Thomas Jefferson

Summary

Thomas Jefferson (July 4, 1826) was the third president of the United States of America, holding office between 1801 and 1809. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the nation.

His eminence comes from the fact that he was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776. Jefferson was one of the most influential Founding Fathers, known for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States. He anticipated the vision of the United States of America as the backing of a great “empire of liberty” that would promote democracy and the struggle against British imperialism.

Major events that took place during his presidency include the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806), as well as escalating tensions with Britain and France, which led to war with Britain in 1812, after he left office.

As a political philosopher, Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment and knew many intellectual leaders in Britain and France. He idealized the independent small farmer-owner as an example of republican virtues, distrusted cities and financiers, favored states’ rights and a strictly limited federal government. Jefferson supported the separation of church and state and was the author of Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom (1779, 1786). He was the eponym of Jeffersonian democracy and leader and co-founder with James Madison of the Democratic-Republican Party, which dominated American politics for 25 years. Jefferson was the governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War (1779-1781), the first secretary of state (1789-1793) and second vice president of the United States (1797-1801).

A scholar and polymath, Jefferson would also become known, among other things, as a horticulturist, political leader, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, musician, inventor and founder of the University of Virginia, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. When President John F. Kennedy welcomed the 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962, he said, “I believe this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and human learning ever assembled in the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” To date, Jefferson is the first president to serve two terms and not veto a single congressional resolution. He died on July 4, 1826, coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and a few hours before his predecessor, electoral rival and friend John Adams. Jefferson has been consistently ranked by pundits as one of America’s greatest presidents.

Childhood

Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia, on April 13, 1743, to a well-to-do family, the third of ten children (two of whom were stillborn) of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph, who owned a plantation named after the town. He was the third of ten children (two of whom were stillborn) of the marriage of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph, owners of a plantation named after the town. His mother, Jane Randolph, was the daughter of Isham Randolph, a sea captain and former planter, a first cousin of Peyton Randolph, a descendant of English and Scottish aristocracy. Jefferson’s father, Peter Jefferson, was a planter and surveyor of Albemarle County, Virginia. He was possibly of Welsh descent, although this is unclear. When Colonel William Randolph, an old friend of Peter Jefferson, died in 1745, Peter assumed the executor and charge of William Randolph’s personal estate at Tuckahoe, as well as his young son, Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. That same year, the Jeffersons moved to Tuckahoe where they would remain for the next seven years before returning to their home in Albemarle. Peter Jefferson was appointed colonel of the province, a very important position at the time.

Education

In 1752, Jefferson began attending a local school run by William Douglas, a Scotsman. At the age of nine, Jefferson began studying Latin, Greek and French. In 1757, when he was 14, his father died. Jefferson inherited about 5000 acres (20 km²) of land and dozens of slaves. He built his home there, which eventually became known as Monticello.

After his father’s death, he studied with the Reverend James Maury from 1758 to 1760. The school was near Fredericksville Parish, near Gordonsville, Virginia, 19 km from Shadwell, and Jefferson moved in with Maury’s family. There he received a classical education and studied history and science.

In 1760, at the age of 16, he attended mathematics at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg. There he saw classes with Professor William Small, who introduced Jefferson to the writings of British empiricists such as John Locke, Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton (Jefferson called them “the three greatest men the world has ever created.”) He also perfected his French, carried his Greek grammar book wherever he went, practiced the violin and read Tacitus and Homer. A great and diligent student, Jefferson displayed an avid curiosity in all fields and, in keeping with family tradition, studied about fifteen hours a day. His closest college friend, John Page of Rosewell, reported that Jefferson “could detach himself from his dearest friends to fly to his studies.”

In college, Jefferson was a member of a secret organization called the F.H.C. Society. There he stayed in the building known today as the Sir Christopher Wren Building, attending communal meals in the Great Hall and also prayers in the Wren Chapel in the morning and evening. Jefferson frequently attended the lavish parties of Royal Governor Francis Fauquier, where he played the violin and where he also developed an early fondness for wines. After graduating in 1762 with high honors, he passed the examination with law professor George Wythe that allowed him to be admitted as a Virginia lawyer in 1767.

After college

On October 1, 1765, the eldest of Jefferson’s sisters, Jane, died at the age of 25. Jefferson fell into a period of rigorous mourning, being already depressed by the absence of his other sisters, Mary, who had been married for several years to Thomas Bolling, and Martha, who had married in early July to Dabney Carr. Both had moved to their husbands’ residences, leaving at home their younger siblings Elizabeth, Lucy, and the two young children. Jefferson was not comforted by the presence of his other sisters, as they did not provide him with the same intellectual stimulation that his older sisters had given him.

Jefferson carried many cases as a lawyer in colonial Virginia, listing over a hundred cases annually between 1768 and 1773 in the General Court by himself, while still participating as an attorney in hundreds of other cases. Jefferson had as clients members of Virginia’s elite families, including members of his mother’s family, the Randolphs.

Monticello

In 1768 Thomas Jefferson began construction of Monticello, a neoclassical mansion. Since his childhood, Jefferson had always wanted to build a beautiful home on a mountaintop within sight of Shadwell. Jefferson went into enormous debt at Monticello, spending lavishly in order to create a neoclassical setting based on his study of the architect Andrea Palladio.

Monticello was also Thomas Jefferson’s slave plantation. Over an enduring period of seventy years, Thomas Jefferson owned more than 600 slaves. Many of the slaves on the Monticello plantation intermarried and had children. Jefferson paid only a few of his trusted slaves in important positions or for performing difficult tasks such as cleaning chimneys and baths. Fragmentary records indicate a rich spiritual life in Monticello’s slave quarters, which incorporated both Christian and African traditions. Although there is no record of Jefferson commissioning slaves to learn grammar, several enslaved men at Monticello could read and write.

