The third president of the United States, a diplomat, statesman, architect, scientist, and philosopher, Thomas Jefferson is one of the most eminent figures in American history. No leader in the period of the American Enlightenment was as articulate, wise, or conscious of the implications and consequences of a free society as Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, a tobacco plantation in Virginia. His father, Peter Jefferson, was a self-made success, and although uneducated he was a very intelligent man. His mother, Jane Randolph was a member of one of the most distinguished families in Virginia. Peter Jefferson died when Thomas was 14 and left him valuable lands and property.
Denied a formal education himself, he directed that his son be given complete classical training. He studied with Reverend Mr. Maury, a classical scholar, for two years, and in 1760 he attended William and Mary College. After graduating from William and Mary in 1762, Jefferson studied law for five years under George Wythe. In January of 1772, he married Martha Wayles Skelton and established a residence at Monticello.
When they moved to Monticello, only a small one-room building was completed. Jefferson was thirty when he began his political career. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgess in 1769, where his first action was an unsuccessful bill allowing owners to free their slaves. The impending crisis in British-Colonial relations overshadowed the routine affairs of the legislature. In 1774, the first of the Intolerable Acts closed the port of Boston until Massachusetts paid for the Boston Tea Party of the preceding year.
Jefferson and other younger members of the Virginia Assembly ordained a day of fasting and prayer to demonstrate their sympathy with Massachusetts. Thereupon, Virginia’s Royal Governor Dunmore once again dissolved the assembly (Koch and Peden 20). The members met and planned to call together an inter-colonial congress. Jefferson began writing resolutions that were radical and better written than those from other counties and colonies.
Although his resolutions were considered too revolutionary and not adopted, they were printed and widely circulated, and subsequently, all-important writing assignments were entrusted to Jefferson. When Jefferson arrived in Philadelphia in June 1775, as a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress, he already possessed, as John Adams remarked, “a reputation for literature, science, and a happy talent of composition” (Koch and Peden 21).
When he returned in 1776, he was appointed to the five-man committee, including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, which was charged with the most momentous assignment ever given in the history of America: the drafting of a formal declaration of independence from Great Britain (Daugherty 109). Jefferson was responsible for preparing the draft. The document was finally approved by Congress on July 4, 1776. Cut and occasionally altered by Adams, or Franklin, or the Congress itself, the Declaration is almost completely Jefferson’s and is the triumph and culmination of his early career.
At this time, had he wanted to be a political leader, he could have easily attained a position in government. Instead, he chose to return to Monticello and give his public service to Virginia. Returning to the Virginia House of Delegates in October 1776, Jefferson set to work on reforming the laws of Virginia. He also proposed a rational plan of statewide education and attempted to write religious toleration into the laws of Virginia by separating Church and State by writing the “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom.”
In June of 1779, Jefferson was elected Governor of Virginia. He commenced his career as a public executive, confident of his abilities, assured of the respect, and almost the affection of his commonwealth. However, he took up his duties at a time when the British were raiding Virginia. General George Washington did not have resources available to send to Virginia. Jefferson, during one of the raids, narrowly escaped capture at the hands of the British troops; and the legislators were forced to flee from their new capital city of Richmond.
Jefferson, as head of the state, was singled out for criticism and abuse. At the end of his second term, he announced his retirement. General Washington’s approval of Jefferson’s actions as Governor is in marked contrast to the heated charges of dereliction of duty made by certain members of the legislature. After Washington’s approval, the legislature passed a resolution officially clearing Jefferson of all charges (Smith 134,135).
Jefferson returned home to Monticello in 1781 and buried himself in writing about Virginia. The pages of text turned into a manuscript later known as the Notes on Virginia. This book, rich in its minute analysis of the details of external nature as in its clarification of moral political, and social issues, was read by scientists of two continents for years to come (Smith 142).
His wife, ill since the birth of their last daughter, died in September 1782. In sorrow for his wife, Jefferson declined numerous appointments. In June 1783, he was elected as a delegate to the Confederation Congress where he headed important committees and drafted many reports and official papers. He advocated the necessity of more favorable international commercial relations, and in 1784, compiled instructions for ministers negotiating commercial treaties with European nations.
In May 1784, he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to assist Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, both of whom had preceded him to Europe to arrange commercial agreements (Koch and Peden 24). He traveled throughout Europe and every place he went, he was not only an American diplomat but a student of the useful sciences. He took notes on making wine and cheese, planting and harvesting crops, and raising livestock.
He sent home to America information on the different cultures, the actual seeds of a variety of grasses not native to America, olive plants, and Italian rice. He remained in Paris until 1789 (Smith 170). Upon his return, President Washington asked Jefferson to be Secretary of State. Jefferson accepted the post and found himself at odds with the Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson thought that all of Hamilton’s acts were dominated by one purpose: to establish a government by and for a privileged few.
Jefferson repeatedly thought of retiring from the cabinet post in which he was constantly pitted against Hamilton, the most power-hungry man in the capital. After negotiating the country’s foreign affairs, Jefferson once again retired to Monticello. During retirement, Jefferson supervised the farming of his estates and designed a plow which revolutionized agriculture; he tended his library like a garden; he changed the architectural plans for Monticello, and supervised the construction. After three rather active years of “retirement”, Jefferson accepted the Republican Party’s nomination in 1796 for President.
He lost by three votes, which under the prevailing system, meant he was elected Vice President, and the Federalist, John Adams, was elected president. The Federalist Administration turned upon its political opponents by passing the Alien Act, to deport foreign radicals and liberal, propagandists and agitators, and the Sedition Act, to curb the press. The Sedition Act empowered the Administration to fine, imprison, and prosecute any opposition writer and thus the Republicans were muzzled in the remaining years of Adams’ Administration (Randall 523, 528).
In 1800, Jefferson and Aaron Burr ran for office. The electoral vote, in marked contrast to the popular vote, resulted in a tie between Jefferson and Burr. The Federalists threatened Jefferson to bargain with them or they would elect Burr. Jefferson, however, stood firm and made no promises, until the Federalists gave up. As President, Jefferson’s first project was to remove the bias which had recently infected America. His policy of general reconciliation and reform and his success in freeing the victims of the Alien and Sedition laws were generally supported by a favorable Congress (Randall 549).
His popularity during his first term was greater than at any time during his career. In this term, he was confronted with the most momentous problem of his career. Spain transferred to France its rights to the port of New Orleans, and the stretch of land constituting the province of Louisiana. Louisiana in the strong hands of the French rather than the weak hands of Spain placed an almost overwhelming obstacle in the path of American growth and prosperity.
It was essential that America acquire the Louisiana territory, either through peaceful negotiation or by war. When French dictator Napoleon, suddenly offered to sell for $15,000,000 not only the port of New Orleans but the entire fabulous slice of land from the Mississippi to the Rockies, Jefferson was faced with the problem of taking the offer or wait for a Constitutional amendment authorizing such an act. After tremendous strain, Jefferson authorized the purchase (Smith 266).
Thus his first term closed in a blaze of glory when the people, united in their national good fortune, almost unanimously sent Jefferson back for a second term. Busy as he was during these years, Jefferson had found time to follow his favorite intellectual pursuits. He had not only aided in establishing a National Library but had made many valuable additions to his own private collection.
