Colonel Clarke to make the most of his commanding position in the far West. The burning desire of that hero’s heart was to capture Detroit, the seat of the enemy’s power in the Indian country, and, as Governor Jefferson described it, “an uneasy thorn in our side,” A great host of friendly Indians were assembled at Vincennes, and all was ready for the expedition, except the more costly supplies, and the regiment or two of white troops needful for the onset. It lay heavy on the governor’s mind, during the whole period of his service, that he could never quite spare them. Several times he thought he had both men and money enough. But, just as the troops were ready to march, an exigency would occur so dire, so pressing, that he was compelled to order them elsewhere ; thus Detroit remained in the hands of the enemy ; remained a very uneasy thorn in the side of Washington, the United States, the Federal party, until John Jay extracted it by treaty in 1794. Governor Jefferson, unable to get Detroit, resolved to secure what Colonel Clarke had already conquered. A wild delusion prevailed just then that peace was at hand through the mediation of Spain ; and, supposing that each belligerent would retain what he actually held at the moment of treating, the governor ordered Colonel Clarke to build certain forts in the Western country, particularly one on the Mississippi, at the southern boundary of Virginia, which would make good Virginia’s ancient claim to extend westward as far as the Great River. Colonel Clarke, who was a surveyor by profession,— resembling in this as in other respects Jefferson’s own father, — built the fort, and named it Fort Jefferson.
This year, 1779, the last of Williamsburg’s serving as the capital of Virginia, was the last of Jefferson’s residence near William and Mary College, in which he had been educated. Being now elected a college visitor, he endeavored, amid the bustle and anxieties of the war, to lop off some of the dead branches that hindered, as he thought, its useful operation. He caused the Grammar School to be abolished, and the two professorships of divinity and Hebrew to be suppressed. In place of these he made provision for the instruction of the students in chemistry, natural history, anatomy, medicine, law, modern languages, the fine arts, natural justice, and the laws of nations. In the spring of 1780, Richmond, a village then of nine hundred white inhabitants, peculiarly defenceless and unprovided, became the capital of Virginia ; the government finding shelter — and little more than shelter — in extemporized wooden structures.
The dream of peace was rudely dispelled. About the time of this removal to Richmond, April 1, 1780, the stern and bitter trial of Virginia and her governor began. By the time he had arranged his new pigeon-holes at Richmond, came a private letter from Madison, then in Congress* which must have appalled timid minds. The army under Washington, Mr. Madison said, was on the verge of dissolution, being short of bread and nearly out of meat; the treasury empty and the public credit gone ; the currency nearly worthless, and no visible means of restoring it; the States pulling one way and Congress another ; and everything in extremity. This was, indeed, the period of profoundest gloom, — the black hour before the dawn. It was the time when Thomas Paine, whose pen during the Revolution was equal to a thousand men in the field, drew the year’s salary due him as clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly and began with it a private subscription in aid of the gasping cause, which had an effect rivalling in importance a new number of “The Crisis.” The sum was but five hundred paper dollars, it is true ; but it was all he had, and it kindled the patriotism of men who had more.
By the time Governor Jefferson had docketed Mr. Madison’s letter, in the first week of April, 1780, arrived news that a British fleet and army were investing Charleston ; news followed, six weeks after, by intelligence that the city was taken, South Carolina helpless, and a British army free to move northward, over North Carolina, into Virginia, unless a half-armed militia could stop it.
