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the most distant possessions of the crown." While the King was speaking Thomas Jefferson was perhaps musingly inspecting the condition of his newly planted shade-trees at Shadwell.
The next spring the Stamp Act was passed through Parliament, with scarcely any debate in the House of Commons and without a division in the Lords. News of the act reached America in May, as the session of the Virginia Burgesses was nearing its close. The representatives of the old conservative families, the Pendletons, Wythes, Blands, and Randolphs, with all the "cyphers of aristocracy,” as Jefferson later called them, were willing to dissolve without a protest. There was something sacred and inviolate to them in an act of Parliament. But Patrick Henry, delegate from the upland county of Louisa, spoke out. He offered resolutions condemning the Stamp Act, declaring that the right of taxing the colonies lay in their own legislative assemblies, and that any attempt of the British Parliament to usurp this right tended to the destruction of liberties both here and in England. He supported his resolutions in a fiery speech which drew cries of “Treason !” from the consternated aristocrats. And he carried his point by a single vote.
Thomas Jefferson was standing in the lobby at the door of the hall of the burgesses when Henry made his speech, and was still under the spell of that Homeric eloquence when his kinsman, Peyton Randolph, attorney-general of the colony, came storming out of the door with a vow that he would have given a hundred guineas for the one vote needed to kill the resolutions. It was a red-letter day in Jefferson's life one of those rare moments whose influence lasts to the grave. Forty-five years later Jefferson wrote to his friend William Wirt, who was preparing a biography of Patrick Henry: "By those resolutions Mr. Henry took the lead out of the hands of those who had heretofore guided the proceedings of the House. ... Subsequent events favored the policy of the bolder spirits ... with whom I went on all points."
Four years later Jefferson was elected to the House of Burgesses from Albemarle County. Much water had flowed under the political bridges meanwhile. The British Parliament had repealed the Stamp Act in 1766, but, under the spur of Charles Townshend's mocking provocation, had returned to the charge the next year and imposed a fresh set of duties on colonial imports, together with a declaration of the legality of writs of assistance, and a general tightening up of the customs control. Massachusetts had protested in a circular letter to the colonies, drawn up by Samuel Adams, and Lord Hillsborough had ordered the unruly legislature of Massachusetts, through Governor "Bernard, to rescind the letter. The legislature refused to obey by & vote of ninety-two to seventeen, and was dissolved
by the governor. Two regiments of redcoats were brought from Halifax and quartered in Boston (1768). A few months later (May, 1769) the burgesses of Virginia were convened to meet their newly appointed governor, Lord Botetourt; but their reply to his inaugural speech was ominous. The "bolder spirits" were in control. They reasserted their determination to levy their own taxes, protested against the removal to England for trial of persons accused of treason in the colonies, and, with unmistakable indorsement of the behavior of the Massachusetts Legislature, declared the right of the colonies to make their petitions for redress of grievances an affair of common colonial action. Jefferson was on the committee to prepare the address in reply to the governor's speech, and at the request of his colleagues he drew up a paper. But it was not considered “sufficiently amplified” (which probably meant "sufficiently vague') by the more conservative members, and Colonel Nicholas prepared one in its place. Jefferson was somewhat chagrined by the incident. “Being a young man as well as a new member,” he wrote many years later, “it made on me an impression proportioned to the sensibility of that time of life.”
Lord Botetourt dissolved the burgesses after a session of five days, but the members reconvened informally in the Apollo Room of the Raleigh Tavern and had out their say. They passed resolutions boycotting the articles which were subject to the Townshend duties, and discouraged British importations generally. They even agreed to keep their lambs alive for shearing; they would walk in homespun rather than in slavery. Jefferson was one of the most enthusiastic advocates of these measures, which were signed by George Washington, Patrick Henry, Peyton Randolph (now converted), and about eighty other members of the legislature, every one of whom received the indorsement of re-election by his constituents. Two or three years of comparative quiet in the rising dispute with the mother country followed the appointment of Lord North as prime minister in 1770, a period in which, as Jefferson complained, “our countrymen seemed to fall into a state of insensibility to our situation.”
But if politics were dull there was plenty of excitement in Jefferson's private life during these years. The paternal home at Shadwell was burned to the ground in the midwinter of 1770, and nothing saved but Jefferson's favorite fiddle. The disaster hastened the building of the new mansion which Jefferson had already begun on the favorite hilltop, where he used to sit and read and dream as a boy. He called it Monticello, the "little mountain," and the house he built on it, wholly from his own plans and partly with his own hands, is one of the treasures of our colonial architecture. Only a single pavilion of the mansion was finished, with three or four small chambers above, when Jefferson brought his bride to Monticello, through a heavy snow, on New Year's night of 1772. She was Martha Skelton, a widow of twenty-three, and daughter of a prosperous lawyer and proprietor, John Wayles. Her father died the year after the wedding, leaving her property in land (somewhat encumbered by debt) and slaves that was about equal to Jefferson's own estate. Mrs. Jefferson was extraordinarily endowed with both charm and sense, though her physical strength began to fail soon after her marriage. Her death in 1782 broke a perfect union of ten years. She left no sons to continue the name of Jefferson, and of her five daughters only two grew beyond babyhood. These two_Martha (Randolph) and Maria (Eppes), were their father's constant solace and joy. He never married again.
The "insensibility” into which Jefferson feared his country had fallen in 1770 was roused to protest in the spring session of the burgesses in 1773, and again the cause was news from New England. The British schooner Gaspée, of eight guns, while chasing smugglers in Narragansett Bay, had run aground on a mud-bank about seven miles from Providence, on the afternoon of June 9, 1772. Late that night the stranded schooner was surrounded by boat-loads of armed citizens of Providence, who easily overpowered the drowsy crew and burned the Gaspée to the water's edge. England's retaliation was an act