Thomas Jefferson, a Character Sketch

Edward S. Ellis
Thomas Jefferson, a Character

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Title: Thomas Jefferson
Author: Edward S. Ellis et. al.
Release Date: January 21, 2006 [EBook #712]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Diane and Don Nafis; and David Widger


BY EDWARD S. ELLIS, A. M. AUTHOR OF "The People's Standard
History of the United States," "The Eclectic Primary History of the
United States," Etc.
with supplementary essay by G. MERCER ADAM Late Editor of
"Self-Culture" Magazine, Etc., Etc.
No golden eagle, warm from the stamping press of the mint, is more
sharply impressed with its image and superscription than was the
formative period of our government by the genius and personality of
Thomas Jefferson.
Standing on the threshold of the nineteenth century, no one who
attempted to peer down the shadowy vista, saw more clearly than he the
possibilities, the perils, the pitfalls and the achievements that were
within the grasp of the Nation. None was inspired by purer patriotism.
None was more sagacious, wise and prudent, and none understood his
countrymen better.
By birth an aristocrat, by nature he was a democrat. The most learned
man that ever sat in the president's chair, his tastes were the simple
ones of a farmer. Surrounded by the pomp and ceremony of
Washington and Adams' courts, his dress was homely. He despised
titles, and preferred severe plainness of speech and the sober garb of the
"What is the date of your birth, Mr. President?" asked an admirer.
"Of what possible concern is that to you?" queried the President in turn.
"We wish to give it fitting celebration."
"For that reason, I decline to enlighten you; nothing could be more
distasteful to me than what you propose, and, when you address me, I

shall be obliged if you will omit the 'Mr.'"
If we can imagine Washington doing so undignified a thing as did
President Lincoln, when he first met our present Secretary of State,
(John Sherman) and compared their respective heights by standing back
to back, a sheet of paper resting on the crowns of Washington and
Jefferson would have lain horizontal and been six feet two inches from
the earth, but the one was magnificent in physique, of massive frame
and prodigious strength,--the other was thin, wiry, bony, active, but
with muscles of steel, while both were as straight as the proverbial
Indian arrow.
Jefferson's hair was of sandy color, his cheeks ruddy, his eyes of a light
hazel, his features angular, but glowing with intelligence and neither
could lay any claim to the gift of oratory.
Washington lacked literary ability, while in the hand of Jefferson, the
pen was as masterful as the sword in the clutch of Saladin or Godfrey
of Bouillon. Washington had only a common school education, while
Jefferson was a classical scholar and could express his thoughts in
excellent Italian, Spanish and French, and both were masters of their
Jefferson was an excellent violinist, a skilled mathematician and a
profound scholar. Add to all these his spotless integrity and honor, his
statesmanship, and his well curbed but aggressive patriotism, and he
embodied within himself all the attributes of an ideal president of the
United States.
In the colonial times, Virginia was the South and Massachusetts the
North. The other colonies were only appendages. The New York
Dutchman dozed over his beer and pipe, and when the other New
England settlements saw the Narragansetts bearing down upon them
with upraised tomahawks, they ran for cover and yelled to
Massachusetts to save them.
Clayborne fired popguns at Lord Baltimore, and the Catholic and
Protestant Marylanders enacted Toleration Acts, and then chased one

another over the border, with some of the fugitives running all the way
to the Carolinas, where the settlers were perspiring over their efforts in
installing new governors and thrusting them out again, in the hope that
a half-fledged statesman would turn up sometime or other in the
What a roystering set those Cavaliers were! Fond of horse racing, cock
fighting, gambling and drinking, the soul of hospitality, quick to take
offense, and quicker to forgive,--duellists as brave as Spartans,
chivalric, proud of honor, their province, their blood and their families,
they envied only one being in the world and that was he who could
establish his
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