Thomas Jefferson: A Biography

By Nathan Schachner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14 War Governor

JEFFERSON always looked back upon the period of his governorship as a painful episode in an otherwise long and fruitful life, and sought as much as possible to bury it in oblivion. His Autobiography, meticulously detailed before and after, dismisses these two years in a single paragraph and hastens on to more congenial topics.

For this highly self-conscious attitude there is much justification. With all his talents, zeal and undoubted patriotism, Jefferson was not the man for the job in the peculiar chaos of Virginia at the time. The war, which had nibbled on its borders and coast line for several years, was now to march full-panoplied into its very vitals; finances, the life blood of a beleaguered commonwealth, were disintegrating under the impact of an uncontrolled inflation; a jealous individualism and a suspicion of all authority, local or continental, hamstrung systematic endeavor; while a constitution that would have proved inefficient in time of peace literally fell to pieces in time of war.

To surmount these obstacles required a strong and even ruthless executive; one who was willing, when necessary, to overlook the letter of the constitution and the limitations on his powers; to act first in an emergency and seek the legal justification for the act later. In short, to be something of a dictator. Jefferson was not that man.

The chief trouble was the Virginia constitution. In the reaction against the "tyrant of Britain," Virginia had placed practically all power in the legislative as against the executive. The Governor was in effect the arm of the Assembly, its faithful follower of instructions. And, to make certain that those instructions were properly adhered to, a Council of State had been created, appointed by the Assembly, ostensibly to assist and advise the Governor but actually, as it turned out, to make decisions for him to follow. Further to complicate matters, a Board of War and a Board of Trade had been instituted (and this had been a recommendation of the Revisors, of which Jefferson was a member), appointed by the Assembly and subject to the control of the Council of State and the Governor.

The machinery, in short, was cumbersome and unwieldy, and wholly unfit for the rapid decisions required in a state of war and invasion.

The tendency has been to blame the constitution of Virginia, as prepared by other hands, for these shackles on Jefferson's regime. But his own draft constitution had insisted on practically similar restraints. Indeed, his definition of an executive was remarkable for its negativism; the powers

-179-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Thomas Jefferson: A Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 1074

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.