Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

By Boynton Merrill Jr. | Go to book overview
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8
JEFFERSON AND THE
LEWISES

THOMAS JEFFERSON'S feelings about his Lewis relatives at Buck Island and Monteagle are somewhat shadowed and concealed, in part by time, and perhaps by Jefferson's intention. He never directly discussed his relationship with the Lewises, but enough letters exist to indicate the disparity of their interests and achievements, and to indicate some of the personal reservations he held about them.

One factor in the remoteness between the Lewises and Jefferson was his frequent if not perennial absence from Albemarle during the years the Lewises lived there. When Jefferson was two, his parents moved the family away from Albemarle for seven years, returning to Shadwell in 1752. Soon afterward, Jefferson was placed under the tutelage of Rev. William Douglas in Goochland County, and remained there for most of the next five years. From 1758 to 1760 Jefferson boarded at Rev. James Maury's School a few miles from Shadwell, and came home only on weekends and vacations. The next four years were spent in Williamsburg, first at William and Mary College, and then studying law under George Wythe. Of his first twenty-one years, Jefferson had spent almost all his time away from the ShadwellBuck Island neighborhood. While he was receiving a fine classical and legal education, his younger brother and sisters had a far less impressive education at a school that was held nearby, at the Buck Island home of their cousins, the Charles Lewises. Mr. Benjamin Snead was the tutor. Randolph, Thomas's younger brother, boarded at Buck Island for two years.1

Rev. James Maury noted that sons of the gentry seldom extended their schooling for as long as their twentieth year, being distracted by early marriages, children, and the management of their large estates.2 This was the pattern in the Lewis family; Charles L. Lewis was twenty-one and Lucy Jefferson was seventeen when they married. Their two oldest sons, Randolph and Lilburne, married brides who were only fifteen years old when they themselves were not yet twenty. Jefferson com

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