THOMAS JEFFERSON was born in the year 1743, in the county of Albemarle in Virginia, where he now resides. His father was a reputable land-holder of that county, and gave this, his eldest son, a college education at the university of William and Mary, in the city of Williamsburg. After passing his degrees, being design­ed for the bar, Mr. Jefferson commenced a student at law, under the guidance of George Wythe, now the venerable judge and solo chancellor of Virginia.

In 1766, Mr. Jefferson came to the bar of the supreme court of his native state, and continued to practise therein with great suc­cess and reputation, until the commencement of the American re­volution in 1775, and the consequent occlusion of the courts of jus­tice: during this period of active practice, the industrious mind of Jefferson found time to digest the first volume of reports of adjudg­ed cases in the supreme courts of Virginia, which were ever exhib­ited in that state, and which to this day are admitted authority in those courts; remaining a monument of his early labors and useful talents.

In 1774, when all America were roused into action by the ag­gravated wrongs of the British government, Mr. Jefferson stepped forward a bold and able champion of his country's rights, and pub­lished his much admired pamphlet, "Summary View of the Rights of British America," addressed to the King, which brought forth against the author threats of prosecution for treason, by lord Dun­more, then governor of Virginia; threats which produced no other effect on the independent mind of Jefferson, than publicly to avow himself the author, prepared to meet all consequences.

About this time Mr. Jefferson married the daughter of Mr. Wayles, an eminent counsellor at law, and continued to enjoy un­interrupted domestic felicity in the society of one of the most amin­able of women, until the year 1780, when by her death he became the mourner of her virtues and the guardian of their two daugh­ters [Page 2]and surviving issue, to whose education and settlement in life, and the service of his country, he has ever since faithfully devoted himself, still remaining a widower.

In the year 1775, Mr. Jefferson was elected a member of the Virginia convention, and on the 4th of August, in the same year, one of the members to represent the state, then colony, of Virginia in congress.

In that memorable year, 1776, the natal year of American e­mancipation from British tyranny, and of the independence and sovereignty of the United States, Mr. Jefferson was one of a com­mittee of five, to wit, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and R. R. Livingston; appointed by Congress to draught the Declaration of Independence; and it was from the pen and enlightened mind of Jefferson, first named of the committee, that that glorious instrument proceeded, which was re­ported by the committee, and unanimously adopted by Congress, entitled, "The Declaration of Independence, &c." An instrument which, so long as the records of time shall endure, will perpetuato the fame of its author; and preserve in the American mind, fore­ver and inseparable, the names of Independence and Jefferson.

In the same year, 1776, the ardent mind of Jefferson, eagerly pursuing the glorious principles of the revolution, and foreseeing that so long as the corruptions of British systems existed, we were independent in name not in fact, produced for the adoption of the legislature of his native state the four following important acts, to wit:—

  • 1. An act for establishing religious freedom.
  • 2. An act to regulate descents, to prevent estates entail, and the rights of primogeniture.
  • 3. An act for the apportionment of crimes and punishments.
  • 4. An act to establish public schools.

The influence of these acts upon the relative principles they embrace, will be universally seen and felt by those who prize civil liberty as a primary blessing, and regard the preservation of it as a­mong the first behests of God to man—whilst systems of universal toleration in matters of religion; for an equal distribution of pro­perty; and in subversion of the aristocratic and unnatural principle of entail and primogeniture right; for ameliorating the sanguinary code of criminal law; and for extending to the poorest class of our citizens, the benefits of education at public expense, will be viewed as the emanations of a great and good mind, zealously endeavoring to promote the happiness and improve the condition of his fellow-beings.

Equally evincive of watchful regard to the rights of his country­men, was the scheme and suggestion made by Mr. Jefferson, for the formation and adoption of the constitution of Virginia, in the same [Page 3]year, and for prefixing thereto "A Bill of Rights, declaratory of the natural and unalienable rights of man," which was accordingly done.

