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weeks and months. His daughter, Mrs. Randolph, told of preparing as many as fifty beds for guests on some nights. They ate his good food and drank his choice wines. They literally devoured his substance, like the suitors in Ulysses's halls at Ithaca.
The vice-presidency is said to have been the only public position occupied by Jefferson in which he lived within his official salary. He left the presidency burdened with a debt of twenty thousand dollars, and had to apply for a loan at a Richmond bank in order to square his outstanding accounts in Washington before he could start with a clear conscience for Monticello. When the British burned the public buildings at Washington, in 1814, he offered to sell his fine collection of some thirteen thousand books to Congress, at the valuation which a committee of the Houses should put upon them, partly to replace the Congressional Library which had been destroyed, but more especially to get a temporary relief from pressing creditors. After a rather heated debate as to whether the books of the “infidel Voltaire" ought to be purchased with the public funds, and considerable haggling over the estimated worth of the library, Congress finally voted to take it for twenty-three thousand nine hundred and fifty dollars, which was probably not more than half its value. The relief was but temporary, the pressure of the debt constant.
At the opening of the year 1826, the last of his
life, Jefferson's financial embarrassments threatened to drive him into bankruptcy and the loss of his estate. In despair he turned to the Virginia Legislature, asking permission to sell part of his property by lottery. "If it can be yielded,” he wrote to a friend in the legislature, "I can save the house of Monticello and a farm adjoining to end my days in and bury my bones." His countrymen came forward with voluntary subscriptions to save his estate. New York contributed eight thousand five hundred dollars, Philadelphia five thousand dollars, Baltimore three thousand dollars. The project of the lottery was suspended, and the immediate demands were met, including twenty thousand dollars for which Jefferson became liable by the indorsement of his friend Wilson Cary Nicholas's note in 1819. The aged statesman was fortunately left to end his days under the happy delusion that this "pure and unsolicited offering of love" by his fellow countrymen would suffice not only to pay off all his debts but to leave his dependants in ease at Monticello. The subscriptions ceased, however, and six months after Jefferson's death the costly furniture, pictures, china, and silver of Monticello were put up at auction to help meet the debt of forty thousand dollars on the estate. Jefferson's only surviving child, his daughter, Mrs. Randolph, was forced to leave the beautiful mansion over which she had presided for nearly forty years, and was saved from utter destitution in her declining days only by the generosity of the legislatures of South Carolina and Louisiana, each of which made her a grant of ten thousand dollars. Monticello passed into the hands of strangers.
Jefferson found relief from the financial worries of his declining years in absorbing devotion to the noblest work of his noble life, the establishment of a great liberal and democratic university. “A system of general instruction," he wrote in 1818, "which shall reach every description of our citizens, from the highest to the poorest, as it was the earliest, so it will be the latest, of all the public concerns in which I shall permit myself to take an interest." In season and out of season, at home and abroad, in the midst of public duties and in retirement at Monticello, he spread the doctrine of popular education with the fervor of an apostle: "Preach, my dear sir, a crusade against ignorance," he wrote to George Wythe from Paris in 1786. “Establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils."'! In his annual message to Congress in 1806 he declared that education should be "placed among the articles of public care," and recommended “a national establishment for education ... a public institution which could apply those sciences ... all the parts of which contribute to the improvement of the country, and some of them to its preservation.”
1 Jefferson is speaking in this part of his letter of the miseries with which the rich and favored land of France is burdened by its Court, its nobility, and its priesthood, because the people are too ignorant to realize and too passive to throw off their abject condition.
But the idea of a national university found no more favor with Congress than had the scheme of public schools with the burgesses and the county courts of Virginia. It was not until Jefferson, freed from the burdens of office, bent his whole energy to the cause of the education of his countrymen that the opposition of generations of social and religious prejudice began to yield to the persuasion of his faith. A few important men, including Madison, Monroe, W. C. Nicholas, James Breckenridge, Peter Carr, supported him faithfully, but the one person without whose constant co-operation Jefferson could hardly have succeeded in founding the University of Virginia was Joseph C. Cabell, a brilliant young lawyer who had travelled widely in Europe studying schools and universities, and who for eighteen years in the Senate of Virginia (1811-29) fought a noble battle for the encouragement of higher education by the State. Jefferson and Cabell worked together in perfect harmony. Their correspondence pertaining to the foundation of the university was published anonymously at Richmond on Cabell's death in 1856. It fills three hundred and seventy-seven octavo pages !
Jefferson would have liked to see his alma mater, William and Mary College, converted into a liberal non-sectarian university; but the traditions of that ancient, endowed seat of Anglicanism were too strong to be overcome. A new centre of learning had to be created. With the aid of voluntary subscriptions from a group of nine gentlemen interested in his scheme, contributing himself a thousand dollars which he could not spare, Jefferson rescued the old Albemarle Academy at Charlottesville from a moribund condition, and got the legislature to incorporate the institution, in February, 1816, under the name of the Central College. Three years later the college was widened into the University of Virginia, a board of visitors was chosen, and Thomas Jefferson was unanimously elected rector. From that March meeting of 1819 until his death, seven years later, he labored unremittingly to build up a university which should be an ornament to his State and a centre of liberal learning. He himself chose the sites and drew the plans for the buildings, selected the bricks and timber, imported workers from Italy to carve the capitals of the columns. Almost every day he rode over to Charlottesville, four miles from Monticello, and remained for hours seated on a folding camp-stool of his own invention, superintending the building of his precious halls. When he could not go, he watched the work through a telescope mounted on one of the terraces at Monticello. “He spent almost as much pains on the