“The Lass with the delicate air”
It was to that unhappy land of France that Mr. Jefferson had come almost five years before on a mission for Congress. For some time it had been the most cherished design of that body of patriots to establish advantageous commercial treaties with the European powers, thereby securing to America not only material prosperity, but, more important still, forcing our recognition as a separate and independent power, and creating for the new confederation of states a place among the brotherhood of nations. Confident that Mr. Jefferson’s astuteness, erudition, and probity would make a powerful impression upon those whom it was so much to our interest to attach to us, Congress had, on the 7th day of May, 1784, appointed him Minister Plenipotentiary for the negotiation of foreign commercial treaties. Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, his co-workers, were already eagerly awaiting him in Paris.
But, great as was Mr. Jefferson’s patriotic interest in the cause he was to represent at the court of Louis XVI., his exile from Monticello was very painful to him. The recent death of his wife there, and the youth of the two children he was to leave, bound him to the place. Having also very clearly in mind Mr. Jay’s and Dr. Franklin’s disappointments and bickerings in London in the same cause of commercial treaties, he looked forward with growing distaste to the difficulties and diplomatic struggles before him; for Mr. Jefferson was always more ready to lead than to combat. Perhaps, too, he did not relish the idea that although in his own country no one was more generally famed for talents and learning than himself, in Paris, amid that brilliant throng of savants and courtiers, he would be but a simple Virginia gentleman without prestige or reputation. And, moreover, he feared that his plain, democratic manners and principles—which he scorned to alter for anyone—would be but ill-suited to the courtly life of Versailles. For it must be owned that Mr. Jefferson’s democracy, like his learning, was a trifle ostentatious, and became more so as he grew older. Surely, though, such blemishes are not incompatible with greatness of character, but only serve to make a great man more lovable and human. And as for Mr. Jefferson, if he had not been blessed with some such harmless frailties, he had seemed almost more than mortal with his great learning, his profound, if often impracticable, philosophy, and his deathless patriotism. Such as he was, Mr. Jefferson was greatly beloved, and many of his warmest friends and admirers foregathered at Monticello on the evening of the 23d of May, 1784, to bid him farewell ere he should set out the next day on his long journey to Boston, from which port he was to sail for France. As he stood on the north portico of Monticello, awaiting his guests and looking long and lovingly at the beautiful view of