Thomas Jefferson: A Biography

By Nathan Schachner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 67 Plan for Education

WHILE Jefferson's mind thus ranged widely in space and time, and even beyond, he did not lose sight of the pressing problems closer at hand.

He was engaged in extensive controversy with the Rivanna Canal Company that was trying to compel him to remove his obstructions to navigation without what he thought was an adequate safeguarding of his rights. The company directors had gone to the legislature to press their claims, and Jefferson countered with pressures of his own. His chief advocate in the Assembly was Joseph Carrington Cabell a young man of some thirty- five years, who had become an enthusiastic disciple of the Sage of Monticello and was to work valiantly with him in the ensuing years in the promotion of the University of Virginia. "You may rest assured," replied Cabell, "that I shall pay the most pointed attention to this business, and do every thing in my power to guard your rights from invasion."1

What mortified Jefferson more than anything else was the fact that the Albemarle delegation-his own neighbors-stood with the Company against himself, and that he had to rely for protection on legislators from other counties. But the latter rallied to his cause and Cabell was able to report triumphantly that he had forced through sufficient amendments to the bill to cause the Company to let it lie over rather than put it to a vote.2 Thus thwarted in their original plans, the directors eventually came to a compromise agreement with Jefferson and the bill, with amendments, was consented to by both parties.3

The conduct of the war continued naturally to engross his attention. Earlier in the year the sky had lightened a trifle, at least to the south where General William Cocke had fought and won some victories over the Creek Indianso Jefferson congratulated him, but expressed his regret that Cooke had not been permitted to seize the whole of Florida, as a measure of redress for our wrongs and before the British moved in. "For this blot," he exclaimed, "left open to be hit by our adversary, we are indebted, it seems, to that Sexennial spirit of the Senate. of which you and I saw so much; which has so often defeated the wisdom and patriotism of their coordinate authorities, and is destined to produce incalculable injury and danger, if not recalled to responsibility ar shorter periods."4

The more he contemplated the Senate, indeed, the more he was determined to curtail the powers of those "pseudo-aristoi" by shortening their

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