« FöregåendeFortsätt »
to the world. The measures of the General Government are a fair subject for difference of opinion. But do not found your opinions on the notion, that there is the smallest spice of dishonesty, moral or political, in the character of John Adams : for, I know him well, and I repeat it, that a man more perfectly honest never issued from the hands of his Creator.” . And such is now, and has long been, the unanimous opinion of his countrymen.
Of the measures adopted during his administration you do not expect me to speak. I should offend against your own sense of propriety, were I to attempt it. We are here, to mingle together over the grave of the departed patriot, our feelings of reverence and gratitude for services whose merit we all acknowledge: and cold must be the heart which does not see and feel, in his life, enough to admire and to love, without striking one string that could produce one unhallowed note. History and biography will do ample justice to every part of his character, public and private; and impartial posterity will correct whatever errors of opinion may have been committed to his prejudice by his cotėmporaries. Let it suffice for us, at this time, to know, that he administered the government with a pure, and honest, and upright heart; and that whatever he advised, flowed from the master passion of his breast, a holy and all-absorbing love for the happiness and honor of his country.
Mr. Jefferson, holding the Vice Presidency, did not leave even that negative office, as, indeed, he never left any other, without marking his occupancy with some useful and permanent vestige. For, it was during this term, that he digested and compiled that able manual which now gives the law of proceeding, not only to the two Houses of Congress, but to all the Legislatures of the States throughout the Union.
On Mr. Adams' retirement, pursuing the destiny which seems to have tied them together, Mr. Jefferson again followed him in the office which he had vacated, the Presidency of the United States: and he had the
good fortune to find, or to make, a smoother sea. The violence of the party storm gradually abated, and he was soon able to pursue his peaceful course without any material interruption. Having forborne, for the obvious reasons which have been suggested, to touch the particulars of Mr. Adams'administration, the same forbearance, for the same reasons, must be exercised with regard to Mr. Jefferson. But, forbearing details, it will be no departure from this rule to state in general the facts: that Mr. Jefferson continued at the helm for eight years, the term which the example of Washington had consecrated; that he so administered the Government as to meet the admiration and applause of a great majority of his countrymen, as the overwhelming suffrage at his second election attests; that by that majority he was thought to have presented a perfect model of a republican administration, on the true basis, and in the true spirit of the Constitution ; and that, by them the measures of all the succeeding administrations have been continually brought to the standard of Mr. Jefferson's, as to an established and unquestionable test, and approved or condemned in proportion to their accordance with that standard. These are facts which are known to you all. Another fact I will mention, because it redounds so highly to the honor of his magnanimous and patriotic rival. It is this: that that part of Mr. Jefferson's administration, and of his successor treading in his steps, which was most violently opposed, the policy pursued towards the British Government subsequent to 1806, received the open, public, and powerful support of the pen, as well as the tongue, of the great sage of Quincy. The banished Aristides never gave a nobler proof of pure and disinterested patriotism. It was a genuine emanation from the altar of the Revolution, and in perfect accordance with the whole tenor of the life of our illustrious patriot sage.
Waiving all comment on Mr. Jefferson's public measures, there is yet a minor subject, which, standing where we do, there seems to be a peculiar propriety in noticing; for, small as it is, it is strikingly characteristic of the man, and we have an immediate interest in the subject. It is this: the great objects of national concern, and the great measures which he was continually projecting and executing for the public good, on a new and vast scheme of policy wholly his own, and stamped with all the vigor and grandeur of his Olympic mind, although they were such as would not only have engrossed but overwhelmed almost any other man, did not even give full employment to him; but with that versatile and restless activity which was prone to busy itself usefully and efficaciously with all around him, he found time to amuse himself and to gratify his natural taste for the beautiful, by directing and overlooking in person, (as many of you can witness,) the improvements and ornaments of this city of the nation: and it is to his taste and industry that we owe, among other things which it were needless to enumerate, this beautiful avenue,* which he left in such order as to excite the admiration of all who approached us.