To the governor of Virginia, this whole year, 1780, and half the next, was a period of the most rending anxiety, and of exertion the most intense and constant. With four thousand five hundred Virginians already in the army, we see him stimulating the recruiting system in each county, writing letters, public and private, to county members and magnates, urging them to utilize the dying currency, and get out the last man with the last dollar, while it still had a semblance of value. He arranged, early in the campaign, three lines of express-riders, — one to General Washington, one to Hampton Roads, one to the head-quarters of the Army of the South, —so that, at a crisis, he hoped to be able to get and send news at the rate of one hundred and twenty miles in a day and night. Still further to guard against surprise, he despatched General Nelson on a tour of the eastern counties, requesting him to get the county lieutenants together and concert a plan of action in case of another descent of the enemy from the ocean. At first, it was an agonizing question, to which quarter Virginia should send her levies. Three letters from the Committee of Congress at head-quarters lay upon his desk at once, all asking for men and means; but early in July, General Gates arrived at Richmond, on his way to take the command in the South ; and, for the next six weeks, every man, horse, wagon, gun, bayonet, axe, cartridge-box, shoe, belt, saddle, blanket, tent, and coin, which Governor Jefferson could beg, buy, borrow, or get made was hurried away to General Gates’s head-quarters in North Carolina. Some Virginians saw with dismay the governor pouring into General Gates’s camp the whole of Virginia’s means of defence. His answer then and ever after was, that Virginia’s single chance of escaping devastation by Cornwallis’s army lay in stiengthening Gates. If Gates and his army did not stop and hurl back upon Charleston the British forces, nothing could keep them out of Virginia.
For the first time in her history, Virginia became a manufacturing State. “Our smiths,” wrote the governor, August 4th, “ are making five hundred axes and some tomahawks for General Gates,” — turning out twenty a day,
“ and we are endeavoring to get bayonet-belts made ” ; though leather was so scarce that people stole the flaps of cartouch - boxes from the wagons to mend their shoes with. The governor sent messengers all over the State to pick up little lots of material, such as duck and leather. And, when he had accumulated supplies, he was at his wit’s end for wagons in which to transport them. Nearly a quarter of a century had elapsed since Braddock had found wagons so scarce in 'Virginia and Maryland; and Governor Jefferson, since he had no money in his treasury to hire or buy them, found them scarcer still. In this extremity he was obliged to impress wagons, not sparing his own. His principle was, to leave on every farm the horses and vehicles absolutely necessary to secure the ripening crops, and take all the rest for the public service. This he did upon his own farms in Albemarle. It is interesting to note that, in the crisis of the campaign, the governor was sending about to try and find, for the use of General Gates, a copy of the old map of Virginia, made when he was a child, by Professor Fry and his own father. The ladies, this summer, were contributing the costly trifles of their jewel drawers to the cause, besides huge packets of the paper money of the period. Doubtless, a hard-pressed treasurer valued Mrs. Sarah Cary’s gold watch-chain, which “ cost £ 7 sterling,” or Mrs. Ambler’s “ five gold rings,” or Mrs. Griffin’s “ ten half-joes,” or Mrs. Ramsay’s collection of “ one half-joe, three guineas, three pistareens, one bit,” more highly than the same lady’s sounding collection of four bundles of paper money, containing in all seventyfive thousand five hundred and eighteen dollars and one third. This delusive sum was not altogether to be despised. It would buy one or two blankets, or half a dozen pairs of tolerable marching shoes.
These efforts were in vain. In the midst of the governors endeavors, while he was in the very act of hurrying away reinforcements and stores toward the scene of action, occurred (August 16, 1780) the disastrous defeat of Gates at Camden, one hundred and ten miles from the capital of Virginia. It was a woful stroke. In an hour — such a destroyer is war —all that Virginia and the whole Confederacy could accumulate of men, horses, and material, in two months of intensest exertion, was scattered and gone. Those wagons so painfully got together, to the number of one hundred and thirty, were all lost ; one of Jefferson’s among the rest. In this sad extremity, the governor’s first thought was to gather precise and full information of the cause and extent of the disaster, and transmit the same to General Washington; his second, to raise and equip new levies, (though “ without any money in the treasury, or hope of any till October,”) and do whatever else was possible to enable General Gates to make a new stand. For the lost wagons he tried to substitute barges in which to float provisions down the streams toward General Gates’s camp ; but he was obliged to become personally responsible for the cost of their construction. It marks the confusion of the time, that, when a month had elapsed after the Camden defeat, he was still ignorant of the fate of his own wagoner and horses. A wagonmaster from the fatal field told him that a brigade quartermaster, at the moment of panic, cut one of his best horses from the harness and rode away on him ; and that his negro wagoner, Phill, lame in one arm and leg, was seen loosening another horse for the same laudable purpose of saving himself for further service. As the public money was carried in the governor’s wagon, it is to be presumed he never saw it again.
