Thomas Jefferson HTML version
No golden eagle, warm from the stamping press of the mint, is more sharply impressed
with its image and superscription than was the formative period of our government by the
genius and personality of Thomas Jefferson.
Standing on the threshold of the nineteenth century, no one who attempted to peer down
the shadowy vista, saw more clearly than he the possibilities, the perils, the pitfalls and
the achievements that were within the grasp of the Nation. None was inspired by purer
patriotism. None was more sagacious, wise and prudent, and none understood his
By birth an aristocrat, by nature he was a democrat. The most learned man that ever sat in
the president's chair, his tastes were the simple ones of a farmer. Surrounded by the pomp
and ceremony of Washington and Adams' courts, his dress was homely. He despised
titles, and preferred severe plainness of speech and the sober garb of the Quakers.
"What is the date of your birth, Mr. President?" asked an admirer.
"Of what possible concern is that to you?" queried the President in turn.
"We wish to give it fitting celebration."
"For that reason, I decline to enlighten you; nothing could be more distasteful to me than
what you propose, and, when you address me, I shall be obliged if you will omit the 'Mr.'
If we can imagine Washington doing so undignified a thing as did President Lincoln,
when he first met our present Secretary of State, (John Sherman) and compared their
respective heights by standing back to back, a sheet of paper resting on the crowns of
Washington and Jefferson would have lain horizontal and been six feet two inches from
the earth, but the one was magnificent in physique, of massive frame and prodigious
strength,—the other was thin, wiry, bony, active, but with muscles of steel, while both
were as straight as the proverbial Indian arrow.
Jefferson's hair was of sandy color, his cheeks ruddy, his eyes of a light hazel, his
features angular, but glowing with intelligence and neither could lay any claim to the gift
Washington lacked literary ability, while in the hand of Jefferson, the pen was as
masterful as the sword in the clutch of Saladin or Godfrey of Bouillon. Washington had
only a common school education, while Jefferson was a classical scholar and could