Towards the Revolution

In addition to practicing law, Jefferson represented Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Burgesses beginning in 1769. Following the passage of the Intolerable Acts by the British Parliament in 1774, he wrote a series of resolutions against that legislation, which were expanded into his work entitled “A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” his first published work. Criticism of the Intolerable Acts had focused on legal and constitutional issues, but Jefferson offered the radical idea that the colonists had the natural right to govern themselves. Jefferson also argued that Parliament was the legislature of Great Britain alone and had no legislative authority in the colonies. The document was intended to serve as instructions for the Virginia delegation to the First Continental Congress, but Jefferson’s ideas proved too radical for that body. Nevertheless, the pamphlet helped create the theoretical framework for American independence and marked Jefferson as one of the most thoughtful spokesmen for the patriots.

Thomas Jefferson was appointed in June 1775 as a delegate from Virginia to the Second Continental Congress shortly after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.

The Second Continental Congress met for the first time in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775, with many of the 56 delegates who attended the First Congress, including the president (Peyton Randolph) and secretary (Charles Thomson). There were also notable additions such as Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and John Hancock of Massachusetts.

Two weeks after the sessions began, Peyton Randolph was called back to Virginia to preside over the House of Citizens and was replaced by Thomas Jefferson, who joined Congress several weeks later.

On June 11, 1776, Jefferson was appointed along with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman to a five-man committee charged with the task of drafting a declaration of independence to accompany Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence.

The commission asked Jefferson to write a first draft of the declaration, probably because of Jefferson’s reputation as a writer. Such requests were commonplace at the time, and no one thought it was a responsible assignment. Jefferson drafted the declaration in consultation with other members of the commission, drawing on his own proposal for the Virginia Constitution and also on the draft written by George Mason for the Virginia Declaration of Rights, among other sources.

Once completed, Jefferson showed the first draft to the committee of five, who made some changes to the document and then presented it to Congress on June 28, 1776. The title of the document was “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled”.

After voting in favor of the resolution of independence presented by Richard Henry Lee on July 2, Congress turned its attention to the declaration. For two days the document presented by the committee was debated, several amendments were made, deleting almost a quarter of the text and eliminating references to slavery, and it was approved on July 4, 1776.

Two weeks later, on July 19, Congress voted on a resolution to create a final version of the Declaration to be printed on parchment to be signed by all members of Congress. This was accomplished on August 2, 1776.

Jefferson remained in Philadelphia until September 2, 1776, when his successor in Congress arrived in the city and he resigned his seat to return to Virginia.

State Legislator

In September 1776, Jefferson returned to Virginia and was elected to the new state assembly. During his tenure in the House, Jefferson proposed reforming and updating Virginia’s system of laws to reflect its new status as a democratic state. He drafted 126 bills in three years, including laws to abolish primogeniture, establish freedom of religion, and streamline the judicial system. In 1778, the “Bill for the general diffusion of knowledge” introduced by Jefferson, led to several academic reforms at his alma mater, including the elective system of study (the first by an American university).

Jefferson also proposed a bill in the state legislature to eliminate capital punishment for all crimes except murder and treason. His effort to reform the death penalty law was defeated by a single vote and crimes such as rape continued to be punishable by death in Virginia until the 1960s. He succeeded in getting a law passed to ban the importation of slaves, but not slavery itself.

Governor of Virginia

Jefferson was governor of the new Commonwealth of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. As governor, he oversaw the move of the state capital from Williamsburg to Richmond in 1780 during the Revolutionary War.

During his tenure, British troops invaded Virginia on two separate occasions. In December 1780, General Benedict Arnold, under Henry Clinton, led a force of 1600 troops into Virginia and seized the state capital, Richmond, by surprise. He then launched a lightning campaign throughout the state, destroying all supply houses, foundries and factories. On the one hand, this action put the Virginia militia out of commission, but at the same time Arnold was forced to retreat to the coastal city of Portsmouth for reinforcements or else be evacuated.

Such reinforcements arrived on May 20, 1781, when General Cornwallis entered Virginia across the border from the south with an army of four thousand men. His entry into Virginia was almost triumphant, he first unified the British forces, formerly under the command of Phillips and Benedict Arnold, then established his headquarters and began his plan to subdue the state.

Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson, along with other Virginia leaders, came close to being captured in June 1781 by Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who was in command of the British army cavalry. Tarleton conducted several raids in Virginia, such as in Charlottesville, in an attempt to capture Thomas Jefferson and damage as much of the Virginia assembly as possible. The attack was partially thwarted, as a horseman named Jack Jouett rode 40 miles on horseback at night to warn Jefferson and the legislators of Tarleton’s intended attack. All but seven of the legislators escaped, but Tarleton destroyed arms and ammunition and succeeded in his goal of dispersing the constituted Virginia Assembly.

This action brought Thomas Jefferson’s public disapproval and set back his prospects for his political future. Shortly thereafter he was accused of not having done enough to ensure the safety of the city of Richmond, although a commission of inquiry appointed to settle the controversy exonerated him of all charges. Even so, he was not re-elected to any Virginia Assembly seat. He was, however, appointed by the state legislature as a congressman in 1783.

Member of Congress

The Virginia Assembly appointed him to the Confederation Congress representing the Commonwealth on June 6, 1783, for the term to begin on November 1. In Congress, he was a member of the committee charged with fixing rates of currency exchange, and thus recommended that U.S. currency should be based on the decimal system.

Jefferson also recommended the creation of the Commission of the States, which was intended to function as the executive arm of Congress when Congress was not in session.