Having closed his administration, he was followed by the applause, the gratitude, and blessings of his country, into that retirement which no man was ever better fitted to grace and enjoy. And from this retirement, together with his precursor, the venerable patriarch of Quincy, could enjoy that supreme of all earthly happiness, the retrospect of a life well and greatly spent in the service of his country and mankind. The successful warrior, who has desolated whole empires for his own aggrandizement, the successful usurper of his country's rights and liberties, may have their hours of swelling pride, in which they may look back with a barbarous joy upon the triumph of their talents, and feast upon the adulation of the sycophants that surround them: but, night and silence come; and conscience takes her turn. The bloody field rises upon the startled imagination. The shades of the slaughtered innocent stalk, in terrific procession, before the couch. · The agonizing cry of countless widows and orphans invades the ear. The bloody dagger of the assassin plays, in airy terror, before the vision. Violated liberty lifts her avenging lance: and a down-trodden nation rises, before them, in all the majesty of its wrath. What, what are the hours of a splendid wretch like this, compared with those that shed their poppies and their roses upon the pillows of our peaceful and virtuous patriots! Every night bringing to them the balm and health of repose, and every morning offering to them their history in a nation's eyes!” This, this it is to be greatly virtuous: and be this the only ambition that shall ever touch an American bosom
* Pennsylvania Avenue.
Still unexhausted, by such a life of service in the cause of his country, Mr. Jefferson found yet another and most appropriate employment for his old age: the erection of a seat of science in his native State. The University of Virginia is his work. His, the first conception; his, the whole impulse and direction; his, the varied and beautiful architecture, and the entire superintendence of its erection: the whole scheme of its studies, its organization, and government, are his. He is, therefore, indeed the father of the University of Virginia. That it may fulfil, to the full extent, the great and patriotic purposes and hopes of its founder, cannot fail to be the wish of every American bosom. This was the last and crowning labor of Mr. Jefferson's life: a crown so poetically appropriate, that fancy might well suppose it to have been wreathed and placed on his brow by the hand of the epic muse herself.
It is the remark of one of the most elegant writers of antiquity, in the beautiful essay which he has left us 6 on Old age,” that “ to those who have not within themselves the resources of living well and happily, every age is oppressive; but that to those who have, nothing is an evil which the necessity of nature brings along with it.” How rich our two patriots were in
sing that his housed, in the intes as Mr. J
these internal resources, you all know. How lightly they bore the burden of increasing years was apparent from the cheerfulness and vigor with which, after having survived the age to which they properly belonged, they continued to live among their posterity. How happy they were in their domestic relations, how beloved by their neighbors and friends, how revered and honored by their country and by the friends of liberty in every quarter of the world, is a matter of open and public notoriety. Their houses were the constant and thronged resort of the votaries of virtue, and science, and genius, and patriotism, from every portion of the civilized globe; and no one ever left them without confessing that his highest expectations had been realized, and even surpassed, in the interview.
Of “ the chief of the Argonauts," as Mr. Jefferson so classically and so happily styled his illustrious friend of the North, it is my misfortune to be able to speak only by report. But every representation concurs, in drawing the same pleasing and affecting picture of the Roman simplicity in which that Father of his Country lived; of the frank, warm, cordial, and elegant reception that he gave to all who approached him; of the interesting kindness with which he disbursed the golden treasures of his experience, and shed around him the rays of his descending sun. His conversation was rich in anecdote and characters of the times that were past; rich in political and moral instruction; full of that best of wisdom, which is learnt from real life, and flowing from his heart with that warm and honest frankness, that fervor of feeling and force of diction, which so strikingly distinguished him in the meridian of his life. Many of us heard that simple and touching account given of a parting scene with him, by one of our eloquent divines: When he rose up from that little couch behind the door, on which he was wont to rest his aged and weary limbs, and with his silver locks hanging on each side of his honest face, stretched forth that pure hand, which was never soiled even by suspicion, and gave his kind and