Camden, in North Carolina, is about fifteen miles from the Virginia line ; and yet several months passed before a soldier of the victorious army trod Virginia soil. The enterprising and resolute yeomanry of North Carolina held them in check, and even compelled a retreat into South Carolina. It was from another quarter that Virginia was menaced next.
It was the 22d of October, 1780. Amid the universal horror and consternation caused by Arnold’s defection, the governor of Virginia was still sending forward from every county all the men it could spare to General Gates, except a force which he still hoped to reserve for Colonel Clarke’s project against Detroit. Droves of cattle were on the southern road ; the smiths were still working on the axes, producing twenty a day ; agents were out buying the newly harvested corn on the credit of the State ; men were ranging the western counties for a hundred more wagons,—all for the new army forming under Gates in North Carolina, — when news came that a British fleet of sixty vessels had entered Hampton Roads and were landing troops near Portsmouth ! Jefferson’s three lines of express riders stood him in good stead now; for against such a force — a dozen armed vessels and three thousand regular troops of all arms — there was nothing in Virginia that could stand an hour ; and he could do little more than send the information to Washington and Gates. Such militia as were left and had arms were instantly diverted to this new danger; but they could do nothing but make a show of resistance. To General Gates the governor could now only forward an idea : “Would it not be worth while to send out a swift boat from some of the inlets of North Carolina to notify the French Admiral that his enemies are in a net, if he has leisure to close the mouth of it ? ”
“ His enemies ! ” Mr. Jefferson soon learned whose enemies these newcomers were, and what they had come to Virginia for. When they had been a week at Portsmouth, doing nothing particular, a suspicious character was arrested on the road leading southward. While protesting his willingness to be searched, he was seen to put something into his mouth. Tobacco, perhaps ? But the Virginia militia-men, experienced tobacco-chewers, did not recognize the correct swing of the arm in the motion made by this unknown ; and, taking the liberty to examine his mouth, they extracted therefrom a remarkable quid, a neat little roll of the size of a goose-quill, covered with goldbeater’s - skin and nicely tied at each end. It proved to be a letter from General Leslie, the commander of the expedition, to Lord Cornwallis : “ My Lord, I have been here near a week, establishing a post ; I wrote to you to Charleston and by another messenger by land. I cannot hear for a certainty where you are. I wait your orders. The bearer is to be handsomely rewarded, if he brings me any note or mark from your lordship. A. L.”
This great armament, then, had come to co-operate with Cornwallis in the subjection of Virginia. The design was frustrated by the activity and valor of the North Carolina militia in annoying and detaining Cornwallis. Leslie waited a month ; at the expiration of which he put to sea again with all his ships and all his men. During his stay, the British prisoners in Albemarle escaped in such numbers, that the governor deemed it best to march them into Maryland. And none too soon ! If they had remained in Albemarle through the winter, every man of them would have gone to swell the British Army when it made its last stand at Yorktown; for Cornwallis, in the spring, could have struck the camp which they had made so inviting with gardens and shrubbery. To the last week of their stay, the agreeable relations between some of the officers and Governor Jefferson continued. To a young German lieutenant of scientific tastes, who had poured forth fervent thanksgivings for Mr. Jefferson’s kindness, the governor sent an amiable reply, making light, of the services he had been able to render, and suggesting to his young friend to resume philosophy when the war should be over, and, settling in America, acquire a fame “ founded on the happiness, and not on the calamities, of human nature.” Really, these were fortunate prisoners. The officers had bought for their pleasure such a large number of the superior Virginia horses, that, upon their going away, it became a serious question whether they ought to be allowed to take the animals out of a State so terribly in want of them ; and Governor Jefferson referred this point also to General Washington’s decision.
The month of December, 1780, was a breathing time to the Virginians. The governor employed it chiefly in pushing measures in aid of Colonel Clarke’s design against Detroit. The British were again powerful in the far West. Certain news came, that, in the spring, two thousand Indians and English would ravage the frontiers, unless employment could be found for them nearer home ; and it was only too probable that the scene of the next regular campaign would be Virginia. Clarke was himself in Richmond for the purpose of urging and organizing the expedition, and was waiting, as the year 1780 drew to a close, the final answer of General Washington to the governor’s strong recommendation of the scheme. The General’s consent and warm approval were given in due time ; but before his letter reached Richmond, events again interposed their irresistible fiat.
