When Jefferson became President, in his messages to Congress again and again he advised the fixing of sufficient salaries to secure the best men for every branch of the service, and suggested the folly of expecting anything for nothing, or the hope of officials not “fixing things” if not properly paid.
Men from the soil who gain power are usually intoxicated by it; beginning as democrats they evolve into aristocrats, then into tyrants, if kindly Fate does not interpose, and are dethroned by the people who made them. And it is not surprising that this man, born into a plenty that bordered on affluence, and who never knew from experience the necessity of economy (until in old age tobacco and slavery had wrecked Virginia and Monticello alike), should set an almost ideal example of simplicity, moderation and brotherly kindness.
Among the chief glories that belong to him are these:
1. Writing the Declaration of Independence.
2. Suggesting and carrying out the present decimal monetary system.
3. Inducing Virginia to deed to the States, as their common property, the Northwest Territory.
4. Purchasing from France, for the comparatively trifling sum of fifteen million dollars, Louisiana and the territory running from the Gulf of Mexico to Puget’s Sound, being at the rate of a fraction of a cent per acre, and giving the United States full control of the Mississippi River.
But over and beyond these is the spirit of patriotism that makes each true American feel he is parcel and part of the very fabric of the State, and in his deepest heart believe that “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
The body of the people are now in council. Their opposition grows into a system. They are united and resolute. And if the British Administration and Government do not return to the principles of moderation and equity, the evil, which they profess to aim at preventing by their rigorous measures, will the sooner be brought to pass, viz., the entire separation and independence of the Colonies. —Letter to Arthur Lee
[Illustration: Samuel Adams]
Samuel and John Adams were second cousins, having the same great-grandfather. Between them in many ways there was a marked contrast, but true to their New England instincts both were theologians.
John was a conservative in politics, and at first had little sympathy with “those small-minded men who refused to pay a trivial tax on their tea; and who would plunge the country into war, and ruin all for a matter of stamps.” John was born and lived at the village of Braintree. He did not really center his mind on politics until the British had closed all law-courts in Boston, thus making his profession obsolete. He was scholarly, shrewd,