His second term was full of difficulties. To avoid war, Jefferson promoted the Non-Intercourse Act of 1806 and the Embargo of 1807. The Embargo was heavily criticized and had not been effective. To make matters worse, the domestic front was racked with defections and desertions. When his term expired on March 3, 1809, he was thrilled to be leaving politics and returning to Monticello (Mclaughlin 376).
Jefferson’s daughter Martha said that in retirement her father never abandons a friend or principle. He and John Adams, their earlier political differences reconciled, wrote many letters. Jefferson frequently complained about the time consumed in maintaining his ever-increasing correspondence but he could not resist an intellectual challenge or turn down an appeal for his opinion, advice, or help, and continued to discuss with frankness and a brilliant clarity such diverse subjects as anthropology and political theory, religion, and zoology (Koch and Peden 40).
Jefferson’s major concern during his last years was education and educational philosophy. He considered knowledge not only a means to an end but an end in itself. He felt education was the key to virtue as it was to happiness. He reopened his campaign for a system of general education in Virginia. Through his efforts, the University of Virginia, the first American University to be free of official church connection, was established and was Jefferson’s daily concern during his last seven years (Koch and Peden 39).
He sent abroad an agent to select the faculty, he chose the books for the library, drew up the curriculum, designed the buildings, and supervised their construction. The University finally opened in 1825, the winter before his death. Despite his preoccupation with the University, he continued to pursue a multitude of other tasks. In his eightieth year, for example, he wrote on politics, sending President Monroe long expositions later known to the world in Monroe’s version as the Monroe Doctrine (Daugherty 326).
Among all his interests, there was one intrusion on his time and thought which caused Jefferson endless embarrassment. His finances, always shaky, finally collapsed. Jefferson had frequently advanced money to friends who fancied themselves more hard-pressed than he, and occasionally had been forced to make good on their notes when they found it impossible to do so. He had spent money lavishly on his libraries and the arts, on Monticello, and on his children’s education. His passion for architecture cost him a small
fortune. At the final stage of his financial distress, Jefferson petitioned the Virginia legislature to grant him permission to dispose of Monticello and its farms by lottery. The almost immediate response of private citizens, in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, on hearing this news was to donate a sum of over $16,000 to aid the leader who had devoted his industry and resourcefulness to all America for half a century (Smith 304).
On our family vacation last fall to Virginia, my wife and I toured Jefferson’s Monticello home and also viewed his gravesite. We both found it very interesting that of all the accomplishments that Jefferson listed on his headstone he apparently did not think it important enough to mention that he had been twice elected and served as president of the United States.
Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, a principal leader in the American Revolution, and the third president of the United States of America. Jefferson was also regarded as a great thinker and diplomat and was a renowned contributor to the foundation of the country. Jefferson was well educated, and active committeeman, a skillful Craftsman, and had a wide range of knowledge of English history and political philosophy.
His wisdom in various areas helped him to add substance to his beliefs, which other philosophers’ theory’s lacked. Jefferson was among the most brilliant American exponents of the Enlightenment; the movement of the eighteenth century which emphasized the possibilities of human reason. Jefferson had the motivation and the opportunity to apply Enlightenment political philosophy to the duty of nation-building.
The Declaration of Independence, drafted principally by Jefferson, is the document in which American citizens proclaimed their freedom from the British Rule. The Declaration’s expressive diction and political importance, rank it as one of the greatest historical documents produced. Jefferson sought to reform society, in terms of the philosophy of the Enlightenment and of the republican government.
He strongly believed in the “preservation of the general government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad” (Declaration of Independence). He emphasized that with a strong government, which supported the natural rights of the American citizens and a united country, society would be preserved as well. The content of the Declaration of Independence greatly impacted the lives of American citizens and changed the way society thought.
In the first sections of the Declaration of Independence, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, are regarded as the basic principles in a free country. Jefferson emphasized his belief that the purpose of the government is to defend, establish, and protect the natural rights of society. The government, in Jefferson’s opinion, should promote the happiness and freedom of the American citizens. Jefferson held the view that” The equal rights of men, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government”.
The main point of the Declaration of Independence was to justify self-government and to support the American citizen’s right to exercise self-government, individually, and as a nation. During the revolutionary era, Jefferson studied Enlightenment philosophy, which inspired him to support the Patriots. One of his most noted contributions to their cause was an extremely effective pamphlet, “A Summary View of Rights of British America” (1774).
In this, he emphasized the natural rights of the people and denied parliamentary authority over the colonies. He believed that the United States had no link with Britain, other than the King. After “A Summary View of the Rights of British America”, was published, Jefferson’s authorship became well-known, and he came to be acknowledged as a successful political theorist. Popular sovereignty, self-government, and democracy were regarded as extremely important, by Jefferson.
He believed that with those aspects the people would ensure that the government would stay on the right track. It also meant that the government would be responsive to the will of the people. Jefferson was of the opinion that, ” A representative government is one in which the will of the people is an effective ingredient” (Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Austin, 1816). Jefferson believed that the government in a free society is not any different from the citizens.
Under American self- government, the citizen, himself, is part of the government. Jefferson defined self-government as one in which, “every member composing it, has a voice”. He knew that if each citizen held the right of self-government, then a united country posses the same right. As Jefferson pointed out, “What is true of every member in society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals” (Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789).
It was believed by Jefferson that by placing power in the hands of the people who are concerned for the rights and lives of society, the government becomes the ultimate protection for the liberty of the people. Jefferson’s main desire was to establish liberty. He wanted the government to go beyond merely protecting individual rights, but to become a representative front for the United States. Jefferson stated that the principal purpose of the government was, “to inform the minds of the people, and to follow their will” (Thomas Jefferson to C.F. Dumas, 1787).
Thomas Jefferson died at Monticello, Virginia, on July 4, 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He was an American Revolutionary leader and an invaluable contributor to building the foundation for the United States of America. His primary commitments to liberty, democracy, and the formation of self-government were accomplished.
He succeeded in his intent, which was to help found a nation in which liberty was strongly established. Jefferson brought America beyond the primitive right to property, to the pursuit of happiness. The American government never quite achieved the vision which Jefferson had for it, however, even in it’s limited accomplishment, it continues to have much of the spirit and essence which Jefferson inspired.
Of all the time periods of civilization known to man, how can one determine which era was the most successful in their beliefs and achievements? Which was the most powerful and positively developing? Looking at and studying the past can help gain intellectual knowledge of the most important objectives and concepts of that time. In many eras, new ideas and ways of living were formed.
For example, the men of the fifth century came close to inventing what is now called science while also developing the atomic theory of matter. In Medieval times, a relationship with God and nature was defined while keeping a theocratic view on technology. In the twentieth century, fascism, nazism, and communism concepts were rapidly spreading. But of all these time periods, the twenty-first century differs the most. As we approached the new millennium, new discoveries advanced faster than anyone had ever imagined.
With technology growing, inventions such as the microwave oven, television, video games, computers, etc., have become more popular than ever. Is this the guidance we need in order to be prepared to take ourselves to the future? Not according to Dr. Neil Postman of New York University. He believes that the expansion of technology is being abused and that our future is headed in a direction that can become uncontrollable.
