Thomas Jefferson: A Biography

By Nathan Schachner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 29 Home Again

IN a sense, it was strange soil on which Jefferson now set foot. For five and a half years he had heard the French tongue almost exclusively, and had been submerged in the warm sea of French manners, customs, civilization. He had witnessed the beginning of a great revolution; but a revolution far different in inception and in method from the one he had earlier quitted on American soil.

Nor had America remained static in the interim. He had left a loosely bound aggregation of independent States, and was returning to a nation with a fixed constitution and a government with carefully defined powers. George Washington, his fellow Virginian, was President of the new nation; and John Adams, his former fellow commissioner, had returned from his post in England to become Vice-President. Europe, for so many years the head and center of his own affairs, was but a mere geographical term to most of his countrymen; their interests were concentered in this vigorous continent of their own. Jefferson required time to renew his old identity, to become neighbor and intimate once more with these cruder, more alive, more raucous people whose manners had not yet been so rubbed down by time that they slid easily and frictionlessly down the stranger's gullet.

But the people of his native Virginia sought to make the transition smooth for the returned exile. His old accomplishments were remembered and had grown into a legend; his failures had been tempered by the passage of time and were forgotten. He was as yet untouched by the party passions and vehement politics of the transition years. All, therefore, could join sincerely to honor the distinguished elder statesman.

Norfolk turned out officially to welcome Jefferson. The mayor, the aldermen and the recorder offered their addresses, and Jefferson obliged with a graceful response. Dr. James Currie of Eastwood placed his carriage and horses at his disposal for transport to Monticello.1

But Jefferson's first destination was Eppington, the home of his brother- in-law, Francis Eppes. He had much private business to discuss--the condition of his estates, his debts and certain family matters; one of which related particularly to the future of Patsy.

Therefore, as soon as he could decently escape from the congratulations of his fellow citizens, he set out with Patsy and Polly for Eppington, noted with a vast satisfaction the partially constructed capitol building, the

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