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Page 10

Thomas Jefferson


From the time of his retirement from public life, in 1807, Mr. Jefferson resided at Monticello, and lived as became a wise man. "Surrounded by affectionate friends, his ardor in the pursuit of knowledge undiminished, with uncommon health, and unbroken spirits, he was able to enjoy largely the rational pleasures of life, and to partake in that public prosperity, which he had so much contributed to produce. His kindness and hospitality, the charm of his conversation, the ease of his manners, the extent of his acquirements, and especially the full store of revolutionary incidents which he possessed, and which he knew when and how to dispense, rendered his abode, in a high degree, attractive to his admiring countrymen, while his high public and scientific character drew towards him every intelligent and educated traveler from abroad."

Although Mr. Jefferson had withdrawn from public life, he was still anxious to promote the objects of science, taste, and literature; and especially solicitous to see established a university in his native state. To this object he devoted several years of incessant and anxious attention, and by the enlightened liberality of the legislature of Virginia, and the co-operation of other able and zealous friends, he lived to see it accomplished. Of this institution, of which he was the father, he was elected the rector, and, during the declining years of his life, devoted himself, with unceasing ardor, to its permanent prosperity.

It has often been the lot of those who have devoted themselves to the public service, to suffer in the decline of life from the hand of poverty. This was the lot of Mr. Jefferson. His patrimony was originally large but was unavoidably neglected, in his attendance upon the duties of the high official stations which he had filled. Partial efforts were made in his native state, and in other parts of the country, to relieve his embarrassments; but the precise extent of the measures adopted, in reference to this subject, we have not the means of ascertaining.

At length, the day on which this illustrious man was to terminate his long and useful career, approached. That day, by the appointment of heaven, was to be the fourth of July, 1826. He saw its approach with undisturbed serenity. He had no wish to live beyond that day. It was a day which, fifty years before, he had helped to make immortal. His wishes were answered; and at ten minutes before one o'clock, on that day—memorable, also, for the departure of his compatriot, Adams—Mr. Jefferson himself expired at Monticello. At this time he had reached the age of eighty-three years, two months, and twenty-one days. In stature, he was six feet and two inches high. His person was erect and well formed, though spare. The color of his eyes was light, but they beamed with intelligence.

We shall not attempt minutely to delineate the character of Mr. Jefferson; this must be left to others, who may possess greater facilities of doing him justice. It may be observed, however, that in his manners he was simple and unaffected; at the same time possessing no inconsiderable share of dignity. In disposition he was uncommonly liberal and benevolent. In seasons of danger and perplexity, he exhibited no ordinary fortitude and strength of mind. His opinions were slowly formed, but yielded with great reluctance. Over his passions he possessed an uncommon control.

In his domestic habits, he was quite simple. He rose early, and through the whole day was unusually diligent in his application, either to business or study, he was ardently devoted to literature and science, with almost every branch of which he was well acquainted. Of his peculiar opinions on religious subjects, we are designedly silent. In respect to these, the best and wisest of his countrymen have entertained very different sentiments. At a future day, it will be easier to decide in respect to their true character and tendency.

It remains to notice only one circumstance more. "In a private memorandum found among some other obituary papers and relies of Mr. Jefferson, is a suggestion, in case a monument over him should ever be thought of, that a granite obelisk, of small dimensions, should be erected, with the following inscription:

Author of the Declaration of Independence
Of the Statutes of Virginia, for Religious Freedom
And Father of the University of Virginia."

Source: Rev. Charles A. Goodrich Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence. New York: William Reed & Co., 1856. Pages 380-405. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)

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Last modified January 2, 2004