Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Charles F. Welles’s Poem on Thomas Jefferson, [ca. 11 August 1809]


Charles F. Welles’s Poem on Thomas Jefferson

[ca. 11 Aug. 1809]

talents he had, exquisitely1 design’d
To rule the worlds of action and of mind;
Talents the subtle line of right2 to draw,
And pond’ring Senates found his judgment law.
In vain fell envy gathers all her bands,
In vain delusion lifts a thousand hands,
Beyond their reach3 his measures rise sublime,
Their proof experience, and their champion time.
 His was the fortune, in a dangerous day,
To lead a youthful nation on its way;
A pamper’d nation, proud, disdaining4 rule,
As yet untutor’d in misfortune’s school,
Mad with division—while5 ambition’s eye
Fiery and restless, watch’d its moment nigh.
His was the glory, slander’d and reviled.
Jeer’d as he spoke, and thwarted as he toil’d,
While war assumed its last and mightiest forms,
Upright and firm to walk between the storms.
 Stand forth, reviler! and assert thy6 claim
To weigh his wisdom, and denounce his fame.
Art thou superior? Is it thine to rear
A nation’s standard in its7 awful sphere?
Hast thou a mind all adequate and vast,
To pierce the future, comprehend the past,
View every motive, give each8 cause its weight,
And trace effect abroad from state to state?
Art thou the sage to guard thro’ every hour
The bounds of right from fraudulence and pow’r?
To rise serene, while thunders round are hurl’d,
And stand among the mighty of the world?
 He to no science, to no art confin’d
Prolong’d his journey thro’9 the realms of mind,
Thro’ all their scenery eager still to rove
And pluck a laurel forth from every grove.
Fame with a voice of exultation sweet
Salutes pale learning in his cool retreat.
On the good10 statesman show’rs her honors down,
Clad in a glory brighter than renown.
But he, the sage whose intellectual reach
Pervades both regions and excels in each,
The son of science, and the sire of state
Reviler! say is not that mortal great?
Millions pronounce him worthy of their praise,
Child! is it thine to rob him of his bays.
 By slander shadow’d, and assail’d by hate,
O sacred virtue! this must be thy fate,
Till human merit has on earth reward,
And God’s right arm of thunder for its guard.
But shall the muse, the noble muse, combine,
Warm every thought, and polish every line,
To force bright truth for kinder realms to fly,
And bid young genius bow him down and die?
 Is there no glory for the living great?
No ray to cheer the gathering gloom of fate?
Alone on11 churchyards must the laurel bloom,
Grow but on graves, and darken round the tomb?
 There is a glory for the living great,
A ray to cheer the gathering gloom of fate,12
There is a wreath with hoary age shall grow,
Defy the storm, and thicken round his brow!
 There is a triumph, prouder still than fame;
The great man’s triumph—human nature’s shame.
The foes, the slanders, that assail his seat,
The hosts of envy storming round his feet.

Printed in Wilkes-Barre Luzerne Federalist, 11 Aug. 1809; at head of text: “for the federalist. Vide this paper of July 21.” Variant version in unidentified printed source (undated clipping in DLC: TJ Papers, ser. 7; poem entitled “Thomas Jefferson”; with heading of “No 2” and two corrections in Welles’s hand). Reprinted, generally following DLC clipping, in Washington National Intelligencer, 24 Nov. 1809.

Charles Miner responded with a poetic rebuttal that interspersed portions of Welles’s piece with his own sarcastic rejoinder (Luzerne Federalist, 18 Aug. 1809).

1DLC clipping: “had, in nature’s skill.”

2Luzerne Federalist: “aught.” DLC clipping: “right.”

3DLC clipping: “Far beyond reach.”

4Luzerne Federalist: “disdaiding.”

5DLC clipping: “and”.

6National Intelligencer: “the.”

7DLC clipping: “the,” corrected to “its” by Welles and thus elsewhere.

8DLC clipping: “its,” corrected to “each” by Welles and thus elsewhere.

9DLC clipping: “o’er.”

10National Intelligencer: “great.”

11DLC clipping: “in.”

12DLC clippping: “There is a ray to gild the eve of fate.”

Index Entries

  • Luzerne Federalist (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.); prints poems on TJ search
  • poetry; sent to TJ search
  • Welles, Charles Fisher; praises TJ search
  • Welles, Charles Fisher; “Poem on Thomas Jefferson,” search
  • “Poem on Thomas Jefferson” (Welles) search