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Thomas Jefferson - A Character Sketch
Jefferson and the Jockey
by Ellis, Edward S. (A.M.)


"Jefferson's favorite exercise was riding. He was a judge of a horse, and rode a very good one.

"One day, during his presidential term, he was riding somewhere in the neighborhood of Washington, when there came up a cross road, a well-known jockey and dealer in horse-flesh, whose name we will call Jones.

"He did not know the President, but his professional eye was caught, in a moment, by the noble steed he rode.

"Coming up with an impudent boldness characteristic of the man, he accosted the rider, and forthwith began talking in the slang of his trade, about the horse, his points, his age, and his value, and expressed a readiness to 'swap' horses.

"Mr. Jefferson gave him brief replies, and civilly declined all offers of exchange.

"The fellow offered boot, and pressed and increased his bids, as the closer he looked at the stranger's steed, the better he liked him.

"All his offers were refused with a coolness that nettled him.

"He then became rude, but his vulgarity made as little impression as his money, for Jefferson had the most perfect command of his temper, and no man could put him in a passion.

"The jockey wanted him to show the animal's gait, and urged him to trot with him for a wager. But all in vain.

"At length, seeing that the stranger was no customer, and utterly impracticable, he raised his whip and struck Mr. Jefferson's horse across the flank, setting him off in a sudden gallop, which would have brought a less accomplished rider to the ground.

"At the same time he put spurs to his own beast, hoping for a race. Jefferson kept his seat, reined in his restive steed, and put an equally effective rein upon his own temper.

"The jockey wondered; but impudently turned it off with a laugh, and still keeping by the side of his new acquaintance, began talking politics. Being a staunch Federalist, he commenced to launch out against 'Long Tom,' and the policy of his administration.

"Jefferson took his part in the conversation, and urged some things in reply.

"Meanwhile they had ridden into the city, and were making their way along Pennsylvania avenue. At length they came opposite the gate of the presidential mansion.

"Here Mr. Jefferson reined up, and courteously invited the man to enter.

"The jockey raised his eye-brows, and asked—

" 'Why, do you live here?'

" 'Yes,' was the simple reply.

" 'Why, stranger, what the deuce might be your name?'

" 'My name is Thomas Jefferson.'

"Even the jockey's brass turned pale—when, putting spurs to his nag, he exclaimed—

" 'And my name is Richard Jones, and I'm ok!'

"Saying which, he dashed up the avenue at double quick time, while the President looked after him with a smile, and then rode into the gate."

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