He had not been many years at Monticello, before his mind, always on the alert to discover what would advance the public good, thought of that mode which was at once most congenial with his favourite pursuits, and best suited to his permanent withdrawal from public life-the education of youth. His first scheme for this object did not extend farther than a college, to be built and supported by private contribution, and he set an example of liberality by subscribing a thousand dollars to the undertaking, which was followed by Mr. Madison, Mr. Monroe and several others. The plan was, however, gradually enlarged to the establishment of an University, in which he proposed that every branch of education, useful or ornamental, should be taught, and which, he trusted, would be recommended to all the Southern and Middle States, by its healthy and central situation. The plan was on a larger scale than comports with the limited resources of a state treasury, or the views of the great mass of our citizens, who, seldom having leisure for the cultivation of other than professional knowledge, are not sufficiently impressed with the dignity and utility of general science and literature. Such, however, was Mr. Jefferson's popularity, such the weight of his opinions, and such the persuasive powers of his pen, on the minds of the leading members of the legislature, for several years, that they were induced to extend their appropriations from time to time, until his large and liberal views were not far from being completed. Naturally sanguine and enthusiastic in his temper, and these qualities little chilled by the frost of age, he anticipated the most beneficent effects on the legislature, the professional ability, and the literary character of the state, from this institution, and in the pleasing perspective which was always before his eyes, he did little else, thought of little else, when left to himself, than how he should advance this favourite undertaking. He superintended the buildings—drew many of the plans which required a knowledge of architectural rules-minutely inspected every part of the work, though to do so, required a ride of ten miles, (from Monticello to the University and back) several times a week. The success of the University became, in short, his master passion, which left him only with consciousness and life.

It is painful to know that the last years of this patriot's busy, useful life were embittered by pecuniary difficulties. Tenderly attached to his surviving daughter, and his grandchildren, he saw that a large estate, by the depression in its value, and the accumulation of his debts, was not likely to afford them a competent support. He waited, year after year, in the hope of a favourable change in the value of lands, and fiuding that they VOL. V.NO. 9.


declined more and more, he thought of an expedient which had been formerly often resorted to in Virginia, that of disposing of his estate by lottery, by which his fellow-citizens might afford him relief, if they were so inclined, in a way the least disagreeable to their feelings or his own. He accordingly obtained the sanction of the legislature, but death intervened before the plan was carried into effect.

In a letter to Mr. Madison, a short time before his death, he gives a history of his embarrassments, and concludes with this interesting appeal to that friend of many years.

“ But why afflict you with these details ? Indeed, I cannot tell, unless pains are lessened by communications with a friend. The friendship which has existed between us, now half a century, and the harmony of our political principles and pursuits, have been sources of constant happiness to me through that long period ; and if I remove beyond the reach of attention to the University, or beyond the bourne of life itself, as I soon must, it is a comfort to leave that institution under your control, and an assurance that it will not be wanting. It has also been a great solace to me to believe, that you are engaged in vindicating to posterity the course we have pursued, in preserving to them, in all their purity, the blessings of self-government, which we had assisted too, in acquiring for them If ever the earth has beheld a system of administrationi, conducted with a single and steadfast eye to the general interest and happiness of those committed to it, one which, protected by truth can never know reproach, it is that to which our lives have been devoted. To myself, you have been a pillar of support through life-take care of me when dead, and be assured I shall leave with you my last affections."

That friend will surely not be unmindful of this last request, " to take care of him when dead;" but if he should be arrested by fate in the discharge of this just and pious office, posterity will surely supply the loss. They will do justice to his virtues, his talents and his services. We shall not attempt to draw a character of this illustrious man, A mere outline of one so well known, would be superfluous ; and this is not the place or the time for the shades and touches of a finished picture. We may, however, say, that he was one of that class of men, who, by reason of their moral and intellectual qualities and the circumstances in which they are placed, are inseparably linked with the destinies of their country, and by the impetus of whose character, that country is advanced or retarded in its onward march, or deflected from the course it would otherwise take ; and we think there are few of his contemporaries who have exerted this influence to a greater extent, or whose opinions will unite more suffrages in their favour than those of Thomas JEFFERSON.

Pode Netto

ART V.-Cuvres Completes de Paul Louis Courier. 4 vols. Svo,

Bruxelles. 1828.

A SOLDIER, during his campaigns, studying and editing Greek authors, and a vine-dresser, while attending to his wine-presses, exposing effectively with his pen the encroachments of church and state, are characters which, separately, excite our surprise and curiosity, but still more when, as in the case of Courier, they are united in the same individual. There was much in other respects to mark him as an extraordinary man, whether in society we view his purity of principles and noble bearing, or in politics his reckless independence amid varying factions, under the Republic, Napoleon and the Bourbons. The reputation he acquired was totally independent of extrinsic circumstances. He was not puffed into vogue by the periodical press; he lived remote from the metropolis, with few acquaintances and fewer intimates; he belonged to no party, he possessed neither wealth, office nor rank.

