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appointed to draft a declaration to that effect. Of this, Mr. JEFFERson was the chairman, and prepared, in conformity to the instructions of congress, the declaration of independence, which, after a few alterations, was adopted on the 4th of July, 1776.
During the summer of this year, Mr. JEFFERSON took an active part in the public deliberations and business. Being obliged, however, in the autumn, to return to Virginia, he was during his absence appointed, in conjunction with Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane, a commissioner to the court of France, for the purpose of arranging with that nation a measure now become of vital necessity, the formation of treaties of alliance and commerce. Owing to his ill health, the situation of his family, and the state of public affairs in his own state, he considered it more useful for him to remain in America, and therefore declined the appointment. He also, shortly afterwards, resigned his situation in congress, and, being elected to the first legislature assembled under the new constitution in Virginia, seized that favorable occasion to introduce changes and amendments in the laws and institutions, founded on the just and great principles of the social compact. He was supported by able coadjutors, it is true; but the leading and most important laws were prepared by him, and carried chiefly by his own efforts. The first of these measures was to introduce a bill preventing the importation of slaves; this he followed up by destroying entails, and abolishing the rights of primogeniture: the overthrow of the church establishment, which had been introduced in imitation of that of England, was a task of less ease, but effected at length by his continued efforts. To these four cardinal measures is to be added his labor in revising and reducing to system the various and irregular enactments of the colonial government and the mother country. It was, perhaps, the most severe of his public services. It consisted of a hundred and twenty-six bills, comprising and remodelling the whole statutory law; and, though not all enacted as he contemplated, so as to make a single and complete code, they have formed the admirable basis of the jurisprudence of Virginia. In June, 1779, he was elected governor of Virginia, and reëlected
This was a season of imminent peril : the state was invaded at once on the north and the south, ravaged by the troops of Tarleton and Arnold, and he himself made the object of particular pursuit. Amid all these difficulties, he conducted the affairs of the state with a prudence and energy, the more to be appreciated and honored, from the unpropitious circumstances under which they were displayed. The legislature, after the expiration of his term, passed a
the next year.
unanimous resolution expressing to him their thanks for his services, and their high opinion of his ability, rectitude, and integrity.
In June, 1783, Mr. JEFFERSON was again elected a delegate to congress from the state of Virginia, and, while in that body, was intrusted with preparing the beautiful address made by congress to General Washington, when he surrendered his commission, and took leave of public life. He was also the chairman of a committee appointed to form a plan for a temporary government in the vast territory yet unsettled, west of the mountains. Never forgetting his purpose, to provide for the ultimate emancipation of the negroes, he introduced a clause forbidding the existence of slavery in it, after the year 1800.
On the 7th of May, 1784, congress decided that a minister plenipotentiary should be appointed, in addition to Mr. Adams and Dr. Franklin, for the purpose of negotiating treaties of commerce. To this honorable office Mr. JEFFERSON was immediately elected, and in the month of July sailed for France, where he arrived on the 6th of August. He remained in Europe till the 23d of November, 1789, visiting, during that period, Holland, the northern parts of Italy, and the principal seaports on the southern and western coasts of France. He also crossed over to England, and endeavored, in concert with Mr. Adams, to effect a commercial treaty. Their efforts, however, were unavailing; and after a fruitless visit of seven weeks in London, he returned to Paris.
While Mr. JEFFERSON resided in France, he was engaged in many diplomatic negotiations of considerable importance to his own country. He induced the government to abolish several monopolies; he secured the free admission of tobacco, rice, whale-oil, salted fish, and flour; and he obtained the right of exporting the two latter articles to the West Indies. Among men of letters, science, and high political distinction, he was received with marked kindness, and soon regarded as no unworthy successor of the illustrious Franklin. The Abbé Morrellet translated his little work on Virginia; Condorcet and D'Alembert claimed him as their friend, and he was invited and welcomed among the literary institutions, and the most brilliant social assemblies of Paris. During the remainder of his stay there, he was an eye-witness too of the extraordinary occurrences in public affairs which took place in rapid succession. As the representative of a nation which had given a brilliant example of free institutions, he was himself an object of interest and attention to the actors of these new scenes. He was, from circumstances, much acquainted with the leading patriots of the national assembly, and they were naturally
disposed to seek his advice, and place confidence in his opinions. These he never hesitated to avow, so far as his position, as a public functionary, admitted him with propriety to do. His stay did not extend to the fatal period which was marked by the horrible excesses of popular frenzy; and the interest he took in the French revolution was warmed by the hope that a noble people were to be redeemed from despotism to rational liberty.
