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Thomas Jefferson
by [?]

Young Jefferson had never before seen a village of even a dozen houses, and he looked upon this as a type of all cities. He thought about it, talked about it, wrote about it, and we now know that at this time his ideas concerning city versus country crystallized.

Fifty years after, when he had come to know London and Paris, and had seen the chief cities of Christendom, he repeated the words he had written in youth, “The hope of a nation lies in its tillers of the soil!”

On his mother’s side he was related to the “first families,” but aristocracy and caste had no fascination for him, and he then began forming those ideas of utility, simplicity and equality that time only strengthened.

His tutors and professors served chiefly as “horrible examples,” with the shining exception of Doctor Small. The friendship that ripened between this man and young Jefferson is an ideal example of what can be done through the personal touch. Men are great only as they excel in sympathy; and the difference between sympathy and imagination has not yet been shown us.

Doctor Small encouraged the young farmer from the hills to think and to express himself. He did not endeavor to set him straight or explain everything for him, or correct all his vagaries, or demand that he should memorize rules. He gave his affectionate sympathy to the boy who, with a sort of feminine tenderness, clung to the only person who understood him.

To Doctor Small, pedigree and history unknown, let us give the credit of being first in the list of friends that gave bent to the mind of Jefferson. John Burke, in his “History of Virginia,” refers to Professor Small thus: “He was not any too orthodox in his opinions.” And here we catch a glimpse of a formative influence in the life of Jefferson that caused him to turn from the letter of the law and cleave to the spirit that maketh alive. After school-hours the tutor and the student walked and talked, and on Saturdays and Sundays went on excursions through the woods; and to the youth there was given an impulse for a scientific knowledge of birds and flowers and the host of life that thronged the forest. And when the pair had strayed so far beyond the town that darkness gathered and the stars came out, they conversed of the wonders of the sky.

The true scientist has no passion for killing things. He says with Thoreau, “To shoot a bird is to lose it.” Professor Small had the gentle instinct that respects life, and he refused to take that which he could not give. To his youthful companion he imparted, in a degree, the secret of enjoying things without the passion for possession and the lust of ownership.

There is a myth abroad that college towns are intellectual centers; but the number of people in a college town (or any other) who really think, is very few.

Williamsburg was gay, and, this much said, it is needless to add it was not intellectual. But Professor Small was a thinker, and so was Governor Fauquier; and these two were firm friends, although very unlike in many ways. And to “the palace” of the courtly Fauquier, Small took his young friend Jefferson. Fauquier was often a master of the revels, but after his seasons of dissipation he turned to Small for absolution and comfort. At these times he seemed to Jefferson a paragon of excellence. To the grace of the French he added the earnestness of the English. He quoted Pope, and talked of Swift, Addison and Thomson. Fauquier and Jefferson became friends, although more than a score of years and a world of experience separated them. Jefferson caught a little of Fauquier’s grace, love of books and delight in architecture. But Fauquier helped him most by gambling away all his ready money and getting drunk and smoking strong pipes with his feet on the table. And Jefferson then vowed he would never handle a card, nor use tobacco, nor drink intoxicating liquors. And in conversation with Small, he anticipated Buckle by saying, “To gain leisure, wealth must first be secured; but once leisure is gained, more people use it in the pursuit of pleasure than employ it in acquiring knowledge.”