Looking ahead means finding useful ideas from the past in order to direct our adaptable future. According to Dr. Postman, the most gifted minds developed in the eighteenth century, during the Age of Enlightenment. This was a century of Voltaire, Adam Smith, Thomas Payne, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Intellectual power, honesty, and courage were the traits of the most gifted thinkers. Four ideas were drawn by Dr. Postman from this important era that he believes will help guide us into the future.
The importance of language, the use of technology, the use of our knowledge, and the changes in the meaning of democracy can all be drawn from the eighteenth century. In the eighteenth century, ideas of political and religious freedom, education, the nation-state, progress, and happiness were developed in part by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson represents everything of his time, so the eighteenth century could also be called the Age of Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson made no theoretical discovery of importance, but his range was without limit. He was a political scientist, linguist, architect, inventor, philosopher, writer, farmer, and, above all, an apostle of reason, choosing reason over superstition. The eighteenth century was considered the beginnings of the modern world, which is a useful contribution to our future due to the confidence in the power of language.
There was a much-needed emphasis on clarity by philosophers and scientists so humanity could gain an insight into how the world works. While many positive ideas developed in this century, such as the ones listed above, inhuman beliefs also existed. The burning of witches, child labor, slavery in America, the oppression of women, equal rights, etc., were only some of the issues that created controversies. These issues generated arguments that made them insupportable in the minds of many Americans.
In order to progress, the language was used in these situations to make compromises and smooth out any issues that had to be resolved. The eighteenth-century also marks the great expansion of the role of education spreading throughout the nation. There was more of a focus on reading and writing, and one’s intellectual ability and viewpoints, than ever before.
A new world of communication was forming, and the people who were involved were educated individuals that adjusted to the use of pen, paper, and book. Most of the American population had many desires and necessities, such as property and voting rights, accessible and affordable trading, protection from the government, and a federal or state bank in order to be granted loans for a mortgage.
All of these issues require education in the language. Knowing how to read and write, and to be able to speak in a professional sounding manner were all-important if an opinion on a certain issue needed to be heard. The importance of language was rising, and this was one subject that nobody could overlook without being left behind. Thomas Jefferson believed in human progress, but he did not believe that human progress included technological changes.
He was against the growth of industrialism and he wanted the United States to remain a society of small independent farmers. Many political leaders wanted to commercialize and centralize the country, such as Alexander Hamilton, creating the growth of cities and factories, and this Jefferson feared. The rise of factories made many workers useless since machines were able to complete the job.
These workers became desperate and their way of life changed due to technology. Technology affected the American industry in nearly every field, and minor changes were being made constantly. Of course, the growth of industry required certain technological advances and the development of a new type of business organization, but the industrial revolution in America came too quickly.
Technology readjusted the nation’s economy in many positive ways, but a certain distance should be kept. Dr. Postman believes Americans could be able to use technology without abusing people by separating the good from the useless. The Communications Revolution brought the end of the Enlightenment. More and more newspapers, pamphlets, and books were developing and becoming available to many people. Literacy became the key to citizenship in the United States.
In the eighteenth century, information was not considered useful, and it certainly was not an asset to democratic processes and progress. The term “myth information” was brought up by Dr. Postman, which he defined as not enough information. Devoting oneself to information equals utter nonsense. Issues such as crime, starvation, abuse, and bad education have nothing to do with insufficient information, according to Dr. Postman. Americans must be able to differentiate information and knowledge.
One must question, work and research, and verify certain information, which determines whether it is useless or if it is actually beneficial knowledge. Many changes occurred in the eighteenth century, some of which could be attributed to technology. During this time period, the entire country was baffled by the ideas of industrialism versus agriculture. In the 1820s, the country was still overwhelmingly agricultural, but new ways of producing goods and making a living began to take place and an industry was created.
Many Americans shifted towards industry, which caused America’s industrial revolution, which was slow in coming. Advancing in technology changes the entire meaning of democracy and Americans need to know what changes to support and what changes to resist. The eighteenth century, although full of many useful and productive beliefs and concepts, cannot give us all the answers dealing with where to look for guidance for the future.
Dr. Postman is not stating that the United States today should become the eighteenth century, but simply that we should use it for what it’s worth. The Age of Enlightenment contained the most creative thinkers who were able to develop ideas for their own era which should inspire people of today’s world. Thomas Jefferson considered one of the most gifted minds and someone who represents everything of his time did not believe that technology was most important.
In fact, he felt that technology abused people and that a distance should be kept from it. Some of the main ideas that came from this century are what Dr. Postman believes should be used today to help guide our country into the future. He feels that reviewing the past for useful and productive ideas could help lead the United States in a better direction towards our future.
From the ideas of the eighteenth century, Dr. Postman came to the conclusion that the use of language should become of more importance mainly by focusing on reading and writing, that a certain distance should be kept from technology, and we should learn not to abuse it, that there should be an understanding of the differences between knowledge and information, and finally that technology could change the entire meaning of democracy.
These concepts are believed to be helpful and useful as we prepare to approach the future in a different manner. Dr. Neil Postman in the end believed that the ways of the eighteenth century are incomparable to any other eras known to man. He feels we need to look ahead, but by saying “look ahead,” he means to look into the past for ideas for our future.
The eighteenth century was certainly a time period well known in history and the most important because it is the beginning of the development of the United States. Technology seems to be taking over. It will one day dominate the world when people no longer have any control over the situation. But people must learn to separate the good technology from the useless, and this is what Dr. Postman believes as well.
The topic that he spoke about, Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth-Century, and how the United States must build a bridge not from the past, but to the past, interested me a great deal. It was a topic never really discussed in the classroom because it covers two issues, problems in the future with solutions from the past. Dr. Postman was a very exceptional and intellectual speaker.
While keeping the audience’s attention, he also delivered a lecture with interesting yet controversial aspects. Ideas from our extremely significant past should definitely be used when the United States needs guidance for the future and technology is one that should not be overused, for our future could lead to disaster.
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, was one of the most brilliant men in history. His interests were boundless, and his accomplishments were great and varied. He was a philosopher, educator, naturalist, politician, scientist, architect, inventor, a pioneer in scientific farming, musician, and writer, and was the foremost spokesmen for democracy in his day.
He was born at Shadwell in Goochland County, Virginia on April 13, 1743, to Jane Randolph and Peter Jefferson. Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1760 (Adams, Page #26). His interest in science was fostered by Dr. William Small, teacher of mathematics and philosophy, who introduced him to Gov. Francis Fauquier and to George Wythe, then the most noted teacher of law in Virginia. To “habitual conversation” with these friends Jefferson said he “owed much instruction” (Dos Passos, Page #102).
In 1767 Jefferson was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in the capitol (Adams, Page #43). Jefferson was elected justice of the peace and church vestryman in 1768. In May of the next year, he was elected to the House of Burgesses, in which he served until the house cease to function in 1775. He was appointed county lieutenant of Albemarle in 1770 and the same year completed the building of his new home, Monticello.
Two years later he married, January 1, 1772, Martha Skelton, a widow who was both attractive and accomplished, the daughter of John Wayles, a well-known lawyer, and just before the College of William and Mary appointed him surveyor of the county in 1773 (Adams, Page #46-47). Jefferson’s most remarkable contribution in legislative work before the Revolution came through work on committees and through such writings as his paper to the Virginia Convention, A Summary View of the Rights of British America.