In the year 1778, Mr. Jefferson being then a member of the Vir­ginia legislature, presented to that body the act to "prevent the importation of slaves," which was enacted into a law in the month of October in the same year, and was shortly after followed by ano­ther act "to authorize manumissions," being the commencement of a system of gradual emancipation, also proposed by him.

In the year 1779, Mr. Jefferson, at the age of 36, was chosen governor of Virginia, and continued in that office until June 1781 —during which time the state experienced three invasions, and was also brought into a critical state of collision respecting its boundary lines, with two neighboring states, North-Carolina and Pennsylva­nia. His conduct in that station, amidst the jarring conflicts and trying difficulties of foreign invasion and domestic disquietude, was such as secured to him, six months after he left the office, and upon the fullest public enquiry, the unanimous vote of thanks of the le­gislature, consisting of 180 members, "for his attentive administra­tion of the powers of the executive whilst in office."

It was during the same year, 1781, amidst the cares of govern­ment and scenes of private affliction, that Mr. Jefferson prepared his celebrated work, afterwards published in France, and which he modestly stiled "Notes on Virginia." In this work, so justly admi­red by all the learned world, for its philosophical research, inge­nious theory, and able disquisition, equally evidencing an enlarged, liberal, and pious mind, the author, in a superior style of eloquence, boldly attacks and fully refutes the fallacious theories of M. Buffon and the Abbe Raynal, which tend to disparage the animal species, both man and beast, of the American world, and reduce them to a scale smaller than those of Europe; vindicating with truth and in­telligence the equal distribution of nature's blessings to America.

In the year 1783, Mr. Jefferson was again appointed to a seat in Congress from his native state, and in the following year, on the 7th of May, was nominated by that honorable body minister pleni­potentiary of the United States to the court of France, as the suc­cessor of our illustrious Franklin, whither he embarked early in the same year, and remained absent from the United States, in the ex­ecution of the duties of that important trust, until the month of October 1789, when he returned home by permission of the then president, Washington, who upon being elected to the chief magi­stracy of the federal government, immediately destined Mr. Jeffer­son to still the next most honorable and confidential station in the executive government, near his own person.

During his mission to France, Mr. Jefferson, with that peculiar address, intelligence, and attention to promote the essential inter­ests [Page 4]of the United States, which directs all his conduct, obtained from the French king an arrete, highly beneficial to the American commerce, for the free admission, exempt from the customary fo­reign duties, of oil, fish, and whalebone, the product of the Ameri­can fisheries, into certain ports, and for the sale of American built ships in all the ports of France—benefits which our eastern brethren continued to reap the peculiar advantage of, until the commence­ment of the revolutionary convulsions which have agitated that nation.

About the same period also, Mr. Jefferson, in conjunction with our immortal Franklin, negociated with a minister from the court of Prussia, then at the Hague, that celebrated treaty known by the name of the "Prussian Treaty," in which an astonished world has, for the first time, seen a public avowal and positive provision by treaty, between two sovereign and independent nations, for the establishment of those two great and glorious principles, promotive of universal peace and happiness, to wit, 1st, "That free ships shall make free goods;" and 2d, "That privateering in time of war be abolished"—principles which it were to be wished could be render­ed universal and eternal. Mr. Adams, now President of the Uni­ted States, was one of the commission for negociating this treaty, and on its completion it was sent over to London, where Mr. Ad­ams then resided as minister of the United States, for his signature. It is greatly to be regretted that Mr. Adams could not be content to retain to himself a share of the glory which reflects on the au­thors of this celebrated treaty. But, unhappily for our country, since he became President of the United States, we have seen him nominate his son, John Quincy Adams, as minister to the court of Prussia, for the express purpose, as declared, of renewing the trea­ty with that nation, which having been limited to continue in force for ten years only, had expired. Accordingly, another trea­ty has been made by his son with Prussia, which has been approv­ed by a majority of the Senate, and ratified by the President; but which, instead of renewing and continuing the old treaty, is in it­self a new one, expressly abandoning and renouncing the two ines­timable principles, 1st, "That free ships make free goods," and 2d, "That privateering in time af war be abolished;"—principles which, it appears, from the correspondence accompanying the ne­gociation laid before the Senate of the United States by the Presi­dent, the wise and enlightened ministers of the Prussian monarch were brought with great difficulty and reluctance to abandon, on the earnest solicitation and reiterated demand of the American negociator, under the suggestion that the maritime powers, particu­larly Great-Britain, would never sanction or permit them.