He left Congress when he was elected minister plenipotentiary on May 7, 1784, becoming ambassador to France in 1785.

Minister in France

Because Jefferson was serving as ambassador to France from 1785 to 1789, he was unable to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He generally supported the new Constitution despite the lack of a bill of rights, keeping himself informed of the debates through his correspondence with James Madison.

During his stay in Paris, he lived in a house on the Champs Elysees. He spent much of his time exploring the architectural sights of the city, as well as enjoying the fine arts that Paris had to offer. He became a favorite in salon culture and was a frequent guest of many of the city’s most prominent people. He and his daughters were accompanied by two slaves from the Hemings family of Monticello. Jefferson paid for James Hemings to be trained as a French chef (Hemings later accompanied Jefferson as head chef when he was in Philadelphia). Sally Hemings, James’ sister, had accompanied Jefferson’s youngest daughter abroad. Some speculate that Jefferson might have begun a long-term relationship with Sally Hemings in Paris The Hemings learned French during their time in the city.

From 1784 to 1785, Jefferson was one of the architects of trade relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussian Ambassador Friedrich Wilhelm von Thulemeyer and John Adams, both resident in The Hague, and Benjamin Franklin from Paris, were also involved in establishing relations.

Despite his many friendships with the social elite and nobility, when the French Revolution began in 1789, Jefferson sided with the revolutionaries.

Secretary of State

After returning from France, Jefferson served as George Washington’s first Secretary of State (1790-1793). Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton began to argue over national fiscal policy, especially the financing of war debts. Hamilton believed that debts should be equally shared by all and Jefferson that each state should be responsible for its own debt (Virginia had not accumulated much debt during the Revolution). In combating the Federalists, Jefferson went so far as to equate Hamilton and the rest of his followers and conservatives with royalists, who threatened to undermine republicanism.

Jefferson and James Madison founded and led the Democratic-Republican Party. He worked with Madison and his campaign manager John J. Beckley to build a national network of Republican allies that would enable them to fight the Federalists across the country.

Jefferson strongly supported France against Britain when war broke out between the two nations in 1793. The arrival in 1793 of an aggressive new French ambassador, Edmond-Charles Genet, caused a crisis with the Secretary of State. Jefferson watched Genêt attempt to violate U.S. neutrality, manipulate public opinion, even turn people against Washington, projects he helped thwart. According to Schachner, Jefferson believed that the political success of the country depended on the success of the French army in Europe.

Jefferson still clung to his sympathies with France and hoped for the success of their arms abroad and a cordial pact with them at home. He feared that a French defeat on the European battlefields would give “wonderful strength to our autocrats and would undoubtedly affect the tone of the administration of our government. Indeed, I fear that if this summer were disastrous for the French, it would dampen the energy of republicanism in our new Congress, from which I had so much hoped for reform.”

Resignation from office

In late 1793 Jefferson retired to Monticello, where he continued to orchestrate opposition to Hamilton and Washington. However, the Jay Treaty of 1794, sponsored by Hamilton, brought peace and trade with Britain, while Madison, with strong support from Jefferson, wanted, Miller says, to “strangle the old metropolis” without going to war. “It became an article of faith among Republicans that trade arms would be sufficient to make Britain acquiesce to whatever terms the United States chose to dictate.”

Vice-Presidency

Democratic-Republican presidential candidate Jefferson lost the 1796 election to his friend and then Vice President John Adams, but won enough electoral votes to become Vice President (1797-1801). While in office, he wrote a manual of parliamentary procedure, but otherwise avoided going to the Senate.

With the Quasi-War raging, an undeclared naval war with France, the Federalists under John Adams began building up the Navy and recruiting the army, which forced them to implement new taxes in preparation for war and, in the end, enact the Sedition and Alien Acts of 1798. Jefferson interpreted the new Sedition and Alien legislation as an effort to suppress Republican Democrats rather than dangerous aliens and, in fact, they were used to attack his party, with the most notable attacks coming from Matthew Lyon, a representative from Vermont. Jefferson and Madison gathered written support anonymously in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, where they declared that the federal government had no right to exercise powers not expressly delegated by the states. The Resolutions understood that if the Federal Government were to assume such powers, its acts could be nullified by a State. The rulings that were submitted were the first statements of the States’ rights theory, which later led to the concepts of nullity and interposition.

Election of 1800

Working closely with Aaron Burr of New York, Jefferson attacked mostly new taxes and ran for the Presidency in 1800. In keeping with the traditions of the time, he did not formally campaign for the office. He tied with Burr for first place in the electoral college, leaving it to the House of Representatives (where the Federalists still had some power) to decide the election.

After a long debate in the Federalist-controlled House of Representatives, Hamilton convinced his party that Jefferson would be a lesser evil against Burr, basing his argument on the fact that continuing such a scandal in the electoral process could undermine a still young regime. The issue was resolved by the House on February 17, 1801, after thirty-six rounds of voting, when Jefferson was elected President and Burr vice president. Burr’s refusal to withdraw created a bad relationship with Jefferson, who abandoned him in the 1804 nomination, after the former killed Hamilton in a duel.

However, Jefferson’s victory over Federalist John Adams in the general election was ridiculed at the time because the Electoral College was created by virtue of a three-fifths compromise of the Philadelphia Convention, which made the number of electors from the Southern States inflated due to slavery, meaning that twelve of Jefferson’s electoral votes – his margin of victory – were derived from the disenfranchised citizenry. After his election in 1800, Jefferson was ridiculed as a “Negro President,” by critics such as the Mercury and New-England Palladium of Boston writing on January 20, 1801, where they say Jefferson had the gall to celebrate his election as a victory for democracy, when he won “the temple of liberty on the shoulders of slaves.”