In defining the grievances with Great Britain, Jefferson denied that Parliament had any authority over the colonies, and he attacked the restrictive acts passed by Parliament as a deliberate plan to destroy colonial freedom. Jefferson also accused the king of rejecting the best laws passed by colonial legislatures, of preventing the outlaw of slavery, of permitting his governors to break up colonial assemblies, and of sending armed forces without the right to do so(Dos Passos, Page #169).
On June 21, 1775, he was given a seat in the Continental Congress, appointed to the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence and he was chosen by the committee to write the declaration because of his “peculiar felicity of style”. The Declaration of Independence was formally adopted on July 4, 1776 (Conlin Page #141-144).
In 1776 Jefferson was elected to the Virginia legislature, giving up his seat in the Continental Congress and declining an offer to serve with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane as commissioners to France, mostly because of personal reasons having to do with his family, but also because he felt he could best serve the revolutionary cause by furthering the reformation of Virginia ( Adams, Page #98-99). He then served three years in the house of delegates.
While there he began the revision of the laws of Virginia. His most noteworthy achievement during this time was his proposal of the Statute for Religious Freedom, which stated in Jefferson’s own words, “that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever”, and that no one should suffer in any way for their “religious opinions or beliefs.” The bill was eventually adopted in 1786. Jefferson also had succeeded in passing bills to abolish primogeniture and entail.
Although never passed, his Bill of Universal Diffusion of Knowledge, set forth a philosophy of providing free public schooling for all citizens (Adams Page #104-110). During this period, Jefferson managed to spend considerable time with his family, but even in leisure, he was never idle. He took up building projects at Monticello and continued to develop his land. Jefferson was a philosopher and at the same time an architect and inventor.
He invented the dumbwaiter, a swivel chair, a lamp-heater, and the improved plow for which the French gave him a medal. He tinkered with clocks, steam engines, and metronomes. He collected plans of large cities and later helped in the planning of Washington, DC. Jefferson kept an overseas correspondence with Giovanni Fabbroni, an Italian naturalist, in order to compare climate and plant life in Virginia and southern Europe. He added to his valuable collection of books and bought instruments for making astronomical observations.
He also fostered his love of music. In a letter to the Italian, Philip Mazzei, Jefferson describes music as “the favorite passion of my soul” and wished that his servants were also musicians, ?so that one might have a band…without enlarging their domestic expenses? (Adams, Page #115-122). Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia in 1779, at the age of thirty-six, where he served two terms (Wibberley, Page #73). As a governor in the midst of a revolution, Jefferson had little military experience and could do little to directly help in the war against Britain.
Virginia had no standing army or navy, and he could send no militiamen because there were little or no supplies to equip them with. The government was continually having to retreat, and Jefferson sent his family off to safety in Tuckahoe (Wibberley, Page #80). Some blamed Jefferson for the defeat at Richmond and Charlottesville, and later a committee of the legislature investigated his conduct in the office during the British invasion. Although he was exonerated, his reputation was badly tarnished in his home state (Wibberley, Page #110).
Jefferson refused to serve another term as governor, and even declined the appointment by Congress to go to Paris as a minister to negotiate peace. During this period he wrote The Notes on the State of Virginia containing essays on a variety of subjects ranging from the study of weather, through botany, anthropology, zoology, and the philology of Indian languages to his private observations on how long it took a slave to dig so many cubic feet of clay out of a ditch.
Through it, Jefferson gained much of his reputation as a pioneer American scientist (Padover, Page #10). Jefferson was elected delegate to congress in June 1783, and during this term, he served on almost every important committee and drafted as many as 31 state papers, one of the most important of which was a proposal for the organization of the Northwest Territory. The proposal was adopted by Congress but never put into effect, and was later rewritten and called the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which left out Jefferson’s clause on the abolition of slavery.
The ordinance made provisions for newly acquired lands and their admittance to the United States (Adams Page #159-164). Another important proposal was Jefferson’s report on the coinage system. His recommendation of the establishment of the dollar as the central monetary unit, with a 10-dollar gold coin and a one-tenth-dollar silver and one-hundredth dollar copper coin, was eventually adopted by congress.
He drew up a report on the definitive treaty of peace, which was adopted, and his report of December 20, 1783, was accepted as the basis for the procedure in negotiating treaties of commerce with foreign countries (Wibberley Page #140). In 1784 Congress appointed Jefferson, with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, to negotiate commercial treaties with foreign countries. He was appointed minister to France in 1785 when Benjamin Franklin retired from the position and remained in France until October 1789.
One of Jefferson’s most important functions in France was to report home how the vaunted scene of Europe…struck a savage of the mountains of America. Not impressed Jefferson said, “It will make you adore your own country” (Adams Page #173-176). Soon after Jefferson’s return to the United States He was offered the appointment of secretary of state by George Washington, which he accepted, and entered the office on March 22, 1790 (Dos Passos Page #360).
During this period, Jefferson differed with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s theories of foreign policies and government fiancee and was the leader of a faction opposing Hamilton. Jefferson distrusted centralized power and believed that the purpose of government was to assure the freedom of individual citizens. Hamilton, on the other hand, distrusted popular rule and once exclaimed, “The people are a great beast”.
The rivalry of the factions of Hamilton and Jefferson marked the beginning of the political parties in the United States. The Jefferson group denounced the Hamilton group and as monarchists and claimed the title of Republicans (Dos Passos Page #368-372). The Hamilton party became known as the Federalists and the Jefferson party became known as the Democratic-Republicans (Adams, Page #246).
The most important question confronting Jefferson as secretary of the state grew out of the policy of neutrality adopted by the United States toward its ally, France. At the time of the French Revolution, Jefferson was determined that the United States should take no action that would oppose the principle right of the French people to revolt, yet he shared the conviction of Washington and Hamilton that US policies should be for America and French policies for France.
This policy was accepted by Washington in his Farewell Address. Jefferson resigned from the office of secretary on December 31, 1793, and retired to Monticello (Adams, Page #251-253). In 1796 John Adams, the Federalist candidate, was elected president. Jefferson, the Republican candidate, was elected vice-president. Because Adams and Jefferson were political opponents although good personal friends, Jefferson played little part in the administration.
Jefferson’s attempts during this period to have Congress enact bills that would promote public education were not successful (Padover, Page #105). During this period he wrote the Manual of Parliamentary Practice, a book of parliamentary rules which was published in 1801 and still remains the standard for our legislative bodies (Adams, Page #279). In the election of 1800, the Federalist party lost ground, and the Democratic-Republican candidates, Jefferson and Aaron Burr received an equal number of votes.
Then it was up to the house of representatives to name one of the presidents. Jefferson was chosen to be the first president to be inaugurated in the city of Washington. He was re-elected in 1804, when John Adams, as a Republican elector from Massachusetts, voted for him (Adams, Page #297). During his term in the office, he pardoned all those still imprisoned under the Sedition Act.
He reenacted the five-year residency requirement for citizenship and replaced all Federalist officeholders with Republicans. He also enacted a plan to remove the national debt by 1817, while at the same time reducing taxes (Conlin Page #205). The greatest achievements of Jefferson’s administration were the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition through the Northwest part of the territory acquired in the purchase, in 1804 (Adams Page #318-319).
