Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Democracy
This above Video is a Documentary of Thomas Jefferson
Shadwell- Virginia; Peter and Jane Rudolph Jefferson were married to one another and were extremely rich. Peter was a successful planter whereas Jane was from a prominent family from Virginia. On April 13th 1743, the rich and well established couple was blessed with a boy. This was Thomas Jefferson. He was the third child of Peter and Jane, but he was also the eldest son of his parents. Peter died in 1757 and all of his plantation and holdings trickled down to Thomas Jefferson.
From 1760 to 1762, Thomas Jefferson attained education from College of William and Mary in Williamsburg Virginia. It is said that he used to study for 15 hours and practice violin for 3 hours every day. Later he went to study law under George Wythe as there were no law schools back then. Jefferson graduated by 1762. By 1767 Thomas Jefferson started working as a lawyer and represented small scale planters involved in land claims and titles.
In 1768, Thomas Jefferson made the decision to build his home on the mountain top near Shadwell which he inherited from his father after he died in 1757. The house he build was named Monticello which means little mountain.
The same year he also decided to enroll himself as a candidate for the House of Burgnesses. This was a perfect decision taken by Thomas Jefferson as he now started his career in politics and also had a dream home of his own which was a huge achievement at the age of 25.
After a few years, Thomas Jefferson got married in the year 1772 to Martha Wayles Skelton or Martha Jefferson. Martha was a young widow, but a widow with a huge dowry which expanded the property and holdings of Thomas Jefferson twice in context of land and slaves.
He also released a pamphlet: “A summary view of the Rights of British American” in 1774. It had a clear idea that British Parliament should have no rights to exercise authority over the American Colonies. Although he was formidable legal scholar, but he was believed to be a shy and exceedingly sincere man.
The reputation and power of Thomas Jefferson increased immensely when he rode to Philadelphia on 20th June 1775. He was there to address the issue and give his views about world equality. But ironically he was there with 3 slaves of his which made him a Paradoxical Hero.
But just the next year, Thomas Jefferson did something no one ever imagined. On 11th June 1776, Thomas Jefferson with other American heroes like John Adams and Benjamin Franklin started working and wrote formal statement of reasons why it was better for America to end all ties and have a break with the Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson was the draftsman of this statement. This statement was called Declaration of Independence and it was directly addressed to George III.
From July 3rd to 4th, Congress decided and edited almost one fifth of the written contents of the Declaration of Independence but a paragraph remained untouched. This paragraph turned to be the basis of every liberal movement thereafter in America. The Paragraph stated:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Although he was highly respected for his efforts but even after such hard work, he was not known by the American public till later years.
October 1776, Thomas Jefferson moved back to Virginia and worked on reforms of the state’s law and legal code to align them with the principles of American Revolution. He sought and secured abolition of primogeniture. He also worked on the education reform to provide education to every class of the society. He also advocated a law prohibiting any religious establishment and requiring complete separation of church and state.
Later, he was elected as Governor of Virginia in the year 1779, but just next year it was infiltrated by British. Unfortunately Virginia was defenseless and Jefferson left. This was criticized to the maximum by the public and local press.
Another wave of pain hits Thomas Jefferson as his wife Martha died in 1782 while she was in labor. Jefferson then decided to take care of his family and never to abandon his family ever again. But this promise did not last for long.
December 1782, Jefferson decided to serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He then put his heart and soul in putting forward the principles that American territories in the west should not be treated as colonies. He wanted these territories to enter the Union which provided equal rights and status after a certain conditions were met.
However, death of Martha was still effecting Jefferson and he decided to move to France and replace Franklin. While he was in Paris for 5 years he did not gain much in sense of his professional career. Meanwhile, America was going in debt because of the war. At the same time, Britain was still controlling 80% of American international trades. It was at this moment when Jefferson came to a decision to establish an independent market for American tobacco and reopen French ports.
