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Thomas Jefferson and American History

“Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail.”

Those are the words of Thomas Jefferson; one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and among the first Americans to have to defend the newly won liberties of Americans from intrusion against a greater world power. It makes Thomas Jefferson one of the most prominent leaders and individuals in the United States.

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Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in the state of Virginia. His family was perhaps one of the earliest emigrants from England. He inherited his family’s land and property, putting him into the upper class. He attended William and Mary College in Williamsburg, but with no record left the college and soon applied himself to the study of law under the tuition of George Wythe. Through his expertise, Thomas Jefferson acquired many of the skills that made him the distinguished man he is now. He immediately became acquainted with the whole round of civil and common law.

His talents were well known early in his life, which permitted him to remain in a private station or to pursue the ordinary routine of this profession. His country demanded his services; at the age of 25 in 1769, he entered the House of Burgesses in Virginia, and then first inscribed his name as a champion of his country’s rights. His journey to becoming one of the founding fathers begins.

During this time, the American colonies felt a strong dislike towards England. Thomas Jefferson commenced his political career, and in a few words, he outlines the reason, which impelled him to enter the lists, with other American patriots, against the parent country, England. Thomas Jefferson says, “No alternative was presented, but resistance or unconditional submission. Between these, there could be no hesitation. They closed in the appeal to arms.”

In 1733, Mr. Jefferson became a member of the first committee of correspondence, established by the provincial assemblies. In 1744 he published a “Summary View of the Rights of British America,” a valuable production among those intended to show the dangers which threatened the liberties of the country and to encourage the people in their defence.

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He argued on the basis of natural rights theory; Jefferson claimed that colonial allegiance to the king was voluntary. “The God who gave us life,” he said, “gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” This pamphlet, had been addressed to the king, and it held Jefferson responsible for high treason, but the treason never succeeded.

Thomas Jefferson was elected to the Second Continental Congress, as a delegate from Virginia. He played an active role among the most distinguished for their abilities and patriotism. The causes of liberty lay near his heart, and he never hesitated to incur all necessary hazards in maintaining and defending it. He became head of the committee that was to prepare the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson became the primary author of the article. This article declared the colonies independent and all of its people’s hope was elevated and the future for independence could be seen. To say Thomas Jefferson performed his great work well would be doing him an injustice. He rather did his job so excellently well that all Americans rejoiced for as long as they could remember.

Returning to Virginia late in 1776, Jefferson served until 1779 in the House of Delegates, one of the two houses of the General Assembly of Virginia, and he established the state’s new constitution. While the American Revolution continued, Jefferson sought to liberalize Virginia’s laws. This was not only a laborious task but also it gave him the honour of having to be the first to propose the important laws in the Virginia code. Jefferson noted proudly “these laws drawn by myself, laid the axe to the foot of pseudo aristocracy.” In June 1779 the introduction of Jefferson’s bill on religious liberty started a quarrel that caused turmoil in Virginia for 8 years.

The bill stated, “All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions on matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” This bill did not pass until 1786 because people felled it was an attack on Christianity. Even though it took so long to pass, it was considered to be one of his greatest achievements ever. Freedom of religion was never considered possible. In 1779, Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia and fell into some problems. He was charged with failure to provide for an adequate defence. He left his position as governor when he heard of the many attacks from the British. For the next few years, he led the life of a normal citizen.

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Many had thought Thomas Jefferson was gone, but he himself got himself to get back into the American right. In 1781, being retired, he composed his “Notes on Virginia” which, embraced a general view of the geography of Virginia, its natural projections, statistics, government, history, and laws. His writing attracted many readers and was said to be his best writing ever for the happy simplicity of its style and for the extent and variety of its information. He enjoyed this writing so greatly; he got back into the Continental Congress in 1783. Thomas Jefferson was back on the fight for America’s freedom. From 1784 to 1789, Jefferson lived outside the United States to Paris initially as a commissioner to help negotiate commercial treaties; but then in 1785 he succeeded Benjamin Franklin as minister to France. Thomas Jefferson was doing what he did best.

When Jefferson returned in 1789 to his native country Thomas Jefferson was presented to George Washington with his talents and experience. He was placed at the head of the department of state, and immediately entered on the arduous duties of that position. Thomas Jefferson was Secretary of State, John Adams was Vice-President, and George Washington was the president. Jefferson immediately expressed his alarm at the real forms and ceremonies that marked the executive office, but his fears were tempered somewhat by this confidence in the character of Washington. Thomas Jefferson’s views were quite different from Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of Treasury at the time. Washington was siding towards Alexander’s views and Jefferson had many disagreements with them. To this fact, Thomas Jefferson resigned from office in the December of 1973 and retired to his private life.

Even though he was retired, for the next four years, he was constantly harassed about coming into politics; even George Washington wanted him to run for president. Washington knew that Jefferson was the man for presidency because of his way of handling decisions. Four years later, Thomas Jefferson welcomed Washington’s decision not to run for third term in 1796. Jefferson became a presidential candidate of the Democratic-Republic party. He lost the John Adams by an extremely small margin, making him the vice-president. Jefferson hoped he could work well with Adams because both men shared an anti-Hamilton bias. His ideas were used more than Jefferson’s and made John Adams a lousy president. With his ideas, he provided his party with principles and strategy, aiming to win the election of 1880.

During his presidency, Thomas Jefferson accomplished so much: Internal taxes were reduced; the military budget was cut; and the economic dept was decreasing. ‘Simplicity and Frugality’ became the hallmarks of Jefferson Administration. The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was one of his biggest achievements, during his first term as president. He bought many acres of land to the west of America, from the French for an extremely small price, expanding the size of America more than 3 times then it was. The purchase was received with popular enthusiasm. In the election of 1804, for his second term as president, Jefferson swept every state except two, making him win position as President second year in a row. Immediately, his administration began with a minor success by concluding the Tripolitan War (1801 – 1805), in which the newly created US Navy fought its first engagements. The following year Thomas Jefferson sent out the Lewis and Clark for their expedition of the new land from the Louisiana Purchase. The most important contribute Jefferson made in his second term, was that he smoothened relations between France, Britain, and many other countries in the world. His presidential period ended in 1808.

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In the final 17 years of his life, Jefferson’s major accomplishment was the founding of the University of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson conceived of the university, planned it, designed it, and supervised both its construction and the hiring of faculty. The university was the last of three contributions by which Jefferson wished to be remembered by. On July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson died. He had died happy with a life he loved and lived to the fullest, one of the prominent leaders to live.

May he be remembered to all…

“It is neither wealth nor splendour, but tranquillity and occupation, that gives happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

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