Calm repose and the sweets of undisturbed retirement appear more distant than a peace with Britain.
It gives me pleasure, however, to reflect that the period is approaching when we shall be citizens of a better ordered State, and the spending of a few troublesome years of our eternity in doing good to this and future generations is not to be avoided nor regretted. Things will come right, and these States will yet be great and flourishing.
–Letter to Washington
America should feel especially charitable towards Louis the Great, called by Carlyle, Louis the Little, for banishing the Huguenots from France. What France lost America gained. Tyranny and intolerance always drive from their homes the best: those who have ability to think, courage to act, and a pride that can not be coerced.
The merits possessed by the Huguenots are exactly those which every man and nation needs. And these are simple virtues, too, whose cultivation stands within the reach of all. These are the virtues of the farmers and peasants and plain people who do the work of the world, and give good government its bone and sinew. To a great degree, so-called society is made up of parasites who fasten and feed upon the industrious and methodical.
If you have read history you know that the men who go quietly about their business have been cajoled, threatened, driven, and often, when they have been guilty of doing a little independent thinking on their own account, banished. And further than this, when you read the story of nations dead and gone you will see that their decline began when the parasites got too numerous and flauntingly asserted their supposed power. That contempt for the farmer, and indifference to the rights of the man with tin pail and overalls, which one often sees in America, are portents that mark disintegrating social bacilli. If the Republic of the United States ever becomes but a memory, like Carthage, Athens and Rome, drifting off into senile decay like Italy and Spain or France, where a man may yet be tried and sentenced without the right of counsel or defense, it will be because we forgot–we forgot!
In moral fiber and general characteristics the Huguenots and the Puritans were one. The Huguenots had, however, the added virtue of a dash of the Frenchman’s love of beauty. By their excellent habits and loyalty to truth, as they saw it, they added a vast share to the prosperity and culture of the United States.
Of seven men who acted as presiding officer over the deliberations of Congress during the Revolutionary Period, three were of Huguenot parentage: Laurens, Boudinot and Jay. John Jay was a typical Huguenot, just as Samuel Adams was a typical Puritan. In his life there was no glamour of romance. Stern, studious and inflexibly honest, he made his way straight to the highest positions of trust and honor. Good men who are capable are always needed. The world wants them now more than ever. We have an overplus of clever individuals; but for the faithful men who are loyal to a trust there is a crying demand.
The life of Jay quite disproves the oft-found myth that a dash of Mephisto in a young man is a valuable adjunct. John Jay was neither precocious nor bad. It is further a refreshing fact to find that he was no prig, simply a good, healthy youngster who took to his books kindly and gained ground–made head upon the whole by grubbing.
His father was a hard-headed, prosperous merchant, who did business in New York, and moved his big family up to the little village of Rye because life in the country was simple and cheap. Thus did Peter Jay prove his commonsense.
Peter Jay copied every letter he wrote, and we now have these copy-books, revealing what sort of man he was. Religious he was, and scrupulously exact in all things. We see that he ordered Bibles from England, “and also six groce of Church Wardens,” which I am told is a long clay pipe, “that hath a goodly flavor and doth not bite the tongue.” He also at one time ordered a chest of tea, and then countermanded the order, having taken the resolve to “use no tea in my family while that rascally Tax is on–having a spring of good, pure water near my house.” Which shows that a man can be very much in earnest and still joke.