He also helped John Adams in attaining a loan of $400000 from Dutch bankers. Although John Adams was directly responsible for securing this loan, but it was Jefferson because of which the relations with European countries were excellent so much so, that the loan was possible.
These 5 years in Paris were quite important in Jefferson’s personal life. He indulged himself in art, architecture, food, and wine, and developed a liking towards the Parisian culture. He even called for his daughters Martha (Patsy) and Maria (Polly) to Paris. He later got them placed in a convent so they could learn about female etiquette and enforce a patriarchal distance.
Jefferson also got enchanted by an Anglo-Italian woman named Maria Cosway. Both used to tour Parisian gardens, art shows, and museums. He was also rumored to be physically involved with Sally Hemmings in 1778. It was believed she was one of the young slaves of Thomas Jefferson. This is another reason why Thomas Jefferson is seen as a paradoxical hero as at that time he denounced blacks as biologically inferior.
Jefferson then returned to America in 1789. This time, he was serving directly under President George Washington as his secretary. While he was still the secretary of George Washington, there was a debate going in the cabinet regarding the relations of America and other European countries. This is where Alexander Hamilton wanted Pro- English policies for America and Thomas Jefferson wanted Pro-French policies.
In views of Hamilton, Jefferson was favoring the French. On the other hand, Jefferson believed that Hamilton was only favoring the rich and not focusing on the overall welfare of America. Furthermore, Jefferson was still in favor of the French at the time of French Revolution believing this is only temporary and the things will change for good.
The views and thought process of Jefferson did not change even after time and he was head strong in his beliefs. He even opposed the Neutrality Act and later opposed the Jay Treaty in 1795. He believed doing so, the Americans are making a pact with British and betraying their own French brethren.
When Thomas Jefferson served as the vice president in 1797 to 1801, John Adams was the president. He even worked behind the scenes to undermine John Adam’s efforts to sustain neutrality and blamed the Quasi-war on him in the year 1798.
Jefferson’s career in 1790s was a constant ideological conflict. While Alexander Hamilton was trying to build the financial strength and financial structures for America, Jefferson believed that they were planning to adapt the exact same policies as the British and George III which they all helped in overthrowing. All the important decisions like creation of National Bank, location of National Capital, Whiskey Rebellion, and passage of Jay treaty were all in this decade.
But now was the time when Thomas Jefferson achieved something so unexpected that the whole nation was surprised. Even after all the comments and opposition faced because of his beliefs and thought process, he achieved something major in 1801 to 1809. He got elected as president not once but twice in this time period. He managed to become the president of America for 2 times in a row.
At his inauguration as the third President, he even broke the tradition of going to the ceremony by a horse carriage by choosing to take a walk. This shocked the public and press but Thomas Jefferson has always been one of those American Icons who have always surprised the nation.
April 1803, Thomas Jefferson again marked his name in History by the Louisiana Purchase. About 800,000 miles of land was purchased by Thomas Jefferson which increased the size of America to almost double of it. This land was exceeding from Mississippi River to Rocky Mountain and Gulf of Mexico.
Thomas Jefferson also sent his most trusted private secretary Meriwether Lewis to an expedition to discover what all is reachable to America. This helped not just America, but also helped the world a lot in gaining the knowledge about the geographical conditions and status of the land. This expedition lasted for two years, from 1804 to 1806. This was the biggest achievement in the professional life of Thomas Jefferson. But just like any other human being, Thomas Jefferson needed rest as well.
After the completion of his second term as a President, Thomas Jefferson now decided to retire. He now moved back to Monticello. After his retirement, he enjoyed the company of friends and family. By now, Martha was also married and had 12 children.
Jefferson preferred to stay at Monticello and host parties with gathering of 50 to 60 people daily. This also pushed him to build a separate house for himself. 90 miles away from Monticello, Jefferson constructed his second home called Poplar Forest which he used to visit whenever he wished to be left alone or wanted to seclude himself from people.
Jefferson invested his time in arts, music, gardens, and long walks. He also helped in finding University of Virginia at Charlottesville which he believed was his academic village. Time passed by and Jefferson was slowly walking towards the end of his days.