Jefferson retired from the White House to Monticello on March 4, 1809, and from then on his chief public interest was education. He wrote to Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours in 1816: “Enlighten the people generally and tyranny and oppressions of both mind and body will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day” (Padover, Page #274). In 1814 he became a trustee of the then unorganized Albemarle Academy, which later became Central College.
The University of Virginia later developed, from which came the realization of Jefferson’s dream of free public education. Many of the architectural specifications for buildings of the university were drawn by Jefferson himself, and many of the structures on the campus were built under his direct supervision (Adams, Page #351-352). He also designed his own home Monticello and anonymously entered a competition among architects for the designing of the White House itself (Conlin, Page #204).
In 1815 Jefferson sold his 6500 volume collection to the federal government for a mere $23,950 in the restoration of the Library of Congress, which was being built up again after its destruction in the British’s burning of Washington in the War of 1812 (Adams, Page #336). Jefferson never lost faith in his concept of progress through education nor his faith in “the people”, that they would responsibly “elect the really good and wise”.
Late in life, he wrote to his friend John Adams: “You and I will yet look down from heaven with joy at the fulfillment of our great dreams”. Both men died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Thomas Jefferson is best remembered as a great president and as the author of the Declaration of Independence. He also won lasting fame as a diplomat, a political thinker, and a founder of the Democratic Party. Jefferson’s interests and talents covered an amazing range. He became one of the leading American architects of his time and designed the Virginia Capitol, the University of Virginia, and his own home, Monticello.
He greatly appreciated art and music and tried to encourage their advancement in the United States. He arranged for the famous French sculptor Jean Houdon to come to America to make a statue of George Washington. (Thomas Jefferson, an intimate history by Fawn M. Brodie. Published: New York, Norton 1974) Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, the family farm in Goochland (now Albemarle) County, Virginia.
(The date was April 2 by the calendar then in use.) He was the third child in the family and grew up with six sisters and one brother. Two other brothers died in infancy. His father, Peter Jefferson, had served as a surveyor, sheriff, colonel of militia, and member of the House of Burgesses. Thomas’s mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, came from one of the oldest families in Virginia. Thomas developed the normal interests of a country boy; hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and canoeing.
He also learned to play the violin and to love music. Jefferson was 14 years old when his father died. As the oldest son, he became head of the family. He inherited more than 2,500 acres (1,010 hectares) of land and at least 20 slaves. His guardian, John Harvie, managed the estate until Jefferson was 21. Thomas began his studies under a tutor. At age 9, he went to live with a Scottish clergyman, who taught him Latin, Greek, and French. After his father died, Thomas entered the school of James Maury, an Anglican clergyman, near Charlottesville.
Example #6 – Presentism In Thomas Jefferson
The United States, a developing nation, remained under the influence of idealism and paradox for a period of time, and thus were incapable of being self-sufficient enough to run a country on their own. They relied on England to protect them and practically run the colonies from overseas. Subsequently, America joined the family of nations that preaches men are created to be equal.
This notion is expressed in Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Though in the past Jefferson was seen as the greatest founder of the United States, today his more unknown attributes in the nation have come to be a topic of discussion, making a debatable conversation about the concept of presentism arise.
Today, Thomas Jefferson is examined and evaluated from many different perspectives of his career during his lifetime in both adequate and deficient aspects, arousing the question if founding fathers, like Jefferson, should be remembered for their highest achievements, or for their individual failures and how the concept of presentism disarrays these outlooks. Born in 1743, Thomas Jefferson lived and breathed an age of slavery in America, which greatly impacted his life choices.
The question, “How could this man possess such a number of slaves if he himself was working for a nation of abolishment?” arises due to the concept today of presentism. Presentism is defined as having an opinion of the past which is heavily influenced by the attitudes and experiences of the present day.
The logician was born in Shadwell in 1743 (Malone, 11). His father was a triumphant farm owner and surveyor while his mother originated from one of the renowned families in Virginia. His matrimony produced six children, but only two lived to maturity. Jefferson lived in Monticello where he expanded his business while erecting his dwelling. Thomas, the third president of the US, was a historian, public executive, and truth-seeker who served his country industriously for decades.
At age nine, he was edified by a clergyman who skilled him in Greek, Latin, and French (Kelly). Jefferson then attended Reverand James Maury’s association before joining William and Mary’s institution in the early 60s and finally learning law with George, a revolutionary law professor in the US.
He took over his parent’s agricultural estate and workforce where he furthered his early vocation as a farm administrator. He had a peculiarity in being a structural designer, natural scientist, and multilingual (Malone, 11). After college, he trained in law and operated in local administration as a magistrate, district deputy, and an affiliate of the House of Burgesses.
In 1776, he was preferred to outline the Declaration of Independence owing to his pose in the Continental Congress, which has been unanimously considered as a bond of the US and international autonomies. The paper emphasized impartiality in race and assets and the function of the regime in serving the populace.
After parting congress in 1776, he revisited his home to serve as a voted agent (Kelly), where he governed the section from 1779-1781. There was a short-lived break in his personal life in the last year, where he summarized notes about Virginia. He had political adversaries who hardheartedly disparaged his headship as a governor (Bernstein, 81), citing his unavailability during predicaments.
Three years later he returned to communal service where he served as a commerce representative in France, before later succeeding Benjamin Franklin as minister (Morse, 71). He helped settle commercial treaties while in France due to the opposition of some European countries to the US fiscal propositions.
Thomas attributed their unawareness of the insufficient information they had in the rewards of commerce to both parties. He strengthened his knowledge in European literature during this period, while delivering books, information, and diverse materials to Monticello.
George Washington, a special associate, offered him the post of the state secretary in 1790 (Morse, 88), amid Jefferson’s unwillingness. He quit the position, after being undermined by Washington due to his marginal position among the representatives. During his short-lived departure, he devoted his time to the farm and his family, while trying out new machinery and commenced the creation of Monticello.
Six years later, as a presidential entrant, he occupied the post of the vice-president after minimally losing to a close friend (Coates). Four years later, however, he became president, where there was the most nonviolent shift of command in the nation’s history.
He had several achievements in his occupancy, the most notable one in the first term coming when he procured Louisiana in 1803, and his sustaining the Lewis and Clark mission (Coates). His second term was more exigent both internally and overseas, but he is lauded for the pains he endured to uphold impartiality in the center of the Britain-France differences. Jefferson revised the criminal regulations, which was later certified in 1796. He had numerous supportive bills, for example, the conception of modern libraries which took time to be implemented (Coates).
He proposed a state of spiritual autonomy, which was unfortunately discarded, causing distress in the nation for practically a decade, before passing in 1786. Jefferson made noteworthy contributions by suggesting the use of the decimal structure which prejudiced the use of the dollar as the central fiscal unit in the US.
He is best considered for his championing for liberation, despite the unfriendliness received from scholars (Kelly). Worldwide, he remains a radiant, inspirational symbol for the major US parties, open-minded reformers across the world, and buoyant democrats. Some of his quotations are pertinent in the present social order, signifying autonomy, and the essentiality of principles in resolutions.
