Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume III by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume III by  Mara L. Pratt

Jefferson and Randolph

Here is an anecdote of Jefferson and Randolph, told by an old Virginia senator.:

"When I was a boy of nine or ten I often dined with my father at Monticello. Jefferson was a lonely man, the beauty and purity of whose family relations have been only recently made known in his biography by his niece. He took great pride in Monticello. Wanting a Chinese gong for the clock tower, in order to certainly secure it, he sent by three different vessels going to China. As it happened, each vessel brought a gong, and one he sent to my father.

"I finally presented it to the Staunton fire department. When, in those troublous days, we were melting up bells into cannon, that was also sent, but was returned as too valuable a souvenir to be destroyed.

"I did not like John Randolph. He was the most spiteful of men. If he was witty, his wit always left a sting. When I was a young man I went down to Richmond. Randolph was then in the Assembly. Charles Fenton Russell, a fine, genial man, was just concluding an address, saying, 'I am sorry to have been obliged to consume so much of the time of my fellow-members.'

" 'So am I,' squeaked out Randolph, in his high, shrill voice.

"But he did not always get the best of it. Daniel Sheffey was a little Dutch shoemaker in one of the western counties, who showed such ability that some influential person interested in him had him taught to read; he afterwards studied law and became one of the most brilliant and prominent men in the State. He and Randolph were in Congress together.

"Randolph was intensely aristocratic, and felt no small contempt for the Dutch shoemaker. One day in Congress, Sheffey made a fine speech, and one in which he had shown no small degree of humor.

"This was more than Randolph could bear. He got up and in the most elaborate manner began to compliment Sheffey on his convincing logic; but added, 'Let my honorable friend keep out of the field of humor, in which his powers have not fitted him to shine.'

"Quick as a flash Sheffey was on his feet. 'The honorable member is right,' he said; 'and since he never trenches on my province, I will hereafter never intrude on his.' "

"To know Sheffey's appearance is necessary to appreciate the force of his quick retort on the house, for he had a little head, an enormous paunch, little short legs, and resembled more than anything else a human frog."

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