Thomas Jefferson: A Biography

By Nathan Schachner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 19 Return to Life

JEFFERSON arrived in Philadelphia on October 29, 1783; but Congress was no longer there. A mutinous soldiery, unpaid for months and swollen with the discontent of manifold grievances, had assumed such a threatening aspect that Congress had decamped in fright to Princeton to resume its sessions. The trouble had largely abated by the time of Jefferson's arrival; but Congress deemed it wiser not to return to the turbulent city.

Before proceeding farther, Jefferson placed Patsy in the care of Elizabeth Trist and provided a dancing master to give her instruction in the pleasant art. Then he journeyed on to Princeton, only to discover that Congress was adjourning to Annapolis, in Maryland, as still further removed from the camps of a sullen army. He therefore turned his horses back again to Philadelphia and found that Patsy had again to be moved. Mrs. Trist was departing from the city, and he now domiciled her with Mrs. Hopkinson, the mother of Francis Hopkinson, who had signed the Declaration of Independence with him. The change-over took place on November 19th; the following day he mended his violin, which seemed always in need of repairs, and arranged to give his daughter music lessons. Then he set out for Annapolis with Madison to catch up with a peregrinating Congress.1

The education of Patsy, however, remained much in his mind. He had barely settled himself in new lodgings (with a Mrs. Gheeseland, at a guinea a week and two and sixpence a day for firewood) when he was formulating a rigid schedule of studies and activities for the eleven-year-old girl to follow.

"From 8 to 10," he instructed her, "practice music. From 10 to 1, dance one day and draw another. From 1 to 2, draw on the day you dance, and write a letter next day. From 3 to 4, read French. From 4 to 5, exercise yourself in music. From 5 till bed-time, read English, write, etc." And, rather pathetically, consider Mrs. Hopkinson "as your mother, as the only person to whom, since the loss with which Heaven has pleased to afflict you, you can now look up."2

He explained his system of education to Marbois who, as a Frenchman, had definite ideas of his own on what was fitting for the fair sex. "The plan of reading which I have formed for her," he wrote, "is considerably different from what I think would be most proper for her sex in any other country than America." He had, for example, placed in the little girl's hands Don Quixote and the picaresque Gil Blas, "I am obliged in it," he pursued,

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