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highly profitable. That it had at that time largely ceased to be profitable, he attributed partly to the fact of his long absence from home and partly to Non-intercourse and Embargo which had dealt him with other planters a terrible blow.
But financial difficulties piled up and he seemed doomed to poverty. What the Embargo had begun, the War of 1812 finished, and the last chance of overcoming those difficulties disappeared. He was not entirely unaware of its meaning. Writing to Adams of the war he said:
"To me this state of things brings a sacrifice of all tranquillity and comfort through the residue of life. For although the debility of age disables me from the services and sufferings of the field, yet, by the total annihilation in value of the produce which was to give me subsistence and independence, I shall be like Tantalus up to the shoulders in water, yet dying with thirst. We can make indeed enough to eat, drink and clothe ourselves; but nothing for our salt, iron, groceries and taxes which must be paid in money. For what can we raise for the market? Wheat? we can only give it to our horses, as we have been doing ever since harvest. Tobacco? it is not worth the pipe it is smoked in. Some say whiskey; but all mankind must become drunkards to consume it. But although we feel, we shall not shrink."
When the war was over the situation did not improve but Jefferson's persistent optimism prevented his realizing the full seriousness of the
matter of fact he could not live otherwise than extravagantly so long as he virtually kept a free hotel, and to make any change would have been in his eyes, a grave violation of an ideal of hospitality which he held sacred.
In 1815 he obtained some relief from the more burdensome of his obligations. As soon as the news reached him of the burning by the British of the Library of Congress, he offered to sell his own very carefully chosen and valuable collection of books to the government as the nucleus of a new one. After some cheap higgling on the part of Congress, the purchase was made, Jefferson receiving for it $23,950, which was considerably less than half its value. This money went at once to his creditors.
He found out before a great while that he could not give the time needed for the direction of the plantation, if indeed he had the required knowledge, and in 1816 he turned over the management of all his farms to his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, who was able for several years more to avert disaster. But the panic of 1819 dealt another hard blow and a year or so later Jefferson became liable as security for his close friend-and Thomas J. Randolph's father-in-law-Wilson C. Nicholas, for a debt of $20,000. And this was the final stroke. Randolph personally assumed a considerable part of the debts, but in spite of this, ruin was in sight and he finally had to tell Jefferson the truth of the situation. And so the last year of his life was saddened and embittered by the hopeless undertaking of saving Monticello for his daughter and her
children. After much thought he devised the scheme of securing authority from the legislature to sell tickets for a lottery with the Monticello plantation, excluding the house, and the Shadwell and Albemarle farms, as grand prizes. The members of the legislature opposed the plan and Jefferson was informed that the bill could not be passed. He was deeply hurt and utterly hopeless, but the news of his plight had become public and New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore raised by subscription $16,500. Sadly, but gratefully, he accepted it and then at last the legislature authorized the lottery: It hung fire, and when Jefferson died in the same year, his debts exceeded all his assets by more than forty thousand dollars. His grandson grandson later paid the entire amount.
Great as were his financial embarrassments, they did not dominate his years of retirement. His carefree nature saved him from that and most of his years were happy and comparatively unmarred by his evil fortune. The reconciliation with John Adams contributed much to his happiness, as did that with Mrs. Adams which came later in the same year. Jefferson had feared she was hopelessly estranged, but soon she added an affectionate postscript to one of her husband's letters and thereafter their feeling was cordial and they occasionally exchanged letters and more frequently sent friendly and even affectionate messages. At her death Jefferson wrote Adams one of the most beautiful letters of condolence in history, one worthy of a place alongside that of Lincoln's to Mrs. Bixby.
"Monticello, November 13th, 1818. "The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable time and silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both that the term is not very distant at which we are to deposit in the same cerement our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction."
This letter indicates, perhaps, more clearly than anything Jefferson ever wrote, the character of his religious beliefs. Like Adams, he thought much of religion during these latter years. While scarcely orthodox, he was deeply and sincerely religious. In the end his views were in substantial agreement with those of the Unitarians and he expressed the hope that ultimately every young man in the country would become a Unitarian. He believed in a personal God, and was a close and devoted student of the life
and teachings of Christ which he accepted fully as he conceived them to be. He was liberal in his views, and detested dogma. He attended church quite regularly, usually the Episcopalian, and in spite of his sharp utterances concerning the clergy as a class, he counted a number of them among his best friends.
In spite of his long years of political activity and the deep interest which he continued to feel in politics, Jefferson was remarkably successful in maintaining a scrupulous detachment from any participation other than that involved in advising and inspiring Madison and Monroe. Both, while in office, constantly sought his judgment as to events and policies. So great was his confidence in these friends that he expressed his willingness "to put his soul and body in their pockets." He was entirely sympathetic with the declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812, believing that while war was a misfortune, it was an inevitable one. "Every hope of time, patience and the love of peace is exhausted," he wrote Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, "and war or abject submission are the only alternatives left us." He regretted the war chiefly, perhaps, for the changes which he foresaw it would make in the United States. He watched with interest the course of the struggle and, eager for the conquest of Canada, was horrified and depressed at American failures there. But the most cruel blow inflicted on him by the war was the attitude of New England and particularly of Massachusetts.
