It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world. — Thomas Jefferson

Story of Thomas Jefferson - J. W. McSpadden




Home Again

It was two days before Christmas. For five long years "Marse Jefferson" had been away and now he was coming home—home from across the wide ocean. The negroes were wild with excitement. Early in the morning the servants from every part of the Jefferson possessions had come to Monticello, for the news had gone out like wildfire, "Marse Tom's comin' home to-morrow!"

Wonderful had been the washing and ironing of gay cotton turbans and best dresses, and many and joyful had been the chuckles at the prospect of having home again beloved Marse Tom and their own little ladies.

For a mile or two along the road from the foot of Monticello the excited watchers straggled, straining forward to catch the first glimpse of the returning travelers.

Suddenly a small black boy came running back as hard as his short legs could bear him up the road.

"Dey's a-comin'! Marse is a-comin'!" he shrieked, throwing a handspring and coming up all breathless with excitement and joy.

A shout broke from the crowd near the foot of the hill.

"Dere dey is! Dere dey is!"

"Marse Tom! Oh, Marse Tom! You sho is home again!"

"Lawdy! Lawdy! Heah is Marse Jefferson! Marse!"

Along the road that passed Shadwell, Thomas Jefferson's old home, came a heavy traveling carriage, drawn by four horses. With a cracking of whips and a cheer the postillions urged the animals forward and at a gallop the carriage rumbled and swayed onward. The slaves had begun to run when they saw it. Fat and thin; old and young; men, women and children, they all ran, shouting, along the road. Before the carriage reached the foot of the hill it was surrounded by the laughing, shouting, crying, hurrahing, pushing crowd.

"Take out de hosses!" yelled a negro. The postillions, delighted, sprang down and helped. In a rush, in spite of the master's laughing attempt to be heard, the horses were taken from the carriage. Eager negroes seized the pole; others, shouting, laid shoulders to the back and, with a rush and a rumble, a chorus of hurrahs and a babel of happy voices shouting welcomes, the carriage rolled up the hill, around the lawn and came to a halt at the front door. Marse Tons was home!

He opened the door and tried to step down, only to be seized and carried to the steps, while the happy crowd tried to kiss his hands, or his feet, or even to touch one of his garments.

"Marse Tom! Welcome home, Marse Tom!"

The carriage door was opened again and a beautiful young girl stood hesitating on the step. Behind her peeped the rosy face of a little girl.

Sudden silence fell on the rejoicing throng. Their young ladies were not the children they remembered; but a pride too deep for words glistened in every eye. Their own young ladies were sho' quality—and they had come home!

Down a lane formed by the admiring negroes, while the women held up their babies to see, Martha and Maria walked, smiling with delight. It was so good to be home again!

What a gay Christmas it was for all of them! Christmas gifts for each one and everybody calling out gay greetings to everybody else. And in the mail that arrived, what a wealth of presents and good wishes!

But Jefferson was not allowed to enjoy his home in quiet for long. One day James Madison came to call upon him with an important message.

"President Washington asked me to come to see you," explained the visitor, as he took his seat in one of the great armchairs. "He wishes to know just how you feel about this appointment he offers you."

Jefferson bowed his head. "I see. Well, I can say but little more than I wrote him in reply to his letter asking me to be his Secretary of State. I'd rather return to Paris. The duties of the position there are well known to me and agreeable. If I were to remain in America I should wish to be at home. My estate needs my personal care. Then, too, the duties of the Secretary of State are quite different

Letter from Jefferson to Thomas Paine
LETTER FROM JEFFERSON TO THOMAS PAINE.


Madison raised his hand. "The President thinks that if they proved too complicated Congress would amend that. He is very anxious to have you take the place in his cabinet where he feels that you would be of the greatest service to him and the country."

One of Jefferson's large, bony hands went up to his chin.

"Well," he said, at length. "You may say to the President what I have mentioned. I really feel better qualified to remain in Paris, but I will think the question over very carefully. Of course my wish is to serve the country in whatever way I best can do so."

"I'll report to President Washington what your feeling is," Madison promised after a pause, "and he will, I am sure, write you about it again."

This the President did, explaining that if the new and unknown business should prove difficult, Congress would "apply a remedy." Jefferson could not longer refuse, but wrote in reply, "I no longer hesitate to undertake the office to which you are pleased to call me."

Thus it was settled. Thomas Jefferson was to take the first place in the cabinet of George Washington and to be the first Secretary of State of the United States. The books and treasures of art that had been left in Paris were packed and shipped home. France must again be given up for America; Paris for New York. George Washington and his country needed him.