During Jefferson’s presidency, many federal taxes were repealed, and he attempted to base his economic policy primarily on customs revenues. He pardoned persons who had been imprisoned under the Sedition and Alien Acts of 1798, passed under John Adams, on the grounds that they were unconstitutional. Repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801 and expelled many of Adams’ “midnight judges.” He started and won the Tripoli War (1801-1805), America’s first significant foreign war, and established the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1802.

Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, despite his doubts about the constitutionality of Congress’s power to purchase land, Jefferson purchased Louisiana from France, doubling the size of the United States to 23% of the United States today. The land thus acquired amounted to 23% of the United States today, some 2,100,000 km², comprising the present states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, the area of Minnesota east of the Mississippi River, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, most of Kansas, parts of Montana, Wyoming, the territory of Colorado east of the Rocky Mountains and that of Louisiana east of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans.

The Louisiana region was occupied by France in the early 18th century. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris, which put an end to the Seven Years’ War, established that the eastern part of the Mississippi was ceded to Great Britain, while ratifying the Treaty of Fontainebleau by which France ceded the rest of Louisiana to Spain in compensation for the loss of Florida. In 1800 this territory returned to French sovereignty by the third Treaty of San Ildefonso. In 1802, however, two events occurred that President Thomas Jefferson considered hostile to the interests of the United States: the sending of French troops to New Orleans and the island of Santo Domingo to suppress uprisings that had broken out in those territories, and the suppression of the right of deposit, a privilege agreed upon some time before with American merchants to store merchandise in New Orleans until its transshipment. Jefferson sent James Monroe to Paris to collaborate with the minister plenipotentiary in France, Robert R. Livingston, in the attempt to realize one of the following four possibilities: the purchase of eastern and western Florida and New Orleans; the acquisition of New Orleans alone; the purchase of the territory on the banks of the Mississippi River to build an American port; or the acquisition in perpetuity of the navigation and warehousing rights.

Previous negotiations between Livingston and the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, failed. Later, the international situation worsened for France. The French army in Santo Domingo was decimated by a yellow fever epidemic and the uprising broke out on the island. Napoleon, determined to make the best of such a complicated situation, gave new instructions to Talleyrand, and on April 11, 1803, he surprised Monroe and Livingston with a single, non-negotiable offer: the purchase of the whole of Louisiana. Although this operation was beyond their competence, the American ambassadors accepted. At the beginning of May, three documents were signed by which France ceded Louisiana to the United States. The agreed price was $15,000,000, of which $11,250,000 was payment to France for the rights to cede the territories. The remaining $3,750,000 was used by the U.S. government to satisfy the claims of its citizens against France.

At the time of the purchase, Jefferson was questioned on the constitutionality of the acquisition of territories for not adding a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution to give it legal coverage. Nevertheless, the Louisiana acquisition was ratified by the U.S. Senate in the form of a treaty.

Lewis and Clark Expedition

In 1804, the purchase of Louisiana awakened a great interest of the population in settling in those new territories towards the west coast. Anticipating these movements, a few weeks after the purchase, Jefferson, convinced of the need for this expansion, arranged for the exploration and mapping of the unknown territory. It was to establish the claim of the United States ahead of the Europeans and to find the rumored Northwest Passage. Influenced by the exploration accounts of Le Page du Pratz in Louisiana (1763) and Captain James Cook in the Pacific (1784), Jefferson and others persuaded Congress in 1804 to appropriate $2500 (USD) for an expedition to the Pacific Ocean.

Jefferson had been thinking about such an expedition for some time, although he was concerned about the risks and dangers involved. During his time in France as minister plenipotentiary, between 1785 and 1789, he had heard of various plans to explore the northwest Pacific. In 1785, he learned that King Louis XVI of France planned to send a mission to the area, with the stated purpose of being only a scientific expedition.

Jefferson appointed Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as leaders of the Corps of Discovery (1803-1806). In the months leading up to the expedition, Jefferson tutored Lewis in the sciences of cartography, botany, natural history, mineralogy, and astronomy.

The expedition, which lasted three years-beginning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in August 1803 and ending in St. Louis, Missouri, in September 1806; see Chronology of the Lewis and Clark Expedition-obtained a wealth of scientific and geographical knowledge, including knowledge of many Indian tribes.

In addition to the Corps of Discovery, Jefferson organized three other expeditions to the west: the William Dunbar and George Hunter expedition on the Ouachita River (1804-1805), the Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis expedition (1806) on the Red River, and the Zebulon Pike expedition (1806-1807) in the Rocky Mountains and Southwest. All three obtained valuable information about the American frontier.

Controversies

In 1807, the former vice president, Aaron Burr, was tried for treason on Jefferson’s orders, but was acquitted. During the trial Chief Justice John Marshall subpoenaed Jefferson, who invoked executive privilege and claimed that as president he did not have to comply. When Marshall argued that the Constitution does not provide for the president to be any exception to obeying a court order, Jefferson backed down.

Jefferson’s reputation was damaged by the Embargo Act of 1807, which was ineffective and was repealed at the end of his second term.

In 1803, President Jefferson signed into law a bill to exclude blacks from working in the U.S. mails. Historian John Hope Franklin called that signing “an expression of wanton distrust of free blacks who had done nothing to deserve it.”

On March 3, 1807, Jefferson signed a bill against the illegal importation of slaves into the United States.

It used to be said and believed that Thomas Jefferson was the inventor of the well known “Mercury Bulb”, which is not true since the real inventor of the mercury bulb was an electrical engineer named Peter Cooper Hewitt, who was also the inventor of the mercury vapor lamp. Many people still believe that Jefferson was the inventor of the mercury light bulb since Hewitt was never interested in disproving that belief, however, many people do recognize that the inventor of this bulb was Hewitt and not Jefferson as most people think.