On Sunday, the last day of the year 1780, at eight in the morning, Jefferson received intelligence that a fleet of twenty-seven sail had entered Chesapeake Bay the day before. The messenger must have ridden hard, the distance in a straight line between Richmond and Old Point Comfort being not less than a hundred and twenty miles ; and he had not waited long enough to learn what flag the vessels bore, nor whether they were bound up the bay or into the James. All the rulers of Virginia were in Richmond at the moment, for the Legislature was in session, within two days of its adjournment. General Nelson of the State militia and the heroic Clarke were there ; and Baron Steuben, who had recently come to assist in the defence of the State, was not far off. But neither soldier nor civilian could assist an anxious governor in determining the character of the new arrival. Could it be Leslie back again ? Might it not be the long-wished-for French fleet ? Was it that mysterious expedition fitting out lately in New York, destined, as it was given out, for some Southern port, of which General Washington, three weeks before, had sent his usual circular of notification to the governors of States ? No one could tell. And if the fleet should prove to be hostile, would the commanding general be content with merely ravaging the shores of the lower country, like his two predecessors, or push for regions which no enemy bad yet despoiled ? Which river would he ascend, the York, the James, the Potomac, the Patapsco ? What town would he first plunder, Alexandria, Baltimore, Williamsburg, Petersburg, or Richmond ?
Amid all this doubt, the governor could only despatch General Nelson, with full powers, to the mouth of the James, that he might be near the scene of his duties in case it were necessary to call out the militia. Richmond has known some anxious Sundays since, but, perhaps, few more distressing than this; for the whole day passed without bringing further intelligence. Monday came and went ; but not a messenger from the lower country arrived. On Tuesday morning, at ten, the suspense was at an end. Word came that the fleet was British, not French, and that it had entered the James, not gone up Chesapeake Bay. Instantly the governor signed orders, calling out half the militia of the region menaced, and a third of the militia of the counties adjacent to it, — four thousand seven hundred men in all,—and entrusted the orders to the county members just departing for their homes. That done, he directed the removal of public property to Westham, a village just above the rapids which close the navigation of the James at Richmond.
The next evening at eight, Wednesday, January 3d, the governor learned that the enemy’s fleet of light vessels had come to anchor near Jamestown, the point where the river is only seven miles from Williamsburg. Then all thought the enemy’s first object must be the ancient capital. But it was not. On Thursday morning, two hours before the dawn, came intelligence that the fleet, favored by wind and tide, had swept on up the broad James to a landing below where the Appomattox enters it. There was still, therefore, some doubt whether Richmond or Petersburg was to be visited-; but the governor, who had now learned that “ the parricide Arnold ” was the commander of the expedition, called out all the militia of that part of the State. At five that afternoon all doubt was dispelled by a despatch which informed the governor that the foe had landed troops at Westover, twenty-five miles distant.
In this emergency, Governor Jefferson found himself alone. Not a member of the Council or of the Assembly remained in Richmond to aid him, for all had gone to place their families in safety, or were absent on public duty. He sent his own family — wife and three children, the youngest two months old — to the house of a relative at Tuckahoe, thirteen miles above the town. There were two hundred militia of the neighborhood near at hand ; and stronger parties were gathering at various points under Steuben, Clarke, Nelson, and others ; but nowhere in Virginia was there yet an armed body capable of holding in check a regiment of regular troops led by an Arnold.
The governor mounted his horse, and took command of the situation. His first orders were to stop transporting stores to Westham, and simply get everything across the river, or into the river, anywhere so that Arnold could not easily reach it. Some hours he spent in superintending and urging on this work, first at Richmond, later at Westham, reaching Tuckahoe, where his family were, at one in the morning. There he remained long enough to assist them across the river, and see them safely on their way to a securer refuge, eight miles above ; and then he galloped back along the James to a point opposite Westham, where at daylight he resumed his superintendence of the transfer of the public property. At full speed, on the same tired, unfed horse, he continued his ride toward Manchester, then a small village, opposite Richmond. Before he reached it, his horse sank under him exhausted, and he was obliged to leave the animal dying in the roadWith saddle and bridle on his own back, he hurried on to the next farm-house for another horse. He could only borrow there a colt not yet broken, upon which he continued his journey ; until, coming in sight of Richmond, he discovered the foe already in possession. After doing the little that was possible for the security of the public stores at Manchester, he rode away to the headquarters of Baron Steuben, a few miles off, for consultation with the only educated soldier within his reach.