Thomas left his presidency in1809 to a close comrade, before heading back to Monticello to spend the afterward part of his life. He sold his collected literature to the state to ease the creation of a library. At 76, he partook his last grand communal service by ensuring the groundwork of a university in Virginia (Kelly), where he fore-fronted the lawmaking procedure of acquaintance, securing its locality, scheming its structures, scheduling its syllabus, and serving as the first person.
He passed away in 1826, at the age of 83, on the 50th centennial of the marking of the Declaration of Independence (Coates). His epitaph echoed what he had given the populace, rather than what they had given him. He yearned to be remembered for his causes to attain sovereignty from Britain, self-determination of principles, and achievement of autonomy through edification.
Thomas Jefferson was a man of great moral character, who has been excoriated regularly over the last 30 years by historical revisionists and presents. His commitment to America and his vast contributions to the framing of society as it is today are overlooked in favor of a base analysis of his character that, while not flawless, is that of a morally upright person who has deeply held convictions and lives by them.
Jefferson was born to an important family of Virginia tobacco growers. Plantation life is based largely around the work of slaves, so Jefferson was surrounded by them from the time when he was born in 1743 until the day he died. One of the harshest criticisms of Jefferson comes from the fact that, while he vehemently opposed slavery, was indeed a slave owner himself.
Wilson also argues that Jefferson knew that his slaves would be better off working for him than free in a world where they would be treated with contempt and not given any real freedoms. Another way that Thomas Jefferson shows his moral character is in his most famous achievement, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. This document is probably the most important document in the history of the United States, and one of the most important in the history of the world.
Jefferson writes that all men are created equal and argue that every man has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson’s document shows not only his strongly held beliefs in freedom but his acceptance of and belief in the views of the Age of Reason. He believed himself to be a person who was doing what was morally right, not for the fame that would eventually accompany. In fact, he didn’t want to write the Declaration, to begin with.
In 1776, the song Not Me, John shows how Jefferson was pushed into doing it, despite the fact that he would have actually rather gone home to see his wife. When nobody else would do it, he and agreed to write it. Were men no more, no less, shows how as a contemporary of such philosophical greats as Voltaire and Mill, he did what he did because it was what needed to happen — not in any way, shape, or form because he wanted to be remembered as a demigod, a status he actually had anyway, according to Wilson, until the 1960s.
Another thing that Jeffersons character is criticized for and blown out of proportion is his affair with a slave, Sally Hemings. Historian Fawn Brodie argues that it was not scandalous sex with an innocent slave victim, but rather a serious passion that brought Jefferson and the slave woman much happiness over a period lasting thirty-eight years. True, their affair started when she was only 14 years old, but to criticize this is terribly presentist.
In colonial times, especially in the middle and southern colonies, girls were married off between the ages of 13 and 16; it was not considered degradation and abuse like it is today. In fact, his relationship with Hemings could actually be considered to be a positive thing for him on two fronts: Since she was 52 when he died, Jefferson obviously did not desire her solely on a physical basis; also, he promised his wife when she died that he would not remarry.
He fulfilled his promise only because he found a woman to love whom he was not expected, indeed not allowed, to marry. This is a weak front on which to criticize Jefferson. Given Jeffersons contributions to American society, it is almost impossible to find him to be morally weak and coarse. Those who do are presenters, cynics, and nay-sayers who are simply looking for a way to criticize one of the greatest Americans who has ever lived.
Example #9 – Hofstadter’s Thomas Jefferson: an Original View on an Extraordinary Personality
In the book The American Political Tradition, by Hofstadter, Jefferson, in the opinion of the author, is an extremely complex man. Jefferson is usually thought to be an incredibly important and well-respected figure in American history, but in the way that Hofstadter explains it, over time Jefferson has been highly overdramatized and is much less the person that he is commonly said to be.
Hofstadter claims that Jefferson was a massive hypocrite, as his ideals are completely contradictory to his actions a large amount of the time. To put Hofstadter’s opinions of Jefferson together; Jefferson is not the man he is ordinarily portrayed as, but rather a hypocrite who’s placed in American history has been existentially exaggerated.
Hofstadter in his book claims that Jefferson was quite the hypocrite, as his ideas were largely contradictory to how he actually lived his life. Jefferson wanted the United States to be a Meritocracy, a place in which the skilled workman was the top class. As Jefferson wanted a Meritocracy, Jefferson still was in full support of the people of whom he surrounded himself, the wealthy, upper-class politicians of the United States.
According to Hofstadter, “Under his leadership, the Virginia reformers abolished primogeniture and entail… “ (27). This helps to show how Jefferson’s ideals largely contradict how he is as a person. Jefferson was in full, a massive recipient of primogeniture when his father died. Due to the primogeniture laws, Jefferson was given “2,700 acres and a large number of bondsman”. Jefferson abolished primogeniture later in his life, yet never had to really work for anything as immediate wealth was bestowed upon him.
As well as the abolishment of primogeniture, for a long time, Jefferson worked on a draft on the emancipation of slaves and abolishing slavery in total. Yet again, another contradictory action, as Jefferson was a benevolent slave owner who owned upwards of 600 slaves, and even though he tried to free slaves, he never freed the ones he owned. One of the reasons he never went through with his draft for slavery was as stated by Jefferson in Hofstadter, “that the public mind would not bear the proposition…
Yet the day is not distant when it must bear and adopt it, or worse will follow” (29). Jefferson was too afraid to go against the public opinion regardless of him being claimed as a “revolutionary”, as he never in his life would ever go against the public opinion. “… after he wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom he avoided expressing his more unacceptable ideas in public”.
Jefferson’s choice to never go against the majority opinion is one of many reasons that Hofstadter argues that Jefferson is really not a true “revolutionary” and that Jefferson’s hypocrisy is the main proponent in the exaggeration of his place in history. Jefferson is claimed by Hofstadter to be a very complex man, this partially pertaining to his thoughts as they relate to his voiced opinions. Jefferson always sided with the masses on every major issue, yet in reality, the way he really felt about something differed from his vocalized opinion.
For example, Hofstadter uses a quote from Charles M. Wiltse, “He remains aloof from the masses, and if he claims equality for all men, it is not because he feels all men are equal, but because of he reasons they must be so” (26). Hofstadter uses this quote to help show that Jefferson, a man who truly believes that he is better than the common folk, sides with the common folk on the issue that all men are equal. Once again, his ideas contradicting his actions.
Another stance that Jefferson takes is that he was in total belief that the agrarian United States was the way it should be and that these “Jeffersonians” (people who followed the agrarian ideals of Jefferson) would be the face of the nation. As Hofstadter claims, “… but when he entered the White House it was after satisfying the Federalists that he and they had come to some kind of understanding” (44).
Jefferson fully believing in a “Jeffersonian Democracy”, still in a large amount supported the people whom he surrounded himself with, Federalists, who believed in Federalism, a concept far from a Jeffersonian Democracy. Jefferson, as explained in the quote, believed in something far from Federalism but obviously, his “strong” set of beliefs were broken as he appeased the important Federalists of the nation. Jefferson appeasing to the Federalists comes as a sign of weakness in his thoughts, as he remodeled his original thoughts to ones that were influenced by the Federalists.