Thomas Jefferson was invited to present a speech on the 50th Independence Day of America, but he declined as he was not feeling healthy enough to be there. He apologized for not being there, yet he gave a statement for the same to be addressed in his absence. He said:
“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.… All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of men. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
4th July, 1826, Thomas Jefferson bid farewell to the world and marked his name in history yet again by crossing the oblivion on the 50th Independence Day of America. The nation was filled with waves of emotions. Same evening, another great personality left the world just after Thomas Jefferson. That was John Adams. Although Adams and Jefferson had a lot of conflict in their life, but they both died on the same day and left both public and government in shock and despair.
But just like other American Icons and Founding Fathers of America, Thomas Jefferson too left behind a huge debt for his family. When Jefferson passed away he was in debt of $100000. In today’s world it would be equivalent to several million dollars. To recover this debt all the holdings and properties of Thomas Jefferson were auctioned, even Monticello and Poplar Forest. Although he tried his best to attain some of his property and to pass it down to Martha and her children but he was not able to make it happen.
But even today, America remembers Thomas Jefferson as a national hero and an American icon. He is even imprinted and engraved on the US Nickels. He is also one of the four carved in the Mount Rushmore. A memorial was also made specially in his honor named Jefferson Memorial in Washington. Not just in America, but he is also well respected in France. There are many statues in his honor all over France. How he decided to live his life, no matter how controversial or how full of conflict it was, he is respected and loved for his hard ships and love for America. It is often said, we need a strong character who thinks out of the box to bring out the best in people, and Thomas Jefferson was just that personality in the history of America.
Time Period : March 1797- March 1801
Served Under : John Adams
Predecessor : John Adams
Successor : Aaron Burr
Time Period : March 1790- December 1793
Served Under : George Washington
Successor : Edmund Randolph
Time Period : May 1785- September 1789
Appointed By : Confederation Congress
Served Under : Benjamin Franklin
Successor : William Short
Time Period : May 1784- May 1786
Appointed By : Confederation Congress
Successor : Post Discontinued
Time Period : June 1782- May 1784
Predecessor : James Madison
Successor : Richard Lee
Time Period : June 1779- June 1781
Predecessor : Patrick Henry
Successor : William Fleming
Second Term : December 1781- December 1781
Predecessor : Isaac Davis
Successor : James Mark
First Term : June October 1776- May 1779
Predecessor : Charles Lewis
Successor : George Gilmer
Time Period : May 1769- June 1775
Predecessor : Edward Carter, post was discontinued after 1775.
Successor : Albemarle County
|Academic references on Thomas Jefferson|
|1. “The Papers of Thomas Jefferson”: This project, based at Princeton University, publishes Jefferson’s papers and correspondence, offering valuable insights into his life and contributions.|
|2. “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” by Jon Meacham: This Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by Jon Meacham provides a well-researched and comprehensive study of Jefferson’s life and political career.|
|3. “American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson” by Joseph J. Ellis: In this book, Joseph J. Ellis examines the complexities of Jefferson’s character and the contradictions within his beliefs and actions.|
|4. “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History” by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger: This book delves into Jefferson’s actions during the Barbary Wars and its impact on American history.|
|5. “The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson” by Charles B. Sanford: This academic work explores Jefferson’s religious beliefs and his views on the separation of church and state.|
|6. “Thomas Jefferson’s Quran: Islam and the Founders” by Denise A. Spellberg: This book examines Jefferson’s fascination with the Quran and the debates surrounding religious freedom during his time.|
|7. “Thomas Jefferson and the Science of Republican Government: A Political Biography of Notes on the State of Virginia” by David Tucker: This scholarly work analyzes Jefferson’s influential book “Notes on the State of Virginia” and its role in shaping early American political thought.|
|Quotes By Thomas Jefferson|
|“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”|
|“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”|
|“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”|
|“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”|
|“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”|
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