In war, everything, even the elements, seem sometimes to favor audacity. Arnold only remained in Richmond twenty - three hours ; but, so promptly had the governor acted, and so well was he seconded by the county militia and their officers, that Arnold only escaped with his nine hundred men through a timely change in the wind which bore him down the river with the extraordinary swiftness of his ascent. In five days from the first summons, twenty-five hundred militia were on the traitor’s path, and hundreds more coming in every hour ; but the breeze wafted him away from them down the James, with the loss of thirty of his men, laid low by a whiff of musketry from a party of militia under Colonel Clarke. During the brief stay of the enemy near Richmond, they burned a cannon foundry, several of the public shanties, a few private houses, and a prodigious quantity of tobacco, besides throwing into the canal five tons of powder and spoiling three hundred muskets.
After three days’ absence from the capital, the governor returned, and affairs began to resume their usual train. For eighty-four hours his home had been the saddle. Arnold went plundering on to the mouth of the James, where he entrenched himself in the camp abandoned a few weeks before by Leslie.
A passionate desire pervaded the continent to have this traitor brought to justice ; or, as Jefferson expressed it, “ to drag him from those under whose wing he is now sheltered.” When the governor learned the details of Arnold’s retreat, he felt that a small band of cool, resolute men could have seized and carried him off, and he now proposed the scheme to an officer of militia. The men to aid him were drawn from the regiments of Western Virginia, in whom the governor had “peculiar confidence.” The band, he recommended, should be few in number, the smaller the better, and he left it to the discretion of the chief whether they should enter Arnold’s camp as friends, or lie in wait for him without. “ I will undertake,” he wrote, “ if they are successful in bringing him off alive, that they shall receive five thousand guineas’ reward among them ; and to men formed for such an enterprise, it must be a great incitement to know that their names will be recorded with glory in history with those of Van Wart, Paulding, and Williams.” Arnold grew wary, however, and could not be caught.
From this time civil government in Virginia was, in effect, almost suspended. The war was to be fought out upon Virginia soil and in Virginia waters ; and it is an old saying, that in the presence' of contending armies, laws are silent. Arnold, Phillips, Cornwallis, Tarlton, Rochambeau, Greene, Steuben, Lafayette, Nelson, Washington, are the names that figure in the history of Virginia during the next nine months. Arnold, reinforced and superseded by Phillips, ravaged one portion of the State, except when checked by Steuben and Lafayette. Cornwallis and Tarlton, long retarded and eluded by Greene, swept over the border at last. Indians threatened the western counties ; and fleets arrived, departed, contended, on the eastern shores. All that Virginia had of manhood, resources, credit, ability, was enlisted in the cause; and so many men were in service during the planting season, that the governor feared there would not be food enough raised for the year’s necessities.
Jefferson, in the midst of this agonizing chaos, did whatever was possible to supply and reinforce Greene, Steuben, Lafayette ; the burden of his cry to Washington, to Congress, being always “ the fatal want of arms.” The need of arms became at length so pressing, that, after “knocking at the door of Congress ” by letter for many months, he requested Harrison, Speaker of the Assembly, to go to Philadelphia, and beg Congress, in person, if they could not assign to Virginia a proper supply of arms, to at least repay Virginia the arms she had lent for the protection of the Carolinas. Power little short of absolute was conferred upon the governor by the Legislature at one of its hurried spring sessions. He was authorized to call out the whole of the militia ; to impress all wagons, horses, food, clothing, accoutrements, negroes ; to arrest the disaffected and banish the disloyal. He was empowered, also, to emit the magnificent sum of fifteen millions of dollars, in addition to the hundred and twenty millions previously issued in the same month, — the whole amount being worth then about twentyseven thousand golden guineas. But all this availed little. Virginia wanted muskets, — wanted them, not merely for the great operations of the war, but for daily and nightly and hourly defence against predatory bands. Governor Jefferson could not furnish them.
