In tranquil serenity the ex-president pondered the past, and looked forward to the future. His correspondence in the dignified retirement of his later years is most instructive, showing great interest in education and philanthropy. He was remarkably blessed in his family and in all his domestic matters,—the founder of an illustrious house, eminent for four successive generations. His wife, who died in 1818, was one of the most remarkable women of the age,—his companion, his friend, and his counsellor,—to whose influence the greatness of his son, John Quincy, is in no small degree to be traced.
Adams lived twenty-five years after his final retirement from public life, in 1801, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, dividing his time between his farm, his garden, and his library. He lived to see his son president of the United States. He lived to see the complete triumph of the institutions he had helped to establish. He enjoyed the possession of all his faculties to the last, and his love of reading continued unabated to the age of ninety-one, when he quietly passed away, July 4, 1826. His last prayer was for his country, and his last words were,—“Independence forever!”
Life of John Adams, by J.T. Morse, Jr.; Life of Alexander Hamilton, by Lodge; Parton’s Life of Jefferson; Bancroft, United States; Daniel Webster, Oration on the Death of Adams and Jefferson; Life of John Jay, by Jay, Flanders, and Whitelocke; Fiske’s Critical Period of American History; Sparks’ Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution; Rives’ Life of Madison; Curtis’s History of the Constitution; Schouler’s History of the United States; McMaster’s History of the People of the United States; Von Holst’s Constitutional History; Pitkin’s History of the United States; Horner’s Life of Samuel Adams, Magruder’s Marshall.
This illustrious statesman was born April 13, 1743, at “Shadwell,” his father’s home, among the mountains of Central Virginia, about one hundred and fifty miles from Williamsburg. His father, Peter Jefferson, did not belong to the patrician class, as the great planters called themselves, but he owned a farm of nineteen hundred acres, cultivated by thirty slaves, and raised wheat. What aristocratic blood flowed in young Jefferson’s veins came from his mother, who was a Randolph, of fine presence and noble character.
At seventeen, the youth entered the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg, after having been imperfectly fitted at a school kept by a Mr. Maury, an Episcopal clergyman. He was a fine-looking boy, ruddy and healthy, with no bad habits, disposed to improve his mind, which was naturally inquisitive, and having the entree into the good society of the college town. Williamsburg was also the seat of government for the province, where were collected for a few months