After leaving the Presidency, Jefferson continued to be active in public affairs. He became increasingly concerned about founding a new institution of higher education, one free from ecclesiastical influences where students could specialize in many new areas not offered at other universities. Jefferson believed that educating people was a good way to establish an organized society and believed that school should be paid for in common, so that less wealthy people could obtain student status. In a letter to Joseph Priestley in January 1800, he indicated that he had been planning to create a University for decades before its actual founding.

His dream became a reality in 1819 with the founding of the University of Virginia. After its inauguration in 1825, it was the first university to offer a full program of elective courses for its students. One of the largest building projects of that time in North America, it is notable for having its epicenter in a library rather than a church. The college chapel was not included in his original plans. Until his death, Jefferson invited the school’s students and faculty to his home.

Jefferson is widely recognized for his architectural design of the University of Virginia, an innovative design that is a representation of state sponsorship of education and agrarian democracy in the new Republic. His educational idea of creating specialized units of learning is expressed physically in the configuration of his campus plan, which he called the “Academical Village”. The individual academic units are expressed visually as distinct structures, represented by pavilions, fronted by a grassy square, with each pavilion containing classrooms, faculty office, and student home. Although unique, each is visually equal in importance to the others and are linked with a series of open-air arcades that are the facades of the student housing. Gardens and orchards are set back and surrounded by serpentine walls, affirming the importance of the agrarian lifestyle.

Its neat plan establishes a set of buildings surrounding a central rectangular courtyard, called “The Lawn,” which is flanked on either side with academic teaching units and their linking arcades. The square lawn is enclosed at one end by the library, the repository of knowledge, at the head of the space. The remaining portion in front of the library was kept open for future growth. The lawn rises gradually as a series of stepped terraces, each foot a little higher than the last, elevating the library in the most prominent position at the top, while suggesting that the Academic Village facilitates movement into the future.

Stylistically, Jefferson was an advocate of Greek and Roman styles, which he believed were more representative of American democracy by historical association. Each academic unit is designed with a two-story temple pediment facing the courtyard, with the library inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The cluster of buildings surrounding the courtyard is an unequivocal statement of architecture that inspires the importance of secular public education, while the exclusion of religious structures reinforces the principle of separation of church and state. The University’s layout and architectural treatment remain today as a paradigm for building structures to express intellectual ideas and aspirations. A survey of members of the American Institute of Architects identified Jefferson’s campus as the most significant work of architecture in the United States.

The University was conceived as the cornerstone of Virginia’s educational system. In his vision, any citizen of the Commonwealth could attend school on the sole criterion of ability.

Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. He died a few hours before John Adams, his companion in the quest for independence, then great political rival and later friend and correspondent. It is rumored that Adams made reference to Jefferson in his last words, unaware of his passing. It is generally considered that Jefferson died from a number of conditions peculiar to his old age: toxins in his blood, uremia with nephropathy, severe diarrhea and pneumonia. Problems urinating from a urinary tract infection and a symptom of kidney disease have led some to believe that Jefferson died of undiagnosed prostate cancer.

Although born into one of the wealthiest families in North America, Thomas Jefferson was deeply in debt when he died. Jefferson’s troubles began when his father-in-law died and he and his brothers-in-law quickly divided the estate before the debt was settled. They were each made responsible for the full amount owed, which turned out to be more than they expected.

Jefferson sold land before the American Revolution to pay his debts, but by the time he received payment, the paper money was worthless amid the rising inflation of the war years. General Cornwallis had devastated Jefferson’s plantations during the war, and British creditors resumed their collection efforts when the conflict ended. Jefferson suffered another financial setback when he endorsed a relative who defaulted on his debts in the financial panic of 1819. Only Jefferson’s public stature prevented him from seizing Monticello’s creditors. After his death, his estate was sold at auction. In 1831, Jefferson’s 552 acres (223 hectares) were sold to James T. Barclay for $7000, equivalent to $143,000 in today’s dollars.

Thomas Jefferson is buried at his Monticello estate in Charlottesville, Virginia. In his will, he left Monticello to the United States to be used as a school for orphans of naval officers. His epitaph was written by himself, insisting that it be written that and “not a word more,” omitting his service as Governor of Virginia, Vice-President and President. It reads as follows:

The initials O.S. are a notation for Old Style and which is a reference to the change in dating that occurred during Jefferson’s lifetime from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in the British calendar (New Style) of 1750.

In 1772, at the age of 29, Jefferson married the 23-year-old widow Martha Wayles Skelton. They had six children: Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836), Jane Randolph (1774-1775), an unnamed stillborn son (1777), Mary Jefferson Eppes (1778-1804), Lucy Elizabeth I (1780-1781), and Lucy Elizabeth II (1782-1784). Martha died on September 6, 1782 after the birth of their last child. Jefferson never remarried.

Jefferson is accused of having had a long-term intimate relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, who is believed to have been a half-sister of Jefferson’s late wife. She had six children, four of whom survived to adulthood and were released or allowed to escape. They were probably seven-eighths white by descent.

During President Jefferson’s administration the allegations were initiated by his former employee James T. Callender, after he had been denied that Jefferson was the father of several children with Hemings since his wife’s death. Twentieth century DNA testing on descendants of two of Sally Hemmings’ children indicated that a male of the same DNA as Jefferson was the father of at least one of them and probably the other as well. Other candidates would have to meet a condition that was stated in the original allegations: Thomas Jefferson was present at Monticello every time Sally became pregnant.