Four times in the spring of 1781 the Legislature of Virginia were obliged to adjourn in haste, and fly before the coming or the menace of an enemy. First, in January, when Arnold plundered the capital. Next, in March, when every act was hurried through from fear of another interruption. Then, in May, when an attack seemed so imminent that the few members who had come together gave up trying to legislate at Richmond, and separated to meet at Charlottesville, under the shadow of Monticello, little thinking that the storm of war was about to sweep over Albemarle also.
The day appointed for the assembling of the Legislature at Charlottesville was May 24th. The governor’s second term of service would expire on the 1st of June ; but, amid the hurry and alarm of the time, the Assembly had as yet found no opportunity to attend to an election. There was no quorum till the 28th, when a Speaker was chosen ; but even then, such was the emergency, the House could not enter into the election of a governor. Cornwallis, with all his army, was five days’ march distant, and the State seemed to lie at his mercy. Not a boat could cross the bay or descend the James without risk of capture by the enemy’s smaller craft. The civil government seemed a nullity at such a moment, and the governor, as the last hours of his term were gliding away, could only serve his State by explaining its situation to Congress and the Commanderin-Chief. He felt that what Virginia needed then was a general, able, strong in the confidence of the people, acquainted with the State, one who could place himself in the centre of the crisis, rally around him every element of force Virginia possessed, and direct it upon the foe. He thought, moreover, that the seven thousand men of Cornwallis must be the enemy’s principal force ; and, under this impression, he wrote to General Washington on the 28th of May, while a small quorum of the Legislature were choosing their Speaker within sight of his house: “Were it possible for this circumstance to justify in your Excellency a determination to lend us your personal aid, it is evident from the universal voice that the presence of their beloved countryman, whose talents have so long been successfully employed in establishing the freedom of kindred States, to whose person they have still flattered themselves they retained some right, and have ever looked upon as their dernier resort in distress, that your appearance among them, I say, would restore full confidence of salvation, and would render them equal to whatever is not impossible.’’
The time had not yet come for Washington’s appearance on this scene, though that time was not distant. The month of May expired. Jefferson was out of office, and Virginia had no governor. The Speaker of the House, the President of the Council, and several members of both bodies, were his guests at Monticello, riding over from Charlottesville every afternoon after the business of the day was at an end.
Just before sunrise, June 4, 1781, while as yet the inhabitants of Monticello slept, except, perhaps, the earlywaking master of the mansion, a horseman rode at full speed up the mountain, and sprang from his foaming steed at the door of the house. He was a gentleman of the neighborhood, named Jouitte, well known to Jefferson. He had been spending the evening before at a tavern in Louisa, twenty miles away, the county town of the next county eastward from Albemarle. An hour before midnight a body of British cavalry, two hundred and fifty in number, had galloped into the town, had come to a halt, dismounted, and proceeded to refresh man and beast with food and rest. Jouitte guessed that the object of such a band, so far from the actual seat of war, commanded, too, by the famous Tarlton, could be no other than the surprise of the governor and Legislature of Virginia. He had had his horse saddled; and, while Tarlton and his men were enjoying their three hours’ halt at Louisa, he had struck into an old disused road, a short cut, and ridden with all speed toward Charlottesville to give the alarm ; making a slight detour on his way to warn Mr. Jefferson and his friends at Monticello. He delivered his message there, and rode on to notify the rest of the members in the village.
The family, we are told, breakfasted as usual ; after which the guests rode away to Charlottesville, and the inmates of the house prepared for a journey. A carriage was made ready and brought round to the door, in which Jefferson placed his most valued papers. He sent his best horse to be shod at a shop on the river’s bank, a mile off. The two most trusted of the household servants gathered the plate and other things of value, and hid them under the floor of the front portico. All these things were done with a certain deliberation, because the family naturally concluded that Tarlton would first strike Charlottesville, which lay in plain sight from Monticello, and thus give them ample notice of his approach. But Tarlton, as lie went thundering on towards the village, detached a troop to seize the governor and hold Monticello as a lookout during his stay in the vicinity ; and, hence, when Jefferson had been employed something less than two hours in sorting and packing his papers, an officer of militia came in breathless, to say that British cavalry were coming up the mountain.