He did appease them to win their vote, but during his Presidency, he stayed true to his word on the agreed intentions. Jefferson’s true thoughts in most cases were never reflected in the statements he made to the public, and this highlights the fact that people really couldn’t trust in things he would say, there was usually an underlying opinion of which he wouldn’t reveal.
In American history, Thomas Jefferson is commonly known and praised for his achievements and how he helped shape America, but Hofstadter elucidates that Jefferson has some large failures that are never really spoken about. American history surrounding Jefferson is always known to be only positive, and you would never know that he has had some massive failures in his past, as his “overdramatized” achievements drown out his failures. One of these failures was the Embargo Act of 1807.
The Embargo Act aimed to get Britain and France to end the maritime seizures and give the United States the power they deserve by basically restricting American exports to Britain and France. As Hofstadter explains, “The Embargo not only failed to force Britain and France to respect American rights on the high seas but also brought economic paralysis to the trading cities of the Northeast and the farms and plantations of the West and South.
Jefferson finally admitted that the fifteen months of its operation cost more than war” (51). Hofstadter uses this example because it shows that this was an incredibly large failure on Jefferson’s part that came at an expense equating to more than the cost of war. Not only was Jefferson unsuccessful in the creation of the Embargo Act, but even after, he continued to ban the trade, creating the Nonintercourse Act, which only opened trade up to a limited section of Europe.
The Nonintercourse act in the eyes of Americans was a horrible decision, as by Jefferson appeasing Britain and France, he was showing and psychologically stating that America was weaker than Britain and France by continuing to allow the maritime seizures. Another failure of Jefferson that the Embargo Act was Jefferson’s view of an “Agrarian America”. This was a large failure because as exclaimed by Hofstadter, “… it was expansionism – what John Randolph called “agrarian cupidity”- rather than free trade that in the end brought the War of 1812” (52).
Jefferson’s ideals for the United States ended up causing a war between the Northern and Southern United States, as the North wanted Canada and the South wanted Florida. Jefferson’s vision was for America to be made up of self-sufficient yeoman farmers, ones that did not have the large-scale business aspirations, but rather ones that did well enough to get by on their own, decreasing the dependency on each other. But this vision came to a screeching halt when the farmers became greedy, as their “cupidity”, their greed/desire for wealth caused the War of 1812.
Many historians paint the picture that Jefferson was a man who influenced American history in only positive ways, yet they seem to leave out the fact that Jefferson was far from perfect, and he had many costly failures that Hofstadter eloquently points out. Jefferson is always made out to be one of the most positively influential men in American history, but Hofstadter shows that Jefferson is entirely different from what is commonly relayed about him.
Jefferson is not the man he is so frequently explained to be, but rather a complex mess of a man whose accomplishments in the eyes of many historians seem to make his failures insignificant when in reality his failures were brutal and cost America largely. Jefferson was not as stunning as he is always explained as, but is a hypocrite and an overdramatized man whose place in American history is not as righteous as commonly believed.
In many ways has Jefferson gone wrong in American history, but Hofstadter takes too much of a cynical approach to Jefferson, really highlighting failures and moral complexities that seem to really turn one of the great men in American history into someone that doesn’t deserve any credit. Regardless of Jefferson’s mistakes, large or small, he still has made such profound changes in American history that he deserves some massive credit to his name. Hofstadter attempts to turn people against Jefferson, briefly noting his successes, but dwelling on his mistakes and inconsistencies.
Although some mistakes cost a lot, Jefferson’s successes and mistakes really do even out, with his mistakes seeming to make up less profound history than his accomplishments. Jefferson deserves his spot in American history despite his mistakes, as every person in history has made a mistake, and Jefferson’s triumphs truly do account and leave fervent impressment in American history.
Example #10 – interesting ideas
So I’m writing an essay about if I think that Thomas Jefferson was a hypocrite or just a man of his time. I chose the side that he was indeed a hypocrite. However, in my next paragraph, I must describe the other side of the argument. About him being a man of his time. I believe he is a hypocrite. How can I talk about him not being a man of his time because he is a hypocrite? Update: I believe he is a hypocrite for owning slaves and telling others that he thought slavery was wrong and that all men were created equal. Sorry, I forgot to mention that.
So, like, in what respect do you call him a hypocrite, and about what issues do you refer to? Rumor has it that Jefferson did and said more than one or two things in his life, and he was around not only during the War for American Independence and during his presidency but for the rest of his life as well. Your question is incomplete and defies the answer. Specify the Jeffersonian issues to which you refer. Just his role in the Marbury v Madison fiasco should tell you all you need to know about the consistency of his political pronouncements.
If you refer to slavery and black/white relations, read what the man himself said. Things like: “The circumstance of superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man? Besides those of color, figure, and hair, there are other physical distinctions proving a difference of race. They have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the kidneys, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odor. This greater degree of transpiration renders them more tolerant of heat, and less so of cold than the whites.” or
“A black after hard labor through the day will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it is present.” and
“Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.” or even
“We know that among the Romans, about the Augustan age especially, the condition of their slaves was much more deplorable than that of the blacks on the continent of America.”Gives you an idea of what contemporary conventional wisdom was in the latter half of the 18th century, but then, addressing abolition or emancipation, he said things like “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever…” and
“The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of heaven, for a total emancipation, and that this is disposed of, in the order of events, to be with the consent of the masters, rather than by their extirpation.” Naturally, you have to deal with Sally Hemings and statements like “Their blacks’ amalgamation with the other color, produces a degradation to which no lover of his country, no lover of excellence in the human character, can innocently consent”.
Given his statements on manumission, you have to compare his personal actions, especially vis-a-vis Sally and his children, and Sally’s children, but in considering Sally and her children, you have to consider the Virginia law that would have required them to leave Virginia if they were freed. The children were manumitted under Jefferson’s Will. Sally was 56 when Jefferson died (and appraised at $50.00) and incapable of supporting herself.
She became the property of Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Randolph, and lived out her life in Martha’s home with informal freedom that would not require her to leave the state. If the bond between Sally and Tom was as strong as it seems to have been, would it make sense to free her if it would require their forced separation? Did she want to stay with Jefferson or be free? If she wanted to stay, did she want her children to be freed so that she would never be able to see them again?
Jefferson’s other slaves are a different matter. They were sold at an executor’s sale after his death, along with Monticello and everything in it, to cover some of the debt he owed. Would his creditors have allowed him to free his slave and thus ‘waste’ assets which would have and should have been applied to their debts? Did the loan agreements into which Jefferson entered preclude him from selling his slaves?
I wouldn’t delve too deeply into the Declaration of Independence were I you unless you are sure which language was actually his. Each member of the Committee of Five had significant input in the document and the alteration of a single of Jefferson’s words by Franklin or Adams (or Livingston or Sherman) can skew the actual intent of Jefferson. Also, bear in mind that the committee acknowledged that they were not trying to (and didn’t) break any new legal or philosophical ground with the document and they admitted freely that they borrowed heavily from other sources, sometimes verbatim.
Then, the final language of the finished product was revised by the entire Second Continental Congress. Finally, one must remember the purpose for which the Declaration was produced. It was not intended as a philosophical treatise or expression of the individual beliefs of the authors or any of them. The Declaration does NOT necessarily set forth Jefferson’s personal views (and in some specific instances, it does not). The Declaration is one of the worst places to look if one is seeking an expression of Jefferson’s own thoughts.