Callender’s original accusations were challenged because of his stated animosity toward Jefferson. Some of the “facts” he exposed turned out to be false. A letter written by 19th century biographer Henry Randall recounts an alleged conversation between him and Jefferson’s eldest grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. In this conversation Randolph claims that Sally Hemings was actually the mistress of Jefferson’s nephew, Peter Carr, and that “their relationship…was perfectly well known at Monticello.”

However, the genome of Carr’s descendants, also included in the tests, is unrelated to any of the samples.

Jefferson was a slender, tall man, approximately 6’2″ with a slender build.

The “Sage of Monticello” cultivated an image that earned him the nickname “man of the people”. Affected by a popular air, he greeted guests at the White House in house dress, robe and slippers. Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison (Jefferson’s secretary of state), and Jefferson’s daughters relaxed White House protocol and transformed formal state dinners into the most informal and fun social events. Despite being a leading advocate of freedom of the press, Jefferson sometimes quarreled with partisan newspapers.

Jefferson’s writings show that he had a great intellect and an affinity for languages. He learned Scottish Gaelic and translated Ossian, sending James Macpherson, its author, one of the originals.

As president, he discontinued the practice of giving the State of the Union address in person and sent the message to Congress in writing (the practice was eventually reinstated by Woodrow Wilson). He gave only two public speeches during his presidency. Jefferson had a lisp and preferred writing to public speaking, partly because of this. He burned all the letters between him and his wife before his death, creating a portrait of a man who could be very secretive at times. In fact, he preferred to work in the privacy of his office and not in full view of others.

Jefferson was an accomplished architect, very influential in bringing Palladianism, popular among Britain’s Whig aristocracy, to the United States. The style became associated with Enlightenment ideas of republican civic virtue and political freedom. Jefferson designed his Monticello home near Charlottesville, Virginia. Nearby is the University of Virginia, the only university founded by a U.S. president. Jefferson designed the architecture of the early buildings, as well as the original curriculum and its residential style. Monticello and the University of Virginia are one of four World Heritage Sites in the United States of America.

Jefferson also designed Poplar Forest near Lynchburg, Bedford County, Virginia, as a private retreat from his public life. Jefferson contributed to the design of the Virginia State Capitol, which was modeled after the Maison Carrée, an ancient Roman temple at Nîmes in southern France. Jefferson’s buildings helped initiate the fashion in the United States for what came to be called “federal architecture.”

Jefferson invented many small practical devices, such as rotating book stands (in collaboration with Charles Willson Peale), a series of improvements in the polygraph test, an apparatus that made a copy of a letter like the original. At Monticello he included automatic doors, the first swivel chair, and other convenient devices invented by Jefferson. His interest in mechanical drawing devices included the use of the physiograph. In 1802, Charles Willson Peale sent a sketch of this instrument to Thomas Jefferson, along with a detailed explanation. The drawing is now with Jefferson’s papers in the Library of Congress. In 1804, Charles de Saint-Fevret Memin created an image of Jefferson in oval silhouette with the fissionotrazo, which became one of the best-known portraits of Jefferson in his time.

Jefferson’s interests included archaeology, a discipline then in its infancy. He has sometimes been called the “father of archaeology,” in recognition of his role in the development of excavation techniques.

Thomas Jefferson enjoyed a fish pond at Monticello. It was three feet (1 m) deep and had lined mortars. He used the pond to keep fish he would have recently caught, as well as to keep fresh eels. Recently restored, the pond can be seen from the west side of Monticello.

In 1780, he joined Benjamin Franklin in the American Philosophical Society. He also served as president of the society from 1797 to 1815.

Jefferson was interested in birds. His Notes on Virginia contains a list of birds found in his home state, although there are “many others which have not yet been described and classified.”

Jefferson was an avid wine lover and collector and a noted gourmet. During his years in France (1784-1789), he made trips through extensive French and other European wine regions and purchased wine to ship back to the United States. He is also known for the pronouncement, “We can in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kind, but certainly as good as those.” Although there were extensive vineyards planted at Monticello, a significant portion were of the European grape Vitis vinifera and did not survive the vine diseases peculiar to the Americas.

In 1801, he published a Manual of Parliamentary Practice which is still in use. In 1812, Jefferson published a second edition.

After the British burned Washington, DC and the Library of Congress in August 1814, Jefferson offered his own collection of books to the nation. In January 1815, Congress accepted his offer, obtaining $23,950 for his 6,487 books. The foundation was established for a great national library. In 2007, two Jefferson volumes of a 1764 edition of the Koran were used by Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison for his inauguration in the House of Representatives.

Jefferson was a leader in the development of republicanism in the United States. He insisted that the British aristocratic system was inherently corrupt and that Americans’ devotion to civic virtue necessitated independence. In the 1790s he repeatedly warned that Hamilton and Adams were trying to impose a monarchical system like the British, threatening republicanism. He supported the War of 1812, hoping it would drive the British military and ideological threat from Canada.

Jefferson’s vision of America’s virtue was based on America being an agricultural nation of small farmers minding their own business. His agrarianism was in contrast to Alexander Hamilton’s vision of a nation of commerce and manufacturing, which Jefferson criticized as offering too many temptations to corruption. His deep conviction in America’s originality and potential made him the father of American exceptionalism. In particular, he was confident that a sparse population could avoid what he saw as the horrors of class division, industrialized Europe.

Jefferson’s republican political principles were strongly influenced by the Country Party, an 18th century British opposition party. But who can be considered his natural influence is John Locke (especially in relation to the principle of inalienable rights). Historians find little trace of any influence from his French contemporary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Thomas Jefferson believed that all men were equally free and independent and had the right to life, liberty, to acquire property, and to the pursuit of happiness and security. This is clear from the first article of the Virginia Declaration of Rights drafted by George Mason in 1776.

The basis of Jeffersonian democracy consists of:

Thomas Jefferson is sometimes also identified as a philosophical anarchist. There are anarchist thinkers who have considered him a person close to this political idea, such as Benjamin Tucker, Murray Rothbard. Others, however, prefer to value his fundamental contribution to the creation and consolidation of what is today the most powerful state on the planet.

Economics and finance

His opposition to the Central Bank of the United States was fierce, he was a critic of the issuance of unbacked currency: “I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of finance, is nevertheless a future swindle on a large scale.” However, Madison and Congress, seeing the financial chaos caused by the War of 1812, disregarded his advice and created the second Central Bank of the United States in 1816.

Jefferson wrote many letters to his colleagues in which he often defined his views on the banking cartel of the day. Among the most definitive is his letter to John Taylor, dated May 28, 1816:

Thomas Jefferson was part of a current of liberalism based on the iusnaturalism of John Locke. To define the concept of land ownership, he redefined some arguments to focus his vision of land ownership towards a model based on personal or family occupation, criticizing agrarian systems based on estates and large estates belonging to large landowners, and advocating smallholdings. Sometimes specialists have defined his economic model as agrarian liberalism in the laissez faire tradition.

Individual rights

Jefferson believed that every individual has “certain unalienable rights”. That is, these rights exist, with or without government, man cannot create them, take them, or throw them away. It is the right of “liberty” on which Jefferson is most notable in his exposition. He defines it by saying: “just liberty, means to be unhindered in action according to our will, within the bounds drawn around us by the equal rights of others. He did not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because the law is often made at the will of tyrants, and always in such a way as to violate the rights of the individual.” Thus, for Jefferson, although government cannot create a right to liberty, it can in fact violate it. The limit of an individual’s rightful liberty is not what the law says it is, it is a matter of not going so far as to prohibit other individuals from having the same liberty as you. A proper government, for Jefferson, is one that not only prohibits individuals in society from violating the liberty of other individuals, but also one that restrains itself from diminishing individual liberty.

Jefferson’s commitment to equality was expressed in his successful efforts to abolish primogeniture in Virginia, the rule that the firstborn son inherited all the land.

Jefferson believed that individuals have an innate sense of morality, which prescribes to them a sense of right from wrong in dealing with other people. They have an innate sense of the natural rights of others. He even believed that the moral sense of being trustworthy enough makes an anarchist society could function well, as long as it was reasonably small. On several occasions, he expressed his admiration for the tribal, communal, Native American way of life: He is therefore sometimes seen as an anarchist philosopher.

He said in a letter to Colonel Carrington, “I am convinced that those societies (Indians) living without government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those living under European governments.” However, Jefferson believed that anarchism is “incompatible with any degree of population.”

Jefferson’s dedication to the “consent of the governed” (embodied in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence) was so complete that he believed that individuals cannot be morally bound by the actions of previous generations. This included debts as well as the law. He said that “no society can make a perpetual constitution or even a perpetual law. The land belongs always to the generation in life.” He even calculated what he believes to be the proper cycle of legal revolution: “Every constitution and all laws, as is natural, expire at the end of nineteen years. If it is to be applied longer, it is an act of force and not of full right.” He arrived at age 19 through calculations with life expectancy tables, taking into account what he believed to be the age of “maturity,” when an individual is capable of reasoning for himself. He also advocated that the national debt be eliminated. He did not believe that people during their lifetime have a moral obligation to pay the debts of previous generations. He said that paying those debts was “a matter of generosity and not entitlement.”

Weapons

Jefferson copied many excerpts from the various books he read into his Commonplace Book of Laws One of the passages he copied touched on gun control and was from Cesare Beccaria’s book, Essay on Crimes and Punishments. The passage, which is written in Italian, discusses the “false idea of utility” (false idee di utilità), which Beccaria sees as underlying some laws. It can be translated, in part, as:

An important source of error and injustice comes from false ideas of utility. For example: that the legislator has false ideas of utility… that he would deprive men of the use of fire for fear of being burned, and of water for fear of being drowned, and who knows of any way of preventing evil but by destroying it. Laws of this nature are those which forbid the bearing of arms, disarming those only who are unwilling to commit the crime which the laws are intended to prevent….. It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse and the assailants better and rather encourages them over the one who avoids murder, since it requires less courage to attack someone unarmed than armed persons.

Jefferson’s notation was only: “False idee di utilità”. It is not known whether Jefferson agreed with the example Beccaria had used, or with the general idea, or whether there was some other reason for the copying of the passage.

Right of rebellion

After the Revolutionary War, Jefferson advocated restraint of government through rebellion and violence when necessary in order to protect individual liberties. In a letter to James Madison on January 30, 1787, Jefferson wrote: “A little rebellion now and then, is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical…. It is a necessary medicine for the good conditions of government.” Similarly, in a letter to Abigail Adams on February 22, 1787, he wrote “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on some occasions that I wish it would always be kept alive.” Regarding Daniel Shays’ rebellion after he had heard of the bloodshed, on November 13, 1787 Jefferson wrote to William S. Smith, son-in-law of John Adams, “What do a few lives lost in a century or two mean? The tree of liberty must from time to time be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” In another letter to William S. Smith in 1787, Jefferson wrote: “And what country can preserve its liberties, if the rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people retain the spirit of resistance?”

Religion

Thomas Jefferson’s religious views are very different from the orthodox Christianity of his time. Throughout his life, Jefferson was very interested in theology, biblical study and morality. He was most closely associated with the religious philosophy of Deism and Unitarianism. He reportedly said, “Question boldly even the existence of a God, for, if there be one, he must approve more of the homage of reason, than of blindfolded fear.”

