Wednesday, July 22, 2015

the last book I ever read (Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, excerpt eight)

from Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow:

Hamilton may have believed that Jefferson’s contributions to the nation paled beside his own and not just because of his own work on behalf of the Constitution. Besides handling Washington’s correspondence, Hamilton had spent five years in combat, exposing himself to enemy fire on many occasions. Jefferson had never set foot on a battlefield. Elected Virginia governor in 1779, he found the job irksome and wanted to resign, prompting Edmund Pendleton to complain to Madison, “It is a little cowardly to quit our posts in a bustling time!” When the turncoat Benedict Arnold burned and pillaged Richmond in January 1781, the capital stood defenseless despite warnings from Washington to Jefferson. Governor Jefferson fled in the early hours, giving up Richmond without a shot and allowing munitions and government records to fall into British hands. In June, in Jefferson’s waning hours as governor, the British pounced on Charlottesville and almost captured the Virginia Assembly gathered there. Then, when word came that a British cavalry was approaching Monticello, Jefferson scrambled off on horseback into the woods. He was accused of dereliction of duty and neglecting the transfer of power to his successor. Though the Virginia Assembly exonerated him of any wrongdoing, Hamilton wasn’t the only one who suspected Jefferson of cowardice. He later wrote mockingly that when real danger appeared, “the governor of the ancient dominion dwindled into the poor, timid philosopher and, instead of rallying his brave countrymen, he fled safety from a few light-horsemen and shamefully abandoned his trust!”

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