Jefferson had two law pupils at the time, James Monroe, and another whose name is not recorded. Monroe was in the field, of course, during these weeks of stress and ravage. To the other Jefferson confided his family, directing him to take them to a friend’s house some miles distant. He sent to the blacksmith’s for his horse, ordering the servant to bring the animal to a spot between his own mountain and the next, which he could quickly reach by a by-road through the woods. Still he lingered a few minutes among his papers, wishing to give his servant time to get the horse to the designated place. He left his house at length, — telescope in hand, light sword of the period at his side, — and walked down through the forest to the valley between the two mountains, where he found his horse. Before mounting, he paused to listen. No sound was audible, except the musical din of a peaceful June morning in the primeval woods. No clang of accoutrements, nor tramp of armed men, nor distant thunder of a troop of horse. He went a little way up the next mountain to a rock whence, with the aid of his telescope, he could clearly see Charlottesville ; but there was no unusual stir in the streets. A false alarm, perhaps ; and, so surmising, he resolved to go back to his house and finish the sorting of his papers, the accumulated treasure of the years that had passed since the burning of the house in which he was born. He had gone some distance toward his home, when he discovered that his sword had slipped from its scabbard, as he guessed, when he had stooped to get a rest for his spyglass. He went back for it. Before leaving the rock, he took another peep through his glass at the village ; when, behold, it was all alive and swarming with troopers !
Then, for the first time, he mounted his horse, and took the road to follow his family, whom he rejoined before night. The dropping of his sword was a lucky event. If he had gone back to the house, he might have fallen into the hands of the enemy; for they entered just five minutes after he left it. The two friendly slaves who were hiding the family treasures — one in the cavity receiving, and the other on the portico handing down — were almost caught in the act of stowing away the last article. They heard the sound of hoofs just in time for the one above to slam down the plank, shutting up the other in a dark, hot, and narrow hole, during the whole eighteen hours’ stay of the troop. It proved to be a superfluous exertion of fortitude. Tarlton had given orders that nothing in the house should be injured or removed, and these orders were obeyed ; except that some of the thirsty soldiers, after their thirty hours’ gallop, helped themselves on the sly to some wine in the cellar.
The fidelity of these two slaves, Martin and Cæsar, during this time of trial, was always remembered by the family with gratitude and pride. Martin, after shutting down the faithful Cæsar with the treasures, remained standing upon the plank of the portico, where he received the captain of the troopers with dignified politeness. He conducted the officer over the house. When they reached the library, where Jefferson had, five minutes before, been at work among his papers, this captain—McCleod by name, gentleman by nature — locked the door, and then, handing the key to Martin, said, in substance, “ If any of the soldiers ask you for the key of this room, tell them I have it.” One of the soldiers, to test Martin’s mettle, put a pistol to his breast and threatened to fire unless he told which way his master had gone. “ Fire away, then,” replied the slave. Cæsar, on his part, cramped and tortured as he was in his black hole, made no movement, uttered no sound, during the whole eighteen hours,—all the rest of that day and all the night following.
Down the James, a hundred miles or more, Jefferson possessed a plantation named Elk Hill, with mansion house, negro quarter, extensive stables, herds of cattle, and growing crops. For ten days Cornwallis lived in this house, which had an elevated site, commanding a view of the whole estate. Jefferson himself has put upon record what his lordship did or permitted during his brief residence there. He destroyed all the growing crops of corn and tobacco ; he burned all the barns, filled with last year’s product ; he took all the cattle, hogs, and sheep for his army ; he appropriated all the serviceable horses; he cut the throats of the colts ; he burned all the fences ; he carried off twenty-seven slaves. With his usual exactness, Jefferson enumerates the items of his loss : nine horses, fifty-nine cattle, thirty sheep, sixty hogs, seven hundred and eighty barrels of corn, nineteen hogsheads of tobacco, and two hundred and seventyfive acres of growing wheat and barley. Respecting the lost slaves he remarks:
“ Had this been to give them freedom, he would have done right; but it was to consign them to inevitable death from the small-pox and putrid fever, then raging in his camp.” A few of these slaves crawled home to recover or to die, and to give the fever to five who had not left the plantation. Cornwallis, be adds, “ treated the rest of the neighborhood in much the same style, but not with that spirit of total extermination with which he seemed to rage over my possessions.”