Native Americans

Jefferson was the first President to propose the idea of a formal plan for a Forced Indian Removal Act.

Andrew Jackson is often erroneously credited with initiating Indian Removal because Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, during his presidency, and also because of his personal involvement in the forcible removal of many Eastern tribes. But Jackson would do no more than legalize and implement a plan outlined by Jefferson in a series of private letters that began in 1803.

Jefferson’s first promotions of Indian Removal were between 1776 and 1779, when he recommended forcing the Cherokee and Shawnee tribes to be removed from their ancestral lands to lands west of the Mississippi River.

His first act as president was to make a deal with the state of Georgia in which if Georgia were to use its legal rights to its land discovery to the west, then the U.S. military would help forcibly remove the Cherokee people from Georgia. At that time, the Cherokee had signed a treaty with the U.S. government guaranteeing them the right to their lands, which was violated in Jefferson’s deal with Georgia.

Jefferson’s original plan for the natives was to abandon their own cultures, religions and lifestyles in favor of Western European culture, the Christian religion and a sedentary agricultural lifestyle.

Jefferson’s expectation was that by assimilating them into an agricultural lifestyle and stripping them of self-sufficiency, they would become economically dependent on trade with white Americans and thus be willing to give up land they would otherwise not part with, in exchange for trade in goods or to settle outstanding debts owed.

In cases where Indian tribes resisted assimilation, Jefferson believed that they should be forcibly removed from their lands and sent west. The worst possible outcome would happen if the Indians attacked the whites. He told his Secretary of War, General Henry Dearborn (who was the government official responsible for Indian affairs), “If we are compelled to raise the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down until that tribe is exterminated or driven beyond the Mississippi.”

On slavery

He was one of the wealthiest men in Virginia and owned slaves all his life, totaling over six hundred. To pay his debts and support his luxurious life, he sold many of his slaves himself.

Jefferson, well known for his idealistic words in the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776, justified slavery with his racist ideas, including the idea that blacks might not be human at all and might have intercourse with orangutans. The idea was that blacks needed the help of whites because they were not capable of running their own lives.

Jefferson, like many who owned slaves, allowed and even ordered violence against his slaves so that they would not try to escape, as in the case of Jame Hubbard. In his time there were those who were against that form of violence. Jefferson made ten year old children work in his factory on their tiptoes, and aportioned their food as a form of pay.

All but one of Jefferson’s slaves was sold after his death to pay off his debts. There are some historians who say that Jefferson could not free his slaves because of his enormous debts. However, Finkelman says that Jefferson had no intention of doing so, and when he had the opportunity he refused to do so.

He made it clear in his autobiography that the white and black races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. In other words, Jefferson spoke for a country without blacks, free or slaves.

Jefferson had a relationship with Sally Hemings, his slave, and kept her as his concubine. He bore her six children, but only four survived.

Jefferson has been remembered in many ways, including buildings, sculptures, coins and postage stamps. The Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth. The interior includes a 19-foot statue of Jefferson and engravings of passages from his writings. Most notable are the words inscribed near the ceiling: “I have sworn before the altar of God eternal hostility against all forms of tyranny over the mind of man.

His original headstone, now a cenotaph, now stands on the campus of the University of Missouri.

Jefferson, along with George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, was chosen by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and approved by President Calvin Coolidge to be depicted in stone on the Mount Rushmore monument.

Recent memorials to Jefferson include NOAA’s commissioning of the ship Thomas Jefferson in Norfolk, Virginia on July 8, 2003, commemorating the creation of the Coast Guard, the predecessor to NOAA’s National Ocean Service. Also the placement of a bronze monument in Jefferson Park, Chicago, at the entrance to the Jefferson Park Transportation Center along Milwaukee Avenue in 2005.

Sources

  1. Thomas Jefferson
  2. Thomas Jefferson
  3. El nacimiento y la muerte de Thomas Jefferson se dan usando el calendario gregoriano. Sin embargo, él nació cuando Gran Bretaña y sus colonias seguían utilizando el calendario juliano, en las grabaciones de los registros contemporáneos su nacimiento (y en su lápida), aparece como 2 de abril de 1743. Las disposiciones del Calendario (New Style) de 1750, ejecutado en 1752, modificó el método oficial británico que data el calendario gregoriano con el inicio del año el 1 de enero.
  4. Tucker, Robert W.; Hendrickson, David C. (30 de abril de 1992). Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson (en inglés). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-802276-3. Consultado el 5 de noviembre de 2022.
  5. «Thomas Jefferson». HISTORY (en inglés). Consultado el 5 de noviembre de 2022.
  6. «War of 1812 | History, Summary, Causes, Effects, Timeline, Facts, & Significance». www.britannica.com (en inglés). Consultado el 5 de noviembre de 2022.
  7. ^ Cunningham, p. 12.
  8. ^ Bernstein, p. 2.
  9. C’est-à-dire le ministre des Affaires étrangères ; en pratique, le secrétaire d’État s’occupait à l’époque de tout ce que les autres ministères ne faisaient pas.
  10. Democratic-Republican Party, fondé par Jefferson en 1797 avec James Madison.
  11. À cette époque en effet, le deuxième élu devenait automatiquement vice-président, même s’il n’était pas de la même tendance politique que le vainqueur. Il faut attendre 1804 pour avoir deux scrutins séparés, l’un pour élire le président, l’autre pour le vice-président.
  12. Préambule de la Déclaration d’indépendance, 1776.
  13. Thomas Jefferson // Babelio (фр.) — 2007.
  14. 2 апреля — старый стиль
  15. Malone1, 1948, p. 31–33.
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