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long life. In a pathetic little passage stitched into his Memoir on a memorandum leaf, Jefferson says: “I have sometimes asked myself whether my country is better for my having lived at all. I do not know that it is. I have been the instrument of doing the following things—but they would have been done by others, some of them, perhaps, a little better.” The things he goes on to mention are just these reforms which we have been studying. In a list of ten services, only one is national and political in its nature—the Declaration of Independence. The others are reforms—religious, economic, penal, educational, agrarian, fiscal—which he accomplished, or strove to accomplish, for his "country" of Virginia. He does not mention the Louisiana Purchase, but recalls with satisfaction the improvement of the navigation of the Rivanna. He omits the triumph over the Federalists in the great battle of 1800, but dwells with pride on the introduction into Virginia of a better quality of rice from Lombardy.
When we remember that Virginia was the largest and richest State in the Union during the first generation of our history under the Constitution, that she furnished four out of our first five Presidents, that her influence was enormous on the States to the south of her and considerable on the States to the north, we realize what it meant, not for Virginia alone, but for our whole country, that the stamp of Thomas Jefferson's liberalism was put on the institutions of the Old Dominion in the critical years just following our independence. His was the first law in the modern world sanctioning expatriation. His was the first law of a slave state abolishing the slavetrade. His was the first law of modern times apportioning punishment to crime on a rational and humane principle. His was the first conception in our country of a free university as a “group of faculties” in which the elective system prevailed. His was the first formal declaration of complete religious liberty by a sovereign state in the history of the world. For half a century the influence of his work for Virginia was spread abroad—his educational ideas to Michigan, Missouri, Massachusetts, Maine, and Kentucky; his antislavery principles to the Northwest Territory; his elective system to Harvard; his liberal ideas of citizenship to the nation. New York followed Virginia's lead in the abolition of entails in 1782, North Carolina in 1784, Kentucky in 1796, New Jersey in 1820. Far down into the nineteenth century broad-minded men in every State were drawing on Jefferson's arguments, citing his letters, quoting the forceful passages of his Notes on Virginia, and the preamble to his bill for religious freedom, until all over our republic there was vindicated the simple but hard-won truth that “the opinions of men are not the object of civil government nor under its jurisdiction.”
and oversubtle. Others regard him as a feeble and counsel-reft executive. His fundamental political principle of trust in a people trained to mistrust its governors seems to many open to grave objections on the grounds of both policy and wisdom. But as a liberalizing and liberating influence on the spirit of the American people he stands without a peer until the advent of Abraham Lincoln. Napoleon Bonaparte said: “I shall go down to posterity with the Code in my hand.” How much more finely could Jefferson say this! For the code of Napoleon was order, but the code of Thomas Jefferson was order and liberty.
JEFFERSON AS WAR GOVERNOR
We consider ourselves bound in honor, as well as interest, to share one general fate with our sister colonies; and we should hold ourselves base deserters of that union to which we have acceded, were we to agree on any measures distinct and apart from them. (Address from Virginia Burgesses to Governor Dunmore, June 12, 1775.)
A FEW days before the committee of revisers made their report to the legislature, Jefferson was chosen governor of Virginia to succeed Patrick Henry, who had served for three consecutive annual terms since the State became a free republic. Jefferson occupied the office for two years, from June, 1779, to June, 1781—two years which, with the possible exception of the closing years of his presidency, were the most irksome period of his whole public life. In his Memoir, after devoting twenty pages to the work of the law revision, he passes over the governorship in silence, alleging as his reason that to write his own history during those two years would be but to duplicate the histories of the State already written. But we may suspect that it was more than a scruple against furnishing a redundancy of historical material that made Jefferson so reticent during his whole life on the subject of his gubernatorial office. His sensitive nature shrank from controversy. Accused of timidity, vacillation, incapacity, and even personal cowardice in his high office, he made a dignified defense before the legislature, which won a unanimous vote of confidence in his “ability, rectitude and integrity as chief magistrate of the Commonwealth," and left further vindication of his behavior to his friendly biographers. The task has been performed with pious and laborious devotion by Mr. Randall, who, in over a hundred and twenty large octavo pages, sifts every ugly charge, and succeeds, even in the opinion of the acrid Morse, in “establishing a satisfactory defense" of his hero, albeit the facts and arguments have to be “rescued dripping from a sea of rhetoric and fine writing.”
The year 1779 was ominous for the States south of the Potomac. Defeated in their endeavor to occupy the Hudson-Champlain line of communication with Canada, exasperated by the consequent alliance of the French King with the rebellious Americans, forced to evacuate the “capital” of Philadelphia for want of proper defenses in Delaware Bay against the appearance of a French fleet, the British had decided to transfer their military operations to the south and to prosecute them with a ruthlessness which contrasted strangely with the dilatory and urbane assaults of Howe, Burgoyne, and Clinton. “The whole contest is changed,” ran