Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History

By Fawn M. Brodie | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XII

The Two Marthas

I am born to lose everything I love.

Jefferson to Maria Cosway, July 1, 1787 1

When the Virginia legislature convened in November 1781 the members had so forgotten the panic and despair of the previous June that they cheerfully elected Jefferson a delegate to the Continental Congress. But Patrick Henry, by now not only a rival but also an enemy, quietly insisted that the inquiry into Jefferson's record as governor, voted the previous June, should not be rescinded or ignored, and a committee was chosen to hold hearings on the matter. "The inquiry," Jefferson confessed later, "was a shock on which I had not calculated." He felt himself "suspected and suspended in the eyes of the world without the least hint then or afterwards made public which might restrain them from supposing I stood arraigned for treasons of the heart and not mere weaknesses of the head." The injury, he said, "inflicted a wound on my spirit which will only be cured by the all-healing grave." 2

Though the original inquiry had been set in motion by young George Nicholas, Jefferson was certain he was a mere puppet in the hands of Patrick Henry, "a trifling body ... below contempt" whose "natural ill-temper was the tool worked with by another hand." Nicholas was, Jefferson wrote, "like the minners which go in and out of the fundament of the whale. But the whale himself was discoverable enough by the turbulence of the water under which he moved." 3

Jefferson had already complained to Nicholas that he seemed to want "to stab a reputation by a general suggestion under a bare expectation

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