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year. Probably this rapid success tells us more of the standards of scholarship at William and Mary than of the actual intellectual attainments of Jefferson at the age of eighteen; but the important fact remains that he had dedicated himself, with a fidelity that never weakened, to the jealous service of the goddess of truth.
After his graduation Jefferson began the study of law in the office of George Wythe, one of the most brilliant ornaments of the Virginia bar, the privilege of whose professional guidance was afterward shared by Jefferson's younger kinsman, John Marshall, and also by Henry Clay. Wythe was attracted at once to the promising young student, who many years later, on the verge of eighty, wrote in reminiscent gratitude: “Mr. Wythe continued to be my faithful and beloved Mentor in youth, and my most affectionate friend through life.” The breadth and profundity of Jefferson's knowledge of law, as shown in his reform of the code of Virginia, in his diplomatic correspondence in France, and in his despatches as secretary of state, are sufficient testimony to the use he made of the privilege of the advice and example of George Wythe.
If Jefferson's apprenticeship in the law was long, it was because of his passion for thoroughness. Every step in knowledge won opened his view on a wider vista of knowledge to be attained. He was not content with accumulating facts and cases. Be
neath the harsh style and blunt reasoning of Coke on Littleton (the “dull old scoundrel”) he detected and approved the political philosophy of the Whigs; while he thought that the student of Blackstone would only "slip backward into Toryism" on his smooth phrases. From the beginning he took the study of the law as an historical training in the principles of jurisprudence, and not simply a hasty professional equipment to fit him to win cases in the courts of Virginia. His friend, the jovial, adventurous, confident Patrick Henry, was admitted to the bar after studying law for six weeks; but Jefferson did not apply for a license until 1767, five years after he had entered Wythe's office.
Jefferson practised law for seven years, until, as he says in his Memoir, "the Revolution shut up the courts of justice.” He was not a good barrister, for he lacked all the gifts of the rostra. His voice was thin, with a tendency to huskiness after long speaking; contentious assertion was always distasteful to him; and far from enjoying the clash of forensic arms, he shrank by a native fastidiousness from even the disturbance of a private altercation. He seems also, in his later years at least, not to have had a very high opinion of lawyers. In a letter written from Monticello to his friend David Campbell, in 1810, he contrasts the satisfaction it must give a physician to look back at the lives he has saved with the lawyer's miserable recollection of the many who "by his dexterity have been cheated out of their rights and reduced to beggary.” Certainly not a very just comparison ! Ten years later, in his Memoir, he chides "the present Congress” for its garrulousness, but adds in extenuation: "How could it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?" Still, even if Jefferson was not a very enthusiastic lawyer, his success as an attorney was far above the average of his day. Henry S Randall, his most painstaking and exhaustive biographer, has compiled a table of his cases in the general court during his seven years of practice. They amount to about a thousand, and the average yearly income from them was not far from three thousand dollars.
In the midst of his law studies in Wythe's office Jefferson came of age, and celebrated the event in characteristic fashion by planting an avenue of trees at Shadwell. He was now master of the estate, for by the laws of entail and primogeniture-laws which he himself abolished in the reform of the Virginia law code-the oldest son inherited the undivided property. Jefferson was an ideal figure for a landed proprietor. He was passionately fond of country life, riding his beloved horses at early morn over his broad acres, watching with perennial enthusiasm the budding of the trees and the ripening of the vegetables, noting in his closely written account-books every item of income and outgo. His native gifts of intellect and grace of manner, supplemented by a remarkably fine education, made him a charming host; while his genuine humanitarian interest extended to the meanest slave on his estate. From the day of his majority to the day of his death, more than threescore years later, this tall, sandy-haired master, with eyes “flecked with hazel,” was loved by his family, his friends, and his servants as few were loved even in Virginia, the land of loyal devotions.
With his new manorial dignity Jefferson took up the duties of a country squire. He became a justice of the peace and a vestryman of the parish. He also initiated his lifelong crusade for the improvement of material conditions through applied science, by starting a petition to the legislature for making the Rivanna River a navigable highway for the commerce of Albemarle County.
Just at the moment when Jefferson was coming into his inheritance the curtain rose on the prologue to the tragedy of the American Revolution. George Grenville was prime minister in a cabinet which Macaulay characterizes as the worst that had governed England since the revolution of 1688. In March, 1764, Grenville began to put into operation a plan for the taxation of the American colonies, with the threefold object of increasing the British
revenue to meet the large debt contracted in the French war, of restoring the vigor of the Navigation Acts, which bound the commerce of the colonies by rules imposed by the British Parliament, and of raising money to defray the expenses of "defending, protecting, and securing the King's dominion in America," "so happily enlarged” by the expulsion of the French from the St. Lawrence and Mississippi valleys. In addition to various tariff duties levied by the Act of April, 1764, the ministry announced its intention of imposing on the American colonies the next year an “internal tax," that is, a tax not on their foreign trade, which as an “imperial” matter the colonists had been willing, at least in theory, to concede, but a tax on their ordinary business transactions within the colonies themselves. All kinds of legal and public documents, including wills, deeds, mortgages, bills of sale, promissory notes, contracts, as well as pamphlets, newspapers, almanacs, and playing-cards, were to be subject to stamp-duties ranging from three pence to ten pounds.
King George approved the vigorous policy of his new ministers. In proroguing Parliament on the 19th of April-a day made memorable on Lexington Green and at Concord Bridge eleven years later by certain events not unconnected with the stamp-tax -George III complimented his ministers on "the wise regulations” which they had adopted “to augment the public revenues and unite the interests of