In the year 1789, Mr. Jefferson being returned to the United States, and appointed by President Washington, secretary to the de­partment [Page 5]of state, immediately entered on the arduous duties of that important station, having previously stipulated with the pre­sident, that in consideration of the many years absence from his fa­mily and estate, he might be permitted at the expiration of the con­stitutional term for which the president was elected, to retire from the public service.

The first result of the labours of Mr. Jefferson in the department of state, were exhibited to congress in the following reports, viz.

  • 1st. A report on the fisheries of the United States.
  • 2d. A report, on coins, weights and measures.
  • 3d. A report, on the waste and unappropriated lands of the Uni­ted States.
  • 4th. A report on the privileges and restrictions on the commerce of the United States in foreign countries.

Each of these reports displayed the usual accuracy, information, and intelligence of the writer.

But it was reserved for a more critical and delicate period in the affairs of the United States, that the pre-eminent talents of the Ame­rican secretary should become more conspicuous, and interestingly useful to his country: The non-execution of the treaty of peace with the United States, on the part of Great Britain, her detention of our Western Posts, and the attendant spoliations on our com­merce, both by Great Britain and France, then at war with each other, added to the intrigues of the minister of the latter, Genet, all conduced to a situation difficult and perplexing. Besides which, Spain continued to withhold from us the free navigation of the Mis­sisippi, so essential to all Western America. In this state of things, the just confidence which the discriminating mind of Washington had reposed in Mr. Jefferson, was amply repaid by that promptness, zeal, and ability with which the American secretary contributed by his labours to relieve the executive from embarrassment. Thro' a series of masterly and unequalled diplomatique correspondence, which he maintained at the same time, with the respective ministers of Great Britain and France—namely Hammond and Genet, he tra­versed and rebutted their respective causes of charge and complaint against the United States, and having fully proved the various ag­gressions and infractions of treaty on the part of their respective governments, pointed to the means of preserving the honor and maintaining the rights of his own country; whilst alike superior to the intrigues of Great Britain or of France, he fully manifested that he held no particular attachment to any foreign nation, but was e­qually prepared, with the decision, firmness, and intelligence of a True American, to oppose and resist the aggressions of all. The re­cal of Genet, and appointment of his successor, with the subsequent proceedings between the United States and France, the appoint­ment of Mr. Jay, his treaty with Great Britain and the recal of [Page 6]Mr. Hammond, appointment of Mr. Liston, and subsequent pro­ceedings with Great Britain, are all well known. In respect to Spain, the labours of Mr. Jefferson were more immediately effective and complete. Having possessed the commissioners of the United States then at Madrid, negociating a treaty with the court of Spain; with the most ample and pointed instructions, and also of the form and provisions of a treaty predicated on the basis of the free navigation of the Mississippi, it remained only for Mr. T. Pinckney, the minis­ter from the United States at London, under special instruction from the President, and appointed envoy for that purpose, to repair to Madrid, and seizing the favorable moment for effecting it, to ac­complish this desirable work. This was accordingly done, with e­qual promptness and decision on his part, and jointly to that, and the labours of the American secretary in the cabinet, are the Uni­ted States indebted for the most liberal, honorable, and beneficial treaty, they have ever yet entered into with a foreign nation.

About this time, having, at the pressing entreaty of the then Pre­sident Washington, remained one year longer at the head of the de­partment of state, than he had before stipulated to do, he resigned his office, and retired with the warmest thanks and regret of the President, Washington, to his estate at Monticello, in Albermarle County, Virginia, where he continued for upwards of two years uninterruptedly to enjoy the sweets of domestic ease, and a respite from the fatigues of public life, following with avidity his favorite pursuits of philosophical research and agricultural improvement, until the voice of his country again summoned him to the more ac­tive scenes of public duty, and placed him in nomination for the presidential chair, as the successor of Washington. The issue of that election is well known, and but for a false return in one state, and the suppression of a return in another, Mr. Jefferson would have been declared President; as the return however stood before Con­gress, it appeared that he had 68 votes, and Mr. Adams 71, conse­quently the latter was declared President, and the former Vice Pre­sident of the United States.

In the month of January, 1797, Mr. Jefferson was elected Presi­dent of the American Philosophical Society, held at Philadelphia, as successor of the great and virtuous Rittenhouse, who was the im­mediate successor of our immortal Franklin, the founder of that so­ciety.

And now, for the second time, the voice of his country has pla­ced Mr. Jefferson in nomination for the Presidential chair.

Fellow-Citizens of the United States,

The foregoing character of Mr. Jefferson, is drawn not by the partial hand of a friend, nor under the influence of political or par­ty prejudicies; there is no need of fabrication, falsehood or decep­tion. [Page 7]You see it in the faithful and unerring record of his many great and virtuous deeds; in the public usefulness and eminent ser­vices of a well spent life; in the numerous testimonials of his coun­try's approbation, and by the universal suffrage of the foreign world, in their acknowledged tributes of respect and esteem for the talents of his head and the virtues of his heart. Its leading features pre­sent to you a man of pure, ardent and affected piety; of sincere and genuine virtue; of an enlightened mind and superior wisdom; the adorer of our God; the patriot of his country; and the friend and benefactor of the whole human race.

And such, fellow-citizens, is the true and real character of Tho­mas Jefferson, unaided by artificial colourings of the false varnish of deceptive flattery.



The Presses, Pulpits, Benches, and Theatres, under the imme­diate direction or intermediate control of government or its agents, have long teemed with the vilest abuse, detraction, and falshood, respecting the character of Mr. JEFFERSON. They have represent­ed him as a Deist, disbelieving the Christian Religion; as an A­theist, denying the being of a God; as a Traitor, striving to sub­ject his country to foreign domination; and as an Anarchist, seek­ing to subvert all government and order.

These, and a number of other charges equally false and absurd, have been echoed and re-echoed, till those with whom they origina­ted have, by their own ingenuity, almost brought themselves to be­lieve what at first they knew to be false. And numbers whose in­tentions were laudable, but whose means of information were con­tracted, deceived and misled by these organs of envy, error, and perversion, now actually consider him as a man unworthy public confidence or private esteem.

Could merit or usefulness procure an exemption from calumny, Jefferson would have remained uncalumniated. For no man ever strove with more ability and success to subserve the interests of hu­manity and his country. Unfortunately, however, his virtue and talents have subjected him to the most unqualified abuse and detrac­tion; because, while he retained the affections of the people he was an insuperable barrier to the schemes of ambition, avarice, and aggrandizement, which had been planned by men amongst us desti­tute of patriotism, virtue and honor.

Anxious to give to you the means of repelling and refuting these "false, scandalous, malicious," and unfounded charges, which are made for no other purpose but to "bring unto contempt and disre­pute" the MAN OF THE PEOPLE, we have presented you [Page 8]with an Epitome of his Life and Character, extracted from a pam­phlet, the author of which is unknown. The calm, dignified, and dispassionate manner in which the writer of this Epitome has ex­pressed himself, bespeak a heart uninfluenced by party, and uncon­taminated by the stile and language too prevalent in political wri­tings of the present day: while the precision and perspicuity with which he has narrated facts, declare him to be accurately acquaint­ed with the subject of his address. From both these causes he is eminently entitled to your confidence and belief.

When the clouds of misrepresentation and falshood with which the enemies of republicanism and liberty have enveloped the cha­racter of Mr. Jefferson, shall be dispelled by the penetrating ways of reason and truth, you will see him as he is—The brightest lumi­nary of the western world.


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