In November, 1789, he obtained leave of absence, and returned to the United States on a temporary visit. He found the new federal government in operation, and, after some hesitation, accepted the office of secretary of state, which was offered him by General Washington, instead of returning, as he had intended, to his post of minister to France. Though absent when the constitution was adopted, he had seen too glaringly the inefficiency of the former imperfect confederation, not to rejoice at its formation. Of the great mass of it he approved, though there were points in which he thought there was not adequate security for individual rights. Most of these were afterwards provided for, in amendments ratified by the states. In bis practical interpretations of that instrument, and the various powers it confers, he at once adopted the more popular view; and in the course of those political contests which soon afterward arose on this subject, he became the head of the party which sustained it. While in the department of state, he laid down the great maxims relative to our foreign intercourse which were ever after regarded as the true ones by the American people. Among other negotiations he became especially engaged in one with the ministers from the French republic, which seriously involved the political rights of the United States, as a neutral nation, and led to the adoption and assertion of that policy, since so emphatically confirmed, of preserving peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations, but entering into entangling alliances with none. This correspondence forms one of the most important and interesting features in our political history, and while it laid down, on a solid basis, the foundations and rules of our foreign intercourse, it developed with great strength of argument nearly all the leading principles which ought to govern the conduct of a neutral nation. In devoting himself to those measures of domestic policy which were appropriate to his office, he called the attention of congress to one subject, the nature and importance of which not only demanded the exercise of his mature judgment, but required in its investigation that scientific knowledge which his studies had enabled him to acquire. This was a uniform system of currency, weights, and measures. His report abounds with the most enlightened views of this important practical subject, and it is only to be regretted that they were not adopted at that early period. if they had been, we should long ere this have been relieved from the incongruities of a system made by custom every day worse. Mr. JEFFERSON also presented to congress an elaborate and valuable memoir on the subject of the cod and whale fisheries, and he recommended many measures judiciously adapted to defeat the efforts of foreign governments against our increasing commerce, and to open new markets for our enterprise. His last act as secretary of state was a report on the nature and extent of the privileges and restrictions of the commercial intercourse of the United States with other countries, and on the best means of counteracting them. This document was one of much ability, and attracted great attention. It gave rise to one of the longest and most interesting discussions which have ever agitated the national legislature.
It was the foundation of a series of resolutions, proposed by Mr. Madison, sanctioning the views it embraced, and it became in fact the ostensible subject on which the federal and republican parties distinctly arrayed themselves against each other.
On the 31st of December, 1793, Mr. JEFFERSON resigned his office, and retired to private life. He there devoted himself to the education of his family, the cultivation of his estate, and the pursuit of his philosophical studies, which he had so long abandoned, and to which he returned with new ardor. The Duke de Liancourt, a French gentleman travelling at that time through the United States, visited him at Monticello, and has given a pleasing narrative of the manner in which the life of the retired statesman was past.
“ His conversation," he says, "is of the most agreeable kind, and he possesses a stock of information not inferior to any other man. In Europe he would hold a distinguished rank among men of letters, and as such he has already appeared there. At present he is employed with activity and perseverance in the management of his farms and buildings; and he orders, directs, and pursues in the minutest detail, every branch of business relating to them. I found him in the midst of harvest, from which the scorching heat of the sun does not prevent his attendance. His negroes are nourished, clothed, and treated as well as white servants could be. Every article is made on his farm; his negroes being cabinet-makers, carpenters, and masons. The children he employs in a nail manufactory; and the young and old negresses spin for the clothing of the rest. He animates them all by rewards and distinctions. In fine, his superior mind directs the management of his domestic concerns with the same abilities, activity, and regularity, which he evinced in the conduct of public affairs, and which he is calculated to display in every situation of life.” It was at this period of his retirement, that he received a testimony of his merits with which he was peculiarly gratified. He was unanimously elected president of the American philosophical society, the oldest and most distinguished institution of the kind in the United States. The chair had been filled, first by the illustrious Franklin, and since by Rittenhouse, one of the ablest astronomers of the age. To be chosen as their successor, was an honor to which Mr. JEFFERSON could not be insensible; and during the long period that he presided over the society, he repaid their compliment by promoting the cause of science with constant zeal, and extending to it all the advantages which his public rank and private connections enabled him to afford.
Mr. JEFFERSON was not, however, long permitted by his countrymen to enjoy the tranquillity of retirement. In the month of September, 1796, General Washington, in his farewell address, made known to the people his wish not to be again a candidate for the presidency. The two parties which, as has been observed, had gradually grown up in the republic, no longer able to unite, as in the case of Washington, on a single individual to whom both were willing to confide the administration of public affairs, now determined each to support a candidate, whose political opinions were entirely congenial with their own. Mr. JEFFERSON was selected by the democratic party ; Mr. Adams by the federalists; and on counting the votes, the highest number appearing in favor of the former, he was declared president, and the latter vice-president. During the succeeding four years, the public duties of Mr. JEFFERSON did not, from the nature of his office, require much personal exertion; and the greater part of his time was passed tranquilly at Monticello. When the period for another election arrived, however, he was again called forward as the popular candidate in opposition to Mr. Adams, and with more success than on the preceding occasion. Yet an accident went near to defeat the acknowledged wishes and intentions of the people. The democratic party had elected Mr. JEFFERSON as president, and Mr. Burr as vicepresident, by an equal number of votes; but as the constitution required no specification of the respective office for which each was chosen, they came before congress, neither having the majority necessary by law. Under these circumstances, the election devolved upon the house of representatives, and the opponents of Mr. JEFFERSON, taking advantage of the occurrence, threw their votes into the scale of