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When imagination, invention and language failed, resort was had to caricature. His enemies anticipated what long afterwards were called spirit photographs. Atrocious pictures of Jefferson, which never failed to show that he was attended by the devil, with horns, hoofs and tail, armed with the legendary pitchfork, were scattered over the country. Sometimes the devil seemed to be leading the way to the perpetration of some act of infamy; sometimes he lagged in the rear; and sometimes he was represented as weeping over the surprising and unparalleled wickedness of his favorite disciple. The most revolting and scandalous stories, giving details with infinite minuteness, were hatched out for his political overthrow. But on the intended victim these attacks made no visible impression. His revilers might as well have wasted their ammunition on the Sphynx. Their intellectual feebleness and their ignoble methods were quite impotent to ruffle the serenity of the man who had hurled his defiance at the throne of George III. He never drew his sword save for some foeman worthy of his steel. For the great mob of inferior characters that followed him through life, poisoning the air with falsehoods and detraction, and pelting him with mud, he had never a word. IIis serene indifference,
, more galling than any words of scorn could be, constantly goaded them to new displays of the most venomous rancor.
But when Jefferson entered upon a real combat he became remarkably blind to the virtues of his antagonist, and was too ready to credit any story to his disadvantage. Thus he permitted himself to believe that Hamilton, at the head of a formidable party, was scheming to overthrow the republic and to establish a monarchy on its ruins. Having stated this conviction to Washington one day, the latter, with his usual good sense, said that he did not think that there were ten men in the country that entertained such a wish. The faith of Jefferson in the depravity of Hamilton was, however, not shaken. He was afterwards told and believed that at a banquet in New York Hamilton had drunk the health of George III., and that he was in the pay of that monarch. He believed that IIamilton was corrupt, and that he employed the public funds to corrupt Congress. We cannot doubt that Jefferson was sincere in these delusions, which he noted down in private
memoranda that were not seen by any one else until after his death ;* but we know that they had no foundation in fact.
Besides Hamilton and Marshall it does not seem that Jefferson ever regarded any one as an enemy seriously worthy of his attention. Undoubtedly he prosecuted Burr with vigor; but he probably looked on him simply as a malefactor, meriting legal punishment and infinite contempt.
It speaks well for Marshall that Jefferson never accused him of corruption as he accused Hamilton, and that he never assailed the private character of the chief justice.
If Jefferson was always pursued by unrelenting enemies, on the other hand he had in his life time a vast army of admirers and defenders, who twice elevated him to the highest position within the gift of the people, and who would probably have elected him the third time if he had consented to gratify their wishes. As a political leader he has never had his equal in this country; and in all likelihood he never had a superior anywhere. Since his death some of the warmest eulogies bestowed on him have emanated from men differing with him most radically in political opinions. His biographers have almost universally fallen in love with him. Mr. Morse is at times somewhat caustic, but on the whole not unjust; and it must be said that he is eminently suggestive. It has been often charged that Jefferson was a demagogue; but it could be easily shown that no successful statesman in this country ever braved public opinion so fearlessly. It was his frankness that made him both friends and enemies, and that supplied his foes with the strongest weapons of attack. His methods have been discredited by shallow and designing office-seekers of all political parties; but the fact that there are hypocrites does not disprove that there have been true believers. From beginning to end his whole life shows that he had an abiding sympathy with the vast and toiling multitude upon whom the burdens of life, so widely distributed, must largely rest; and that he felt what so many since his time have feigned.
* See Jefferson's Anas.
It is needless to say that in a contest with Marshall as to the construction of the Constitution Jefferson labored under many disadvantages. He had practiced law for a few years, after which he abandoned the profession absolutely, and never took any interest in it afterwards. Important and worthy of consideration in the highest degree as his opinions on the science of government undoubtedly are, he was completely overshadowed when it came to questions of constitutional construction, and when he was confronted by one of the ablest and most thoroughly trained jurists that ever lived.
Before an assemblage of lawyers familiar with the life and writings of Chief Justice Marshall it is needless to dwell on his character; indeed, the subject has been recently exhausted. I will only mention one misconception that has sometimes prevailed.