For twelve days Virginia had no governor. If Tarlton had ridden on that morning, without stopping for breakfast, he might have caught a quorum of the Legislature in or near Charlottesville, and kept the State without a government for the rest of the campaign. It would have been no great harm ; for during the next five months, while the allied fleets and armies, and all the militia of Virginia that Jefferson had been able to arm, were cornering the marauder of the Southern States, there was little for civilians to do. Tarlton halted at the house of one of Jefferson’s friends, who ordered breakfast for the colonel and his officers. But the privates were as hungry as their leaders, and devoured the food in the kitchen as fast as the cook could get it ready. Tarlton got no breakfast until he had placed a guard to protect the cook ; and this delay gave members time to come together at Charlottesville, and adjourn to meet, three days after, at Staunton, forty miles to the westward, on the sale side of the Blue Ridge.
They met, accordingly, on the 7th of June. Discouraged at the aspect of affairs, soured and irritated by this fourth flight from the tramp of armed men, several of them were disposed to cast the blame of these invasions upon Governor Jefferson. One young member even said as much in the House, intimating that the governor should have foreseen Arnold’s coming and called out the militia in time. We all know from recent experience that, in war time, when affairs go ill in the field, the civil administration sinks in the esteem of the public ; and, indeed, we cannot wonder that, amid the musket famine of this terrible year,Virginians should bitterly regret the arms and accoutrements which the governor had sent down all the highways to Carolina, only to have them thrown away or captured at Camden and Guilford. Jefferson’s friends courted, demanded inquiry into his conduct, and insisted on having it set down as part of the business of the next session.
Still the House refrained from the election of a governor. Some of the weaker members revived the stale device of naming Patrick Henry dictator, but again laid the project aside from fear of the dangers of imaginary patriot-assassins. “ The very thought,” as Jeflerson wrote, “ was treason against the people, was treason against mankind in general, as riveting forever the chains which bow down their necks, by giving to their oppressors a proof, which they would have trumpeted through the universe, of the imbecility of republican government, in times of pressing danger, to shield them from harm.” Jefferson had a far better device, one which gave the State a legitimate, a constitutional dictator. Several months before, he had resolved to decline serving a third term. In the belief that, at such a crisis, the civil and military power should be wielded by the same hands, he induced his friends, who were a majority of the House, to give their votes to Thomas Nelson, commanderin-chief of the militia of the State, who was accordingly elected.
General Nelson had been a main stay of his own administration, giving to it the support of his honored name, his military talents, and the credit of his vast estates. On his own personal security he had raised the greater part of a most timely loan of two millions of dollars, and advanced money to pay two Virginia regiments who would not march for the southern army before their arrears were discharged. Governor Nelson took the field. He used without reserve the despotic powers with which he was entrusted ; forcing men into the field, and impressing wagons, horses, negroes, supplies. He was in at the death of that foul, mean, and monstrous war. At Yorktown, his own mansion being within the enemy’s lines and occupied by British officers, he had the pleasure of sending cannon-balls crashing through his own dining-room, and breaking up festive parties making merry over his own wine. It was a happy stroke of good sense and good management in Jefferson to leave his office to such a successor ; because he appeased the dictator party by giving them a dictator, while assigning the sole duty of the time to one fitted to perform it. But General Nelson did not succeed in satisfying his countrymen, for whom he had sacrificed health and fortune. He was an unpopular governor ; for the Virginians did not enjoy a dictator when they had got one ; and he could not long endure the opprobrium which the exercise of dictatorial power evoked. He threw up his office after holding it about six months ; and he, too, sought opportunity to defend his administration before the Legislature.
- Lossing’s American Historical Record, Vol, I. P. 33.↩