Paul Louis Courier de Mery, as he was baptized, was born at Paris, 1773. He always refused to bear the name of Mery, which was that of his paternal estate, lest it should be suspected that his blood was tainted with nobility. His contempt for titles, did not, as with many others, pass away with the Republic; but during all the changes of government, his language is consis

“ Born among the people,” says he, late in life, “I have remained there through choice. It depended only on myself, 'to quit my class, like many others, who, thinking to ennoble, 'have, in fact, degraded themselves. When it shall be neces*sary to choose, according to the law of Solon, I will be of the 'party of the people-of the peasants, like myself."'*

The father of Courier was a man of talent and learning, and with no other master, the son learnt Greek at the age of fifteen, in the family mansion in Touraine. Being intended for the engineer corps, he was sent to Paris for the purpose of studying mathematics; his teachers there, were, successively, Callet and Labey, both authors of reputation. He also prosecuted his Greek studies, for which he now evinced a strong predilection, under Vauvilliers, well-known as a classical scholar. “ Now," writes he to his father, “I sacrifice every thing to my principal design, but I do not on that account totally renounce the Greek and Latin poets; it is an effort of which my virtue is not


[ocr errors]

* Réponse aux Anonymes.-Euv. vol. ii, p. 50.

capable; on the other hand, the less devotě myself to this study, the more pleasure I enjoy as often as I am

permitted to 'quit for a moment the rocks of Euclid (silvestribus horrida

dumis) to descend into plains sprinkled with flowers and intersected with streamlets.”+

Labey having been afterwards appointed Professor in the military school at Chalons, his pupil followed him thither. But the classics had so completely won the affections of Courier, that he certainly displayed no great application in any thing else, although he acquired a good knowledge of mathematics. The restraint too of a military institution, was little suited to one of his independent disposition, and who had never known restraint at home. Hence he often forgot the hour of locking the gates, and had to enter by scaling the walls.

June 1, 1793, he left the school with the rank of sub-lieutenant of artillery, and soon after joined his company, then in garrison at Thionville. Ambition, new scenes and new companions could not divert bim a moment from his favourite pursuits. We see in his correspondence with bis parents, an officer of twenty-one, anxious for private lodgings in order to study with more tranquillity, and complaining of the interruptions from acquaint

Some of those letters to his mother, are every way characteristic of bim. In one, after requesting her to send him the works of Belidor on Engineering and Artillery, he continues,


“Hunt among my books for two volumes in octavo, that is, of the shape of the Royal Almanack, in green boards; one is all full of Greek, and the other of Latin. It is a Demosthenes you must send me with my other books. These two volumes are both large enough and dirty enough too. My books are my happiness, and almost my only society. I never feel weariness but when I am forced to quit them, and always revisit them with pleasure. Especially, I love to reperuse those which I have already perused a number of times, and by that I acquire an erudition less extensive, but more solid. In truth, I shall never have a great acquaintance with history, which requires far more study, but I shall gain something else, which I have no desire of explaining to you ; for I shall never finish if I give way to an indescribable tendency wbich leads me to speak of my studies. I should add, however, that one thing is wanting to all this, which is almost enough to destroy the pleasure I take in such pursuits. I mean the tranquil life I lead with you. Female small talk, follies of youth, what are you in comparison? I can speak on this subject-I, who knowing both, have, in my moments of sadness, never felt the want of any thing but the smiles of my parents, to use the expression o a poet." Vol. iv. p. 17.

Euvres, vol. iv. p. 11.

In another letter, he complains that he had been drawn into society, and that his precious time is lost, but that in spite of a round of visiting, he was become habitually melancholy.

" I see,” adds he, “that I must at last resume my former manner of living, which is the only one that suits me ; but alas ! even in that, it is impossible for me to follow the tastes which nature has given, and which circumstances, study and conversation have, to my misfortune, strengthened. However, I hope, in the end, to have greater facilities for giving myself up to them ; and, I believe, that the next winter will be entirely at my disposal. I shall then take good care to make acquaintances of no kind, a rule which I intend to observe, rigorously, for The future, in whatever country I shall find myself. My father views, as badly employed, the time I give to the dead languages, but I confess I do not think so. If, in this, I should have no other end than my own satisfaction, it is an important point in my calculations; and I do not consider as lost in my life, any but the time which I cannot enjoy without either repentance for the past, or fear for the future. If I can place myself beyond the reach of poverty, it is all I need; the remainder of my time shall be employed in gratifying a taste that none can blame, and that offers me pleasures ever new. I know very well that the majority of mankind think otherwise, but it seems to me that their calculation is incorrect ; for most confess that their life is not happy. My philosophy will, perhaps, make you smile, but I am persuaded you will regard all that I have written, as my true sentiments, conformably to which, the practice of my life shall be regulated.”—Vol. iv. p. 22.

Courier, in the spring of 1794, joined the army of the Moselle, and saw, for the first time the pomp and circumstance' of war. After the occupation of Treves, he was ordered to organize a work shop, for the repairing of arms, and for this purpose, took possession of a large monastery, deserted by the monks. For his own lodgings, he appropriated to himself the apartments of the father abbot, who had tried to render his sojourn in this vale of tears as pleasant as possible, by furnishing bis earthly tabernacle with every thing that comfort or luxury could ask. Great care was taken by Courier, that no depredation should be committed by the soldiery, and that every thing should be restored to its original condition.

While at Mayence, in 1795, he was appointed Captain. Receiving there the news of his father's death, he was so overwhelmed with grief, that forgetting every thing but his bereaved mother, he hastened to join her in Touraine, without thinking one moment of a furlough. It afterwards required all the exertions of his friends in Paris, to smooth over this flagrant breach of military discipline. He was next stationed in the

« VorigeDoorgaan »