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tion; he wants a principle of action sufficiently powerful to enable him to overcome human passion and prejudice, and, at the expense of some self-denial, to do the right rather than the wrong, and this principle will
, we think, be found in Christianity alone. Mr. Jefferson therefore, in our view, made a fatal, practical mistake in discarding the aid of Christianity in the formation of his own moral character. He deliberately threw away the noblest element of true greatness, and he reaped the inevitable consequences.
The account which our author affords us on the subject of Mr. Jefferson's religious opinions is, it must be confessed, scanty enough. After an allusion to his intimacy in early life with Governor Fauquier, he thus proceeds ;
“ The Governor was said 10 have been a follower of Shaftsbury and Boling broke, in morals and religion, and, by the influence of his station and accomplishments, to have rendered their tenets fashionable in Virginia, as well as increased the taste for gaming, to which he was passionately devoted. Mr. Jefferson happily escaped the contagion of this vice; but it has been thought that opinions recommended by genius and taste, as well as rank, were not without their effect on a youthful mind, at once ductile and bold.* Yet the friend who knew best (Mr. Madison) gives no credit to this supposed influence; but justly remarking, that the same fearless and independent spirit, impatient of dictation and contemning authority, is to be seen in all Mr. Jef. ferson's speculations, he thinks, that so far as the character of his re. ligious and moral opinions are not attributable to the native character of his mind, they are to be ascribed to the time and the country in which he lived." Vol. i. 41, 42.
And from this we learn little else, save that “the friend who knew him best,” has but done him the questionable kindness of representing his infidelity, as being original
, rather than derived. The opinions thus early imbibed seem to have remained unaltered, and the closing scenes of his life exhibit at least consistency, in his rejection of such ministrations as are ordinarily desired by a departing soul.
“ However his thoughts were occupied in his last illness, it does not appear that his conversation turned at all upon religion. He had long formed his creed, after much inquiry and reflection ; in forming it his opinions had not been inflamed by controversy ; and whether right or otherwise, it was too well settled to give him anxiety then. He not only showed no wish to commune with others on the subject of religion, but was evidently unwilling, as he generally had been, to converse on the topic to any but his most intimate friends; and this
*This explanation of some of Mr. Jefferson's opinions I received (says the author) from the late Mr. John Randolph.
feeling is manifested by the following anecdote, for the truth of which I can vouch. During his last illness, the arrival of some visiter was announced, whose name reached him indistinctly, and he thought it was Mr. Hatch, an Episcopal clergyman, of Charlottesville, who had called to make him a visit : • Is that Mr. Hatch,' he said, “he is a very good man, and I am glad to see him as a neighbor, but
-, and here he stopped either from weakness, or unwillingness to be more explicit. The impression upon the by-standers was, that he did not wish to avail himself of Mr. Hatch's clerical functions." Vol. II. p. 495.
Scanty however, as are the hints which the professor gives us on the subject of Mr. Jefferson's religion, we are sorry to find in him an evident disposition in this matter to act the tial apologist. No fact is more notorious in the United States, than 'that Thomas Jefferson was not what the people of this country understand by the phrase, “ a believer in the New Testament." That he supposed such a being as Christ once lived, we know; that he did not entertain such an opinion of him as is held by any sect or denomination calling itself Christian, we also know. His own language shall presently afford testimony to the truth of this assertion; and yet our author would fain have the youth of our country believe that Mr. Jefferson actually combated infidelity. Speaking of a letter addressed to Mr. Adams in Nov. 1823, he insinuates that injustice has been done to the distinguished subject of his book, by the misrepresentations of his enemies on the subject of his religion: -He thus writes :
" The whole of this letter must give great satisfaction to those friends of Mr. Jefferson, who taking their opinion of his religious creed from his enemies, or from some of his own unguarded expres. sions, had doubted his religious faith. A more entire conviction of the truths of natural theology, more clearly and logically exhibited, is no where to be found ; and those who hated and reviled him for his sup. posed unbelief, may here find in him an able auxiliary against the in. fidelity which is so often denounced as a prevalent vice of the age.” Vol II. p. 450.
Thomas Jefferson an able auxiliary against deism !—for deism it is, which, in the language of our times and country, is usually meant by the term “ infidelity:"—certain it is that the prevalent form of infidelity which now most frequently meets with rebuke, is the creed of the deist, as contradistinguished from that of the Christian.--It is here assumed that it will give “great satisfaction” to Mr. Jefferson's admirers, to discover that his “ unbelief” was merely “supposed” and not real. How then can professor Tucker justify it to the memory of his departed friend, that he has not spread upon record the evidence which is to afford this satisfaction? Happy indeed should we be to see this memorable letter, establishing the fact that our countrymen have been so long mistaken in their estimate of Mr. Jefferson's religious character. We should like to have an opportunity afforded to the christian people of these United States, of judging for themselves how far they may indulge in congratulations upon the appearance of this new and unexpected auxiliary: The inferences of our author may be erroneous. His own opinions may be such as, in the judgment of Christians, may lead them to doubt how far he is competent to pronounce authoritatively that any man is the advocate of divine truth.-We say not that his opinions are such; but suppose for a moment that the professor were one who could so far forget what he owed to honor and to a Christian parent, as to recommend to the pupil who had been placed by that parent in his charge, the perusal of such a work as Paine's “ Age of Reason" or "Volney's Ruins,” is his ipse dixit on the subject of Mr. Jefferson's “religious faith” then to be conclusive? Or even suppose that he has no sympathy with the creed of his friend ; yet affection may be stimulated, by the very absence of that sympathy, to give to this letter the most favorable construction; and therefore, we repeat it, we are sorry that the letter is not published, that men may judge for themselves.