The bottom line, if you take the time to read about the man and if you read his own words, is that Jefferson was a liar, a hypocrite, a scoundrel, and a fraud in certain given instances. He was, after all, human. He was also, like all of us, a product of his times. That too is part and parcel of the human condition. Being a product of one’s times and being a hypocrite are not mutually exclusive concepts. It’s up to you to find the words and actions by which you intend to define the man and then to formulate your arguments (on both sides) accordingly.
Looking to a single issue describe Thomas Jefferson is akin to missing the beach by looking at a single shell or grain of sand. I wouldn’t belittle and disgrace the man, his memory, his accomplishments, or his contributions in that way. I mean, consider what JFK said to 49 Nobel Prize winners he invited to the White House in 1962: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” That is one of the few things Kennedy ever said that I agree with.
Edit: In that case, you have to consider his finances and economic necessity as well, and decide what, if any, bearing that had on his actions. Believing in something and being able to do it may or may not be the same thing, and not doing something because one lacks the ability or wherewithal to proceed may not necessarily justify the sobriquet “hypocrite”. Therein may lie your answer.
To Intheknow: Sorry, but Jefferson not only did not take credit for writing the entire Constitution, but he also didn’t take credit for writing a single word of it. He was in France during the entire time the Philadelphia (Constitutional) Convention met (and for a couple of years before and after). Gouverneur Morris has always been credited with being the chief author of the Constitution, and especially of the Preamble. The “all men are created equal” language is in the Declaration, not in the constitution and Jefferson did do the grunt work on that one.
Madison and Morris couldn’t help much on that one: neither was a delegate of the Second Continental Congress and neither was present. You might want to read John Locke, Charles de Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Aristotle, to name but a few, before giving Madison, Morris, or even Jefferson credit for coming up with the concept or the phrase. Aaron Burr was Jefferson’s Vice President, not James Madison. Madison was Secretary of State. Madison a Quaker? He was a devout Episcopal.
Please tell me you are deliberately giving all that bogus information on purpose to help the asker flunk the assignment and you don’t really believe that which you posted? If it is intended as fraudulent, I commend you. If not, you have my sympathy. Whichever, your answer is an excellent example of why one should NEVER rely on YahooAnswers for homework help.
Edit 2 to Intheknow: Gee, I’m sorry, but when you said that Jefferson (who is almost universally recognized as one of the most brilliant minds in human history, who was a poor orator but drafted into or elected into delegation after convention after representative body after statehouse for his intellect and his writing and literary skills) couldn’t string 20 words together in a sentence, you kind of lost your credibility with me. You lost even more by the reference to the “Merry Affair”.
Given what Anthony Merry’s several years of lies did to undermine Jefferson’s presidency and the Democratic-Republican Party, not to mention US prestige around the world, I’m surprised Jefferson didn’t challenge him to a duel. I’m even more surprised Merry didn’t cause a far more serious international incident. British Ambassadors shouldn’t do things like that.
You use the words “freedom, life, liberty and justice” in a sentence referring to “that document” in a paragraph sandwiched between two others referring specifically to the constitution, without once mentioning the Declaration. I guess I missed your segue from and back to the Constitution. How can I be blamed for missing it, particularly when the subject paragraph begins with “Unfortunately, in that statement …” which by all rules of grammar, literature, and logic necessarily refers back to the only “statement” ie, the constitution, which you mentioned? Mea Culpa.
If you have read anything by the folks who were at the Philadelphia Convention, you know full well that the 3/5s compromise was to resolve issues of representation. The North insisted that if the slaves couldn’t be citizens and couldn’t vote, they shouldn’t be counted for allocation of Representatives in the House, and the Southern aristocrats who didn’t consider their slaves to be people but considered them as draft animals and property (which, under prevailing law here and elsewhere, they were) demanded that the slaves be counted so as to increase Southern representation in the House.
The issue was a deal-breaker and threatened to stop the constitutional process dead in its tracks. The 3/5s compromise was reluctantly accepted by all because making a constitution was the more important issue. Article IV, section 2, clause 3 is a much more clear statement of the legality and constitutionality of slavery. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever inconsistent between the Constitution and the Declaration if read, as each must be, in the context of the times from the frame of reference of the draftsmen.
Dolley Payne was indeed born a Quaker. Her parents were against slavery to the extent that they freed theirs when Dolley was 15. I am sure that John Payne’s financial problems had nothing to do with his decision. Neither did his move to Philadelphia, a somewhat larger Quaker enclave than Scotchtown Virginia. Dolley remained a Quaker when she married John Todd.
However, when Todd died, she gave up most of her Quaker customs and traditions and she left (was ostracized from) her religion entirely when she married Madison. Madison never renounced his Episcopal faith. On what basis did you call him a Quaker? Madison’s religion had nothing to do with their right to own slaves; the law and the constitution gave them that.
Slavery wasn’t fully abolished in the North until New Jersey finally did it in 1837 (Unless one calls Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, and the District of Columbia part of the North) or in Great Britain until 1833 or in Canada until 1834 or in Spain until 1837 or in France and French colonies until 1848 or in the USA until 1865 – or in Niger until 2003. One’s “rights” come from one’s government, not from one’s philosophy or religion. (Who did I tongue-lash, Dolley? James, when I demoted him from Vice-President, which he never was, to Secretary of State?
Or will my reading Dolley’s book change the historical errors to which I previously referred?) As for the reading of Dolley, I am fond of some of her letters, but I prefer Richard Cote’s “Strength and Honor: The Life of Dolley Madison” Of course, I would never form an opinion on the basis of a single source and Cote’s biases are made pretty clear by the things he fails to include, the way he shades certain incidents and some glaring errors or deliberate misrepresentations.
You said Jefferson “accepted full credit for the writing of the constitution”. Jefferson never once claimed to have written any part of the constitution nor did he accept credit for doing so. How could he? His contemporaries all knew he was in France when it was written. There is no confusion there. Now you say he “…is wrongly credited with writing the Constitution left and right.” No one who knows anything at all about Jefferson, the constitution, or the Philadelphia Convention has ever suggested he had anything to do with it.
Disregarding your present change of tack, I have never read anything by any credible or reputable author that credits Jefferson for writing a word of the constitution. Just who is it that does so left and right? Maybe if you simply pointed out that he never did something that he never claimed to have done or never accepted credit for having done, It would be less confusing. It would also be pointless. I guess that in your eagerness to cast aspersions on the man, you lost me in the dust. Again, Mea Culpa. But I do enjoy the dialogue.
I’m writing an essay for my History class. The topic I chose was this: Do you believe that Thomas Jefferson believed in “all men are created equal” when at the time those words were written certain groups did not and were not given the right to vote? Thoughts? How should I structure the essay? Help in general?
Answer. No, I don’t believe Jefferson believed in “all men are created equal” simply because he had slaves of his own on his own plantation. I would start it out with an intro. Always include a quote in the opening line. This has been my fan favorite and has always received positive feedback when using this strategy.
The second paragraph should be about informing us of what was going on at that period. The final three paragraphs should try to inform us of why you believe or not believe that “all me are created equally”. For your references, and always include them, I use owl.english.purdue.edu/, it is a well-known site and very helpful too.