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Jefferson's Debts

Jefferson's Debts image
Parent Issue
Day
28
Month
February
Year
1873
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

Mr. Farton in his chapter of Jefferson'n ife, for tbo Atlantic Monthly for March, illudiug to Jefferson's resolution to quit tho public servico at the end of Washngton's first terni, saya : But why this agonizingdeslreforretirenont ? Thoreby hangs a tale: If we jive ten reasons for a oertain coúteo bL sonduct, thero is often an eleventh which. we do not give ; and that unspoken one .a apt to be the reason. He oould not afford to serve fho public on theterms fixod by Congreas. It was not merely that his salary dtd not pay the cost of his l?hilaiephia establishment, nor tbat his estato was ill-managed by overseers. An ancient debt hung, as he saya, "like a millstone round his neck," - a dobt whieh ha had twioed paid, although not incurrod by him. Upon the death of his wife's fiither, twenty years before, he had ieooived property trom his estato vrortn forty tliousand dollars, but subject to a British debt of thirteen thousand. Inst-f patiënt of debt; be sáld i BBe f&rrh near Monticello for a suui sufiicient to discharge it; but by tho time ho rcceived tb" money, the war of the Revolutior! had begun. Virginia invite?! all men owing monoy to üreat Britian to deposit tho. same in her treasury, the State agreeing to pay it over to the British creditur after the war. The identical cDin which Jefferson reoeived for his farm he himself oarried to the treasury in Williamsburg, where it was immediately exjiended iu equipping troops. The Legislatura of Virginia however, thought botter of this policy, rescinded the resolution, and roturned the surns received under it. But Jofferson had to take back his thirteen thousand dollars in deprecíate paper, which continuad to deprecíate until it was worthlecs. In fact, tho thirtoen thousand dollars just sufficed to buy hiui one garmcnt ; and in riding by thafc farm, in after years, he wouïd sometimea point to it, and say, laughing, " That farm I once sold for an overcoat. At the end of the war, during which Cornwallis destroyed more than enough of his rtrorerty to pay this debt, he had, as he remarked, " to lay his shoulders to tho payment of it a third time," in addition to a oonsiderablo debt of his own incurred just before the outbreak of hostilitinsj, " What the laws of Virginia," he wroto to his creditor in England, "are, or may be, will in no wiso iufluenóe my conduot. Bubstantial justice is my object, as decided by roason, not by authority or compulsión." Ever since the war closed, he had been struggling to reduce these debts ; and finally, made an arrangement for paying them off at the rate of four hundred. pounds sterling a year. How easy thi# oüght to have been to a person owning ten thousand acres of excellent land, " one hundred and fifty-four slaves, thirty-four horses, five niules, two hundred and forty-nine oattle, three hundred antt ninety hogs. and tli.roe sl'.eep !" But only two thousand acres of his iand was cultivated, nine of his horses were used for the saddle, and the labor of his slaves had been, for ten years, directed by overseers. In 1793 the greater part of tho debt reinained to be discltarged, and he saw, whenever he yisited Monticello, such evidences of "the ravages of overseers," as filled him with alarm. He had now a son-iu-law to settle, a second daughter to established, a mountainoua debt to pay, a high office to live up to, and an estáte goiug to ruin. Behold his eloventh unnttered reasofi for. tho frenzy which p'ossessed iiim io live at home. He might well deaire to see the reign of ovorseers brought to an end on his estáte. Iieadors remember, perhaps, General Washington's experience with. them. How, when he owned ono hundred and one cows, he was compelled to buy butter fór his own table ; and how after building ono of the best barns in the country, where thirty men could conveniently wield the üail, he could not prevent his manager from treading out the grain with horses, - so impossible waa it, ho says, " to put the overseers of this country out of the track they have been accustomed to walk in." Ho reachedt home for his annual vacation in 179?,' about the middle of September, and caught this truly conservative gentleman in the act. " I found a treading-yurd," wroto the President, "not thirty feet from the barn-door, the wheat again brought out of the barn, and horses treading it out in an open Hable to the vicissitudes of weathor." With such men to manage, the General thought the new threshing-machine would havo a brief existence.

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Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus