The author speaks also about the decay of oratory, as arising not only from absence of political freedom but also from the corruption of morals, which together destroy that high spirit which generates the Sublime. Thus the treatise is clearly centred in the burning controversy which raged in the 1st century AD in Latin literature. If Petronius pointed out excess of rhetoric and the pompous, unnatural techniques of the schools of eloquence as the causes of decay, Tacitus was nearer to Longinus in thinking that the root of this decadence was the establishment of Princedom, or Empire, which, though it brought stability and peace, also gave rise to censorship and brought an end to freedom of speech. Thus oratory became merely an exercise in style.
My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once my admirationand my pity to an astonishing degree. How can I see so noble a creaturedestroyed by misery without feeling the most poignant grief? He is so gentle,yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated, and when he speaks, although his wordsare culled with the choicest art, yet they flow with rapidity and unparalleledeloquence.
My unfortunate guest regards me with the tenderest compassion. He endeavours tofill me with hope and talks as if life were a possession which he valued. Hereminds me how often the same accidents have happened to other navigators whohave attempted this sea, and in spite of myself, he fills me with cheerfulauguries. Even the sailors feel the power of his eloquence; when he speaks,they no longer despair; he rouses their energies, and while they hear his voicethey believe these vast mountains of ice are mole-hills which will vanishbefore the resolutions of man. These feelings are transitory; each day ofexpectation delayed fills them with fear, and I almost dread a mutiny caused bythis despair.
Nor was Jefferson alone in this ethical stance. Similar views were echoed (although far less fervently) by John Adams as early as the 1780s, and even by Benjamin Franklin, whose favorable view of the "artificial crafts" was that of a highly urbanized republican artisan-of a printer turned propagandist. For our purposes, what makes Jefferson's views unique is the extent to which he exalted the virtues of nature as such. He speaks to us not only in the traditional language of "natural law," but in a more aesthetic vernacular that reveals his appreciation of the mutual enhancement of the natural world and labor. The Biblical injunction of hard labor in the fields as penance is replaced by an ecological vision of virtuous labor as freedom. The husbandman "looking up to heaven" or down to his "own soil" is the imagery of ecology, not of political economy. 2b1af7f3a8