We confess that it affords us little pleasure to find our author insinuating, in another passage of his work, that Mr. Jefferson was an Unitarian,
“ His religious creed, as disclosed in his correspondence, cannot perhaps be classed with that of any particular sect, but was nearer the Socinian than any other. In the last years of his life, when questioned by any of his friends on this subject, he used to say he was an Uni. tarian.'" Vol. II.
504. Now we do not hesitate to say that if Mr. Jefferson really believed himself to belong to the school here indicated, he only proved that he was grossly ignorant of its tenets. There is no intelligent Unitarian who will acknowledge the claim here made to the rights of fraternization. We are not ourselves Unitarians, and therefore may the more readily be believed when we say, that it has never fallen to our lot to converse with one, (and we have met many,) who would permit himself to speak of Christ, in the terms which Mr. Jefferson has used. We are yet to learn that malerialism is a received doctrine of the Unitarian's creed; it was of Mr. Jefferson's.--Again; why sorrows come at all, was an enigma to Mr. Jefferson; he knew no “uses of adversity."
“I have often wondered for what good end the sensation of grief could be intended. All our other passions, within proper bounds, have a useful object. And the perfection of the moral character is not in a stoical apathy so hypocritically vaunted, and so untruly too, be. cause impossible, but in a just equilibrium of all the passions. I wish the pathologists then would tell us what is the use of grief in the economy, and of what good it is the cause, proximate or remote." Vol. II. p. 370.
He seems never to have dreamed of such a thing as moral discipline ; is this Unitarianism?
Considering the term “Unitarian” as descriptive of one of the religious denominations of our country, he had no more right to call himself by this name, than he had to say he was a Trinitarian: and we must say that to our minds there is something exceedingly disingenuous in the attempt thus to enroll Mr. Jefferson with one of the religious societies of the land. If Mr. Jefferson intended by the application to himself of the term, Unitarian, to intimate that he believed there was one God and but one; we know of no Christian who is not, in this sense, an Unitarian also; but if he designed to express his belief in monotheism, as contradistinguished from assent to the doctrine of the Trinity, then does his conduct savour somewhat of the littleness of trick; for he did not view Christ in the light in which he is considered by Unitarians generally: he did not deem him as entitled to the character of a divine messenger, any more than Socrates was; nor did he believe in Christianity as a divine revelation; nor in the assemblage of doctrines commonly included in the term Unitarianism; of which let us say, that, although not disposed to adopt them, we yet, as an act of justice, will distinguish from the French infidel school to which Mr. Jefferson in truth belonged. In the last years of his life, it may have served his purposes to seek an affiliation among the Unitarians. That denomination had then increased in numbers, and included in its ranks some men of high intellectual attainments; it was no disgrace to Mr. Jefferson to be deemed the associate in thought of such men, and hence he was not reluctant to adopt their distinctive name, though there might not be between them entire coincidence of opinion. We leave it to those with whom he thus classed himself, to estimate at its true worth the compliment paid to their religious system by Mr. Jefferson, in the proof which he afforded, of its close approximation, in his mind, to the infidelity of France.
But Mr. Jefferson on this topic has been more communicative than his biographer is disposed to be. Let him speak for himself.
In his correspondence, published after his decease, he
leaves no room for doubt as to his opinions. And here, as we shall find occasion to quote from his own writings, it may be well to notice a remark made by our author on the subject of some of those writings. Professor Tucker informs us in his preface of what was well known before, that the publication of many of the letters in the four volumes of Mr. Jefferson's correspondence was singularly indiscreet; he also tells us, that Mr. Thomas Jefferson Randolph, grandson and executor of Mr. J. is alone responsible for their publication, and intimates that his own book is, in part at least, occasioned by the injuries which it is apprehended Mr. Jefferson's name and memory may have sustained by the indiscretion of his descendant. Now it must be confessed that he is in an unhappy predicament whose own letters render needful the interposition of a friendly biographer to shield his character from censure. Most writers have been glad to enrich their pages with the original letters of those whose lives they were portraying: there is alway a freshness and freedom from constraint about them which afford the most satisfactory illustrations of character; but in the view of professor Tucker, the case seems to be otherwise with respect to Mr. Jefferson, and doubtless there is a sufficient reason for it. But as the letters are published, we shall use them when necessary for our purpose, because we are at a loss to perceive any cause for declining to do so. They are before the world, and are now the world's property; and we are simple enough to think that whether writing for the public, or to a private friend, Mr. Jefferson was equally under obligations to write truly. We understand not that system of ethics which justifies misrepresentation, because it is made in a private letter to a single correspondent, unless indeed friendship be an excuse for falsehood. We take it for granted therefore, that Mr. Jefferson meant to be believed in what he wrote; and indeed his biographer himself informs us that he probably wished these very letters “to be carefully preserved as memorials of his thoughts and feelings.” Our business at present is with “his thoughts and feelings” for these show his true character, and therefore we are glad to learn from any source what they were.
On the subject of Christianity, he has been explicit enough. In a letter to William Short, he informs him that he is not “with Jesus in all his doctrines. I am a materialist; (says he) he takes the side of Spiritualism : he preaches the efficacy of repentance towards forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it &c. &c."* And in a subsequent letter to the same individual he thus speaks of Christ : * Jefferson's Correspondence, vol. iv. p. 320.
VOL. I.-NO. I,