There is a plethora of information concerning Thomas Jefferson. He was not a simple man, nor one that can be figured out in one blog post. In certain things, he seemed to contradict himself (e.g. his beliefs of slavery and equality). He lived a very rich life, and was schooled in many things. There is no denying is effect on the birth of this great nation and his continued influence of how America should work.
- Born on April 13, 1743; He was the third of eight children. His family was very well educated and Thomas studied Latin, Greek, and French before he was nine years old. (on a very personal and subjective note-we are so worried about the “developement of our youth” these days that this would more than likely be considered abuse.”)
- Jefferson’s dad died when he was fourteen. He inherited 5000 acres he called Monticello.
- He was interested and schooled in philosophy, mathematics, and metaphysics.
- After graduating from William and Mary College, he worked as a lawyer in Colonial Virginia.
- Monticello was a source of great pride and great stress for Jefferson. He designed his house and filled it with his own inventions. It was the first home to have an automatic door and a swivel chair designed by Jefferson himself. It took more than 40 years to build the mansion and left him deeply in debt by the time he died. After Jefferson’s death his possessions were auctioned off and the house was sold to James T. Barclay for $7000 (about $140,000 in todays money). Barclay tried to grow silkworms on the plantation but failed. He put the house for sale two years later. Uriah P. Levy bought the house in 1834 and upon his death bequeathed the house to the government as long as certain conditions were met. During the Civil War, the Confederacy seized the property and sold it. After the war, the government refused the terms of Levy. After years of litigation, Jefferson Monroe Levy retain rights to the property in 1879. In 1923 he sold Monticello to the Thomas Jefferson foundation who maintains the rights this day.
- Because of the trememdous labor needed for his estate and the debt it caused, Jefferson had over 600 slaves during the course of his life. Compared to other slave owners, he did treat his slaves with a certain amount of respect and dignity.
- When it comes to a discussion of slavery, Jefferson seems to be contradictory in both his actions and his words.
Jefferson,, during the course of his life felt strongly in “certain unalienable rights” that all men had. He fought vigorously to end the slave trade, which he did during his presidency. Although he owned over 600 slaves, there is evidence to suggest that this caused him consternation. He would have liked to free his slaves, but since he found himself in a state of financial indebtednous, was never able to.
It is rumoured (and most evidence substantiates the claim) that Jefferson had an affair his, slave Sally Hemings, after his wife died. She is said to have had several his children. Jefferson is said to have publicy stated that the concept of whites and blacks having relations was wrong. Consider the following quote regarding his ideas interracial marriages:
“The amalgamation of whites and blacks produces a degredation to which no lover of his country, no lover of excellence in the human character can innocently concent.”
- After the British Parliament passed the “Coercive Acts” Jefferson wrote “A Summary View of the Rights of British America. In it, he argued that the Colonies had the natural right to govern themselves. This article proved to be the framework for Amerca arguing its independence form Great Britian.
- 1776-selected to write the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. After omitting over a quarter of the original draft, the Congress of approved.
- 1776-Elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. While there he drafted 126 bills in 3 years. Including bills that established freedom of religion, eliminating primogeniture, and eliminating capital punishment.
- 1779-1781-Governor of Virginia. During this time Virginia was invaded twice. Once by Benedict Arnold, and once by General Charles Conrwallis. Jefferson, dissappointed with the reforms at his alma mater William and Mary College, created the University of Virginia.
- 1783-Elected to the Congress of the Confederation by the state of Virginia.
- 1790-93 Served as Secratary of State under George Washington. It was at this point that he began arguing with Alexander Hamilton over fiscal policy. Hamilton believed that the states should share the cost of war (Revolution) equally. Jefferson believed that each state should be responsible for their own debt. He was an outspoken opponent to Federalism. During this time Jefferson, and James Madison created the Democratic-Republican Party. Interestingly enough, this was the forrunner to the modern day Democratic party, even though one would be hard pressed to find much correlation between the two (strictly my opinion).
- 1796-lost to John Adams for the presidency, but had enough electoral votes to become his vice-president. It was during this time frame that Jefferson began his fued with Adams. During the Quasi-War, Adams built up a strong military force, created new taxes, and enacted the Aliens and Seditions Act of 1798. Jefferson took offense to the act and said it was a direct attack against him and his party. Jefferson along with James Madison countered the act by anonymously writing the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions which argued for states rights.
- 1801-1809-Elected as third president of the United States. Jefferson actually tied with Aaron Burr in the electoral college and the election was left in the hands of the House of Representatives. The House was heavily controlled by Federalists with Alexander Hamilton being at the forefront. Hamilton argued that Jefferson would be the lessor of the two evils towards the Federalists, and after a lengthy debate, the presidency was given to Jefferson. Jefferson became critical of Burr after his refusal to remove himself rom consideration and dropped him from the ticket in his second term. Burr’s duel with Hamilton was the final straw.
Still, Jefferson’s election was controversial. His critics pointed out that the majority of his electoral votes came from southern states. The South had “inflated” electoral votes because of the slave holdings which meant that most of his votes came from people who were denied the right to vote. He was called by some the “Negro President”.
- Repealed many of the taxes that had been put into place.
- Freed people who had been imprisoned by the Aliens and Sedition Act.
- Began and won the First Barbary War
- Created the United States Military Academy at Westpoint in 1802.
- Made the Louisiana Purchase from France, which grew the United States territory by almost 25%.
- Ordered Aaron Burr tried for treason
- In another apparent contradiction to his beliefs, signed a law prohibiting blacks from carrying U.S. Mail.
- In his second term, signed into law a bill that making slave importation illegal.
Thomas Jefferson died at his residence on July 4th 1826, just a few hours earlier than John Adams. Jefferson was an intelligent, complicated man. This blog cannot do justice to someone that has had such an impact on this nation. I encourage everyone to do thier own research of our founding fathers. Thanks for reading! Again I encourage you to leave a comment!