Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Page 5

Thomas Jefferson


On leaving the chair of state, Mr. Jefferson retired to Monticello, when intelligence was received, two days after, that a body of troops under command of General Tarlton were rapidly hastening to Charlottesville, for the purpose of surprising and capturing the members of the assembly. They had only time, after the alarm was given, to adjourn to meet at Staunton, and to disperse, before the enemy entered the village. Another party had directed their course to Monticello to capture the ex-governor. Fortunately, an express hastened from Charlottesville, to convey intelligence to Mr. Jefferson of their approach. Scarcely had the family time to make arrangements, indispensable for their departure, and to effect their escape, before the enemy were seen ascending the hill, leading to the mansion-house. Mr. Jefferson himself, mounting his horse, narrowly escaped, by taking a course through the woods. This flight of Mr. Jefferson, eminently proper, and upon which his safety depended, has unwarrantably excited in times gone by the ridicule and censure of his enemies.

Agreeably to their appointment, the legislature assembled at Staunton on the seventh, soon after which, at the instigation of Mr. George Nicholas, all inquiry was moved into the conduct of Mr. Jefferson in respect to remissness in the discharge of his duty, at the time of Arnold's invasion. The ensuing session of the legislature was fixed upon for the investigation of the charges. At the arrival of the appointed time, Mr. Nicholas had become convinced that the charges were without foundation, and this impression having generally obtained, no one appeared to bring forward the investigation. Upon this, Mr. Jefferson, who had been returned a member of the assembly, rose in his place, and entered into a justification of his conduct His statement was calm, lucid, and convincing. On concluding it, the house unanimously adopted the following resolution:

"Resolved, That the sincere thanks of the general assembly he given to our former governor, Thomas Jefferson, for his impartial, upright, and attentive administration, whilst in office. The assembly wish, in the strongest manner, to declare the high opinion they entertain of Mr. Jefferson's ability, rectitude, and integrity, as chief magistrate of this commonwealth; and mean, by thus publicly avowing their opinion, to obviate and to remove all unmerited censure."

To this it may be added, that Mr. Nicholas, some time after, did Mr. Jefferson the justice to acknowledge, in a public manner, the erroneous views which he had entertained, and to express his regret that more correct information had not been obtained, before the accusation had been brought forward.

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Last modified January 2, 2004