The term Federalist was at first applied to all persons who favored the adoption of the Federal Constitution. In this sense Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson and Marshall were all Federalists. During the administration of John Adams the word came to be used in a party sense to denote those who favored a very liberal and centralizing interpretation of the powers of the Federal government. It is often inferred from the fact that Marshall was a member of the cabinet of Adams that he was in full accord with the party of which Adams was the leader; and this notion has to some extent affected his reputation as a jurist. Many persons have hastily made up their minds that Marshall was so completely an ultra Federalist as to be no better than a partisan judge. A very slight acquaintance with the history of the times would serve to correct that erroneous opinion. In the early days of the Republic the President did not deem it necessary to appoint to positions in the cabinet men holding political views similar to his own. When Monroe was elected President, Andrew Jackson in a letter gave him the following advice:
“Now is the time to exterminate that monster called party spirit. By selecting (for cabinet officers) characters most conspicuous for their probity, virtue, capacity and firmness, without regard to party, you will go far to, if not entirely, eradicate those
feelings which, on former occasions, threw so many obstacles in the way of government. The chief magistrate of a great and powerful nation should never indulge in party feelings. His condition should be liberal and disinterested; always bearing in mind that he acts for the whole and not a part of the community."
Such was Jackson's opinion, though it seems afterwards to have undergone a slight change.
That Marshall was in no sense a political partisan is shown by his connection with Judge Story, who was a life long Jeffersonian Democrat. On the appointment of Story by Madison in 1811 to a place on the bench it was predicted by many that there would be a clash between him and the chief justice on many points of constitutional law. That conflict never came. As to the principles of constitutional law the opinions of Marshall and Story were in perfect harmony. The truth would seem to be that the political views of Marshall were always much the same as those adopted by the Whig party as maintained by Clay and Webster.
That he was not in full accord with President Adams is shown by the fact that he did not favor the Alien and Sedition Laws, which were the party shibboleths of advanced Federalism.
Jefferson was nearly twelve years older than Marshall. They both belonged to that middle class in Virginia that furnished so many great men to the country in that era. It would have seemed that these two men were made to be friends. They had many things in common; they were both tolerant, amicable and conciliatory; in private life highly esteemed and much beloved. Moreover they were related in blood, though distantly; for Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Edmund Randolph, John Randolph and Robert E. Lee had for a common ancestor William Randolph, "late of Warwickshire in England," who emigrated to Virginia in 1684, and there settled and bought extensive tracts of land.
But nothing is more certain than that when Marshall administered the oath of office to Jefferson as President of the United States on the steps of the capitol on the 4th day of March, 1801, each could have wished that the other had been far away; and that their mutual aversion continued until their
connection was severed by death. They were born not very far apart, and they must have known each other long before Marshall entered upon public life. Jefferson, like Washington and Madison, had occasion to reflect on the saying that “the course of true love never did run smooth.” His first flame was Miss Rebecca Burwell, whom he met at Williamsburgh when he was attending college there, and whom he called Belinda, a name which he doubtless borrowed from the heroine of Pope's "Rape of the Lock.” Jefferson, it would seem from his letters, was a very ardent lover; but when he asked the fair Belinda the final question on which his hopes depended she respectfully declined to be his companion for life. Soon afterwards she was married to Jacquelin Ambler, and it was their daughter that became the wife of Marshall.
What Jefferson thought of Belinda after she jilted him does not appear; nor do we find out whether Marshall and Jefferson had any private grounds for estrangement, or whether their mutual dislike was wholly due to political differences. As early as 1792 we find that Jefferson had a distinct recognition of the abilities of Marshall, accompanied with aversion, for he then wrote to Madison saying that he had learned that Hamilton had solicited Marshall to come to Congress, adding: “I conclude that Hamilton has plied him well with flattery and solicitation, & I think nothing better could be done than to make him a judge.
Jefferson contemplated shelving Marshall by making him a judge most probably of the State Supreme Court. Strange irony of fate! Marshall was one day to be a judge, and to be a thorn in Jefferson's side as long as he lived.
Jefferson underrated the ability of Marshall no more than he did that of Hamilton. In 1810 he wrote, “It would be difficult to find a character of firmness enough to preserve his independence on the same bench with Marshall.” +
The only written expression of opinion by Marshall as to the character of Jefferson that remains is in answer to a letter from
* Ford, Writings of Jefferson, Vol. VI., p. 45. † Ford, Vol. IX., p. 275.