Sunday, November 17, 2013

Little clues, large truths

Small details can yield real insight into who and what a person is. In a book of reminiscences about life in Washington, DC, compiled by Katharine Graham, I read that one Washington socialite summed up President Herbert Hoover by the fact that, while listening to a performance of a Beethoven sonata, he absent-mindedly clinked the change in his pocket.

Making my way through John Ferling's excellent Jefferson and Hamilton and the Rivalry that Shaped America, I read that Jefferson had Hamilton to dinner one evening when they were both new members of Washington's first cabinet and were just getting to know each other. Hamilton noticed portraits of John Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, and Sir Francis Bacon hanging in Jefferson's house and asked who they were.

"The three greatest men that the world has ever produced," Jefferson answered.

"The greatest man who ever lived was Julius Caesar," Hamilton replied.

At once, Jefferson saw how great the gulf was that separated him from his soon-to-be antagonist.

© Michael Huggins, 2013. All rights reserved.

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