As far as may be gathered from his letters, Jefferson showed little interest
in the nationalistic legislation of 1816. He was intensely interested in Monroe's advancement to the Presidency, but he had little to say on the subject. Probably he was more concerned with the return home of his friend and neighbor, Madison, in whose companionship he was deeply
The Missouri question, which he compared to "a fire-bell in the night,” and which he considered as, possibly, the "knell of the Union," aroused him. Opposed as he was to slavery, he could see no reason for the excitement in the North. The truth is, of course, that Jefferson's opposition to the peculiar institution was based on his theory of liberty and his belief that no man was good enough to own another human being. The free soil doctrine which underlay the opposition to slavery extension had apparently not occurred to him, or, at least, did not influence him. His views on the agitation were not expressed publicly, for by 1820 he was begging to be kept out of all controversy. He had stopped reading speeches made in Congress, and from 1818 on he took only one newspaper-Ritchie's "Examiner”. which he declared "the best that is published or ever has been published in America," and added in another comment that he read it more for its advertisements than its news since they were much more trustworthy! Jefferson had come far from the time when he believed in the press as a substitute for government.
Monroe consulted him before the preparation of his message of 1823 as to the policy which should be adopted in respect to the Holy Alliance, and also toward Canning's
suggestion of joint action with Great Britain. Jefferson in 1808 had clearly outlined the principles of the Monroe Doctrine and he replied, stating them powerfully but favoring concert of action with England. This letter is the strongest answer to the charge that he was fundamentally hostile to England.
The heated personal campaign of 1824 did not excite Jefferson. Every
kind of effort was made to win his
support, but he carefully refrained from committing himself. It may well have been that Jefferson used his
influence in behalf of Adams for there
assumed quite a regular routine. He could not have found one more to his taste than that which he described to Kosciuszko in 1810:
"My mornings are devoted to correspondence. From breakfast to dinner I am in my shops, my garden, or on horseback among my farms; from dinner to dark, I give to society and friends; and from candle-light to and recreation with my neighbors early bed-time I read. My health is perfect, and my strength considerably reinforced by the activity of the course I pursue; perhaps it is as great sixty-seven years of age. I talk of as usually falls to the lot of near ploughs and harrows, of seeding and harvesting with my neighbors, and of politics too, if they choose, with as
is every reason to believe that he pre-
tude to those who have filled the
before he had been there a month!"
His comment to John Adams that the election involved the question,
"Whether we are at last to end our
days under a civil or military government," is convincing to any student of Jefferson. Also there is good reason to accept as authentic the story that in 1824 he thus expressed himself, "One might as well make a sailor of a cock, or a soldier of a goose, as a President of Andrew Jackson."
Jefferson's life in these years
reserve as the rest of my fellowcitizens, and feel, at length, the blessing of being free to say and do sible for it to any mortal. A part of what I please without being responmy occupation, and by no means the least pleasing, is the direction of the studies of such young men as ask it. They place themselves in the neighboring village, and have the use of my library and counsel, and make a part of my society. In advising the course of their reading, I endeavor to keep their attention fixed on the main objects of all science, the freedom and happiness of man. So that, coming to bear a share in the councils and government of their country, they will keep ever in view the sole
objects of all legitimate government.'
But as time passed several changes were made necessary by circumstances. His strength failed and he gave less time to shops, garden and
farms. In another particular it was changed to his deep distress. Retirement had been made happy by the opportunity which it seemed to offer for reading, and at first he read constantly. But more and more the pressure of correspondence lessened the time available for anything else. He liked to write letters and to receive them, as he "lost the sense of crippled wrists and fingers" while writing, but the burden became almost unendurable. He wrote Adams in 1817 that from dinner to dark he was "drudging at the writing table.” “All this," he continued, "to answer letters into which neither interest nor inclination on my part enters; and often from persons whose names I have never before heard. Yet writing civilly it is hard to refuse them civil answers. This is the burden of my life, a very grievous one, indeed, and one which I must get rid of."
He consented to write a few lines of introduction to one of Delaplaine's books that he might make there a public appeal for relief from this burden, but it does not appear to have been successful, for he wrote Adams in 1822 that he had received 1267 letters the previous year and had answered all, though many of them had required long replies and some, extensive investigation. "Is this life?" he asked. "At best it is but the life of a mill horse who sees no end to his circle but in death. To such a life that of a cabbage is paradise." Since he had earlier described the life of a cabbage as "surely not worth a wish" he had evidently come close to the irreducible minimum in enjoyment of existence. At the time of his death he had twenty-six
thousand letters filed and had copies of sixteen thousand replies. Part of these had been made with a letterpress, which by the way he is credited with inventing, and part had been written on a cleverly devised duplicating machine which he called a "polygraph."
Among the letters of this period are some of the most interesting of his writings. They reveal the very best that was in him which is enough to indicate their quality. In addition, they cover a wide range and many of them are as interesting to-day as when they were written. His style was easy, but he wrote with precision and conciseness, and at times with an almost poetic felicity of diction. His constitutional calmness, circumspection, vigor of understanding and creative fancy are all revealed in them as are his acquired philosophical view of men and events and the richness of his intellectual resources. He and Adams in their famous correspondence were excellent foils for each other.
In spite of the time given to writing, the amount of reading he accomplished was enormous. Classical and standard authors attracted him. He read Homer, Virgil, Livy, Tacitus, Horace, Cicero, Dante, Corneille, Cervantes, Shakspere and Milton. In the last year of his life he read Eschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. In 1814, while on a protracted visit to Poplar Forest, where he went at intervals partly to inspect the plantation but chiefly to escape from visitors, he read Plato's "Republic" and expressed himself as disgusted with "the whimsies, the puerilities and unintelligible jargon of the work."