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the men who have made the name of the Old Dominion illustrious. In the year 1738 a daughter of the house of Randolph left the rich halls of the “tidewater aristocracy” to follow her more plebeian husband up the river to his frontier farm of a thousand acres in the foot-hills of the Blue Ridge, where five years later she became the mother of Thomas Jefferson.
The Jeffersons could make no boast of gentle blood, but their yeoman stock was not without honor in the colony. Their ancestor had come from Wales, so the tradition ran, from beneath the shadow of Mount Snowdon. A Jefferson had sat for Flower de Hundred in the famous House of Burgesses convened by Governor Yeardley in the little church at Jamestown in 1619—the first legislative body on the soil of America; and Jeffersons of the seventeenth century were accepted as sons-in-law by the burgesses and even by a speaker of the house. But the true founder of the family was the man who in 1738 took Jane Randolph into the wilderness, "where the trails of the hostile Monacons or Tuscaroras were yet fresh on the lands.” Peter Jefferson, then thirty years of age, was the finest type of the American pioneer-tall and straight, strong as an Homeric god, without a drop of fear or meanness in his blood, honest as the daylight, industrious, public-spirited, sociable, and intensely human. He had had little schooling, but his innate nobility of mind drew him to the companionship of the noblest authors. Addison, Swift, and Shakespeare were favorites, whose works he delighted to read aloud to his family around the evening fire of logs. Honors and moderate wealth came to him as the years passed. He was made a justice of the peace and surveyor for the new county of Albemarle, in which his lands lay, then was appointed colonel of the militia of his county, and finally, in the disastrous year of Braddock's defeat (1755), he was elected a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. He survived this crowning honor but two years, dying suddenly on August 17, 1757, near his fiftieth birthday.
1 Besides the Randolphs themselves (Peyton, first president of the Continental Congress; John the eccentric, of Roanoke; Edmund, attorney-general and secretary of state in Washington's cabinet); William Stith, the historian of Virginia; John Marshall, for thirtyfour years chief justice of the supreme court; Richard Bland, the celebrated Revolutionary leader; Robert E. Lee, the idol of the Southern Confederacy, and Thomas Jefferson could trace their descent directly to the aristocratic ancestors of Turkey Island.
Thomas Jefferson was fourteen years old when his father died, and was already showing the happy result of the mixture of the blood of the Jeffersons and the Randolphs by the blend of strength and grace in his nature. From Peter Jefferson he had his tall frame and serious mind, his capacity for labor, his self-reliance, and above all, the robust democratic faith of the frontier. At the same time the gentler qualities of the Randolph blood appeared in
a certain suavity of manner and extreme delicacy of taste, in his idealism, his musical appreciation, his “almost feminine sensitiveness." He could have appreciated Goethe's famous quatrain, except for the last infinitive:
"Vom Vater hab' ich die Statur,
Des Lebens ernstes Führen;
Like many a “self-made" man who has reached easy circumstances, Peter Jefferson wanted his son to enjoy the education which he himself had missed. He left special instructions that Thomas should have a thorough training in the classics, and the boy's tutors carried out the father's will with zeal; for to the end of his days Jefferson protested that he would rather have been deprived of the paternal estate than to have missed his classics. He proved the truth of Cicero's panegyric on Archias by making those studies the food of youth and the joy of old age, the adornment of his prosperity and the solace of his adversity. About two and a half years after his father's death the young Jefferson wrote a short, businesslike note to his guardian, John Harvey, suggesting that it might be better for his serious application to study, for his wider acquaintance with men and books, and for the economy of the household
at Shadwellif he went away to college. So in 1760 the young man of seventeen rode down the river to Williamsburg and entered William and Mary College, next to Harvard the oldest college in the colonies.
Williamsburg was not a very imposing town, with its two hundred houses and its unpaved streets, across whose deep mud-gullies the pedestrian picked his careful way. But it was the capital of the colony, where the burgesses met and where the governor's mansion stood as the centre of the social life of the tidewater aristocracy. It was a decided event in the life of the impressionable lad from the piedmont region when he was taken up by his fashionable relatives and friends at the capital. He gratified his passion for riding, attended parties, from which he carried into his class-rooms distracting thoughts of Virginia beauties, and even became a member of a little club of four who met regularly around the dinner-table of the convivial governor, Fauquier. He was somewhat shocked when he made a report of his first winter's expenses to his guardian, to find how much his innocent dissipations had cost; and for amends made the very honorable suggestion that the sum be charged exclusively to
1 Shadwell was the name of the house which Peter Jefferson built on the Rivanna, given in honor of his bride, Jane Randolph, who was born in the parish of Shadwell, London. The mansion at Shadwell was burned in February, 1770, shortly after Jefferson had begun the work on Monticello.
his own share of the paternal inheritance. The next year he made a more substantial sort of amends in devotion to his work.
A youth of less sense and character than Jefferson, without rebuke or restraint from his guardian, would have had his head turned by the flattering notice of the Williamsburg aristocrats, and would probably have considered it the most manly thing to do to imitate the governor in his devotion to the gamingtable. Many years later, when he was President of the United States, Jefferson wrote a letter to his grandson, who was away from home at school, warning him of the dangers which he himself had escaped, and (like Warren Hastings, reviewing his career in India), expressing wonder at his own “moderation" in the “various sorts of bad company with which he [I] associated from time to time." The letter has furnished a good deal of amusement for Jefferson's hostile critics, who see in it only a pedant's didactic sermon on his own extraordinary and precocious sagacity. But such a judgment only returns on the head of the critic. Jefferson's mastery of his own spirit in this year of his first choice of the paths of Heracles in Williamsburg was perhaps the most significant act of his whole long life. With the beginning of his second and last year at the college, he threw himself into his work with wonderful singleness of purpose, his "assault on omniscience” winning for him the college degree at the end of the