Friendship was not just a social convention to Jefferson… but he considered it essential to the human condition- a bedrock of civil society. Acquaintances come and go, but true friends grow, mature, and age with you. Jefferson realized that later in life, friendships would be therapeutic.
Oh really…..do tell.
“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.”
Jefferson struggled with his love for Maria Cosway…. going as far as to illustrate his emotional agony to her in a letter- the letter detailed the tug-of-war between Jefferson’s head and his aching heart. Jefferson was perfectly content to remain within his head, buried in his books and letters. But, as seen in the previous post, Jefferson was a man who cared and loved deeply. Maria Cosway was a special woman, he knew he would never find another like her:
Head: In fine, my friend, you must mend your manners. This is not a world to live at random in as you do. To avoid these eternal distresses, to which you are for ever exposing us, you must learn to look forward before you take a step which may interest our peace. Everything in this world is matter of calculation. Advance then with caution, the balance in your hand. Put into one scale the pleasures which any object may offer; but put fairly into the other the pains which are to follow, and see which preponderates…The most effectual means of being secure against pain is to retire within ourselves, and to suffice for our own happiness. Those, which depend on ourselves, are the only pleasures a wise man will count on: for nothing is ours which another may deprive us of. Hence the inestimable value of intellectual pleasures.
Heart: This world abounds indeed with misery: to lighten it’s burthen we must divide it with one another. But let us now try the virtues of your mathematical balance, and as you have put into one scale the burthens of friendship, let me put it’s comforts into the other….In a life where we are perpetually exposed to want and accident, yours is a wonderful proposition, to insulate ourselves, to retire from all aid, and to wrap ourselves in the mantle of self-sufficiency! For assuredly nobody will care for him who cares for nobody.
The grieving optimist- Jefferson lost nearly everyone dear to him…. so he could relate grief to his dear friend, John Adams upon hearing of the death of Abigail. Relating grief is not the same as understanding it, however…..
“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….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.”
” I have often wondered for what good end the sensations of Grief could be intended.”
Jefferson would detest this yearly remembrance of his birthday… but the readers of this blog support the Jefferson content. More Jefferson posts are on the way…..
To stop desecrating my memory
Maybe there’s hope
If Jefferson was wrong, then America is wrong… This was the foundation for a generation of Jefferson scholarship. James Parton to Dumas Malone to Joseph Ellis- all were able to succinctly explain the Jeffersonian contradictions regarding slavery by following this simple guideline.
“Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.”
Modern scholars see America as wrong…. therefore, Jefferson was wrong. Not only was he wrong, but his attitudes and actions were utterly repugnant and hold no place in our national conscience. The sooner we expunge his legacy, the sooner we can move closer to a true America. Jefferson has no place in the history of our country’s quest for civil liberties…..they want you to believe this, from Leonard Levy to Fawn Brodie to Annette Gordon-Reed and Paul Finkelman.
Jefferson did say this about slavery… in the only book he ever published:
“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other…Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
Challenger: Henry Clay- United States Secretary of State, Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives
Challenged: John Randolph- United States Senator from Virginia, Seven term US Representative from Virginia
The Offense: On the floor of the US Senate, Randolph challenged the legitimacy of the John Quincy Adams administration and implicated Clay was part of the “Corrupt Bargain” which gave the presidency to Adams. Clay demanded public satisfaction and was ignored; he quickly challenged Randolph to a duel.
Henry Clay of Kentucky
Background: The fiercely proud, frontier statesman, Henry Clay had already been wounded in a duel in 1809. Clay was arguably the most influential politician of the early republic period; guiding the country through the War of 1812, crafting the American System of economics following the war, and transforming the Speaker position to the powerful post we recognize today. John Randolph of Roanoke was brilliant, eccentric, and unpredictable. He defied Jefferson in 1807, opposed the War of 1812, and became a loyal Jacksonian; Randolph frustrated many in his native Virginia. It is believed he suffered from consumption and consumed liberal amounts of opium to manage his pain. Randolph was a crack shot and many powerful people in Washington approached him on Clay’s behalf- Henry Clay was too valuable to lose in a duel…..
John Randolph of Roanoke
The Field of Honor: Saturday, April 8, 1825- The duel was held in Virginia, Randolph declared that only Virginia soil could catch his blood. Dueling was illegal in Virginia, so both men would face criminal charges. Randolph’s Second, Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, tried in vain to settle the dispute; even after Randolph’s pistol discharged early because of a hare-trigger. Clay demanded a reload and his satisfaction. At 30 paces, the two men turned and fired….both missed. Clay shouted, “This is child’s play!” and pistols were reloaded. Clay fired first and hit Randolph’s coat, missing the mark again. The Code Duello demanded that Clay absorb his opponent’s charge. Randolph took his time, a very tense 2 minutes passed…..he aimed high and fired over Clay’s head. The two men met halfway and shook hands, Clay asked, “Mr. Randolph are you hurt?” “No”, Randolph replied, ” but you owe me a new coat.”
Thomas Jefferson celebrated Christmas… but not with stockings and Christmas trees- modern incarnations of the season didn’t take hold in America until after the Civil War. Jefferson’s Christmas was a time for family, friends, and as he described it, “merriment.” Family was all important to the Sage of Monticello, and he described the day” “the day of greatest mirth and jollity.”
Christmas in Albemarle
He received the greatest joy from watching his grandchildren… opening gifts and playing games in Monticello. Describing the scene to a friend, Jefferson observed his youngest grandson; “He is at this moment running about with his cousins bawling out ‘a merry christmas’ ‘(this is) a christmas gift” His music library included many Christmas standards including the family favorite, Adeste Fideles.
Mincemeat for the season
Good friends, good food, and good conversation… marked the holiday season at Monticello. Plenty of wine was on hand to compliment Jefferson’s holiday favorite, mince pie. Mince at Monticello consisted of apples, raisins, beef suet(fat), and spices.