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Essay Thomas Jefferson

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Thomas Jefferson is one of the most profound and important figures in

American History. Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United

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States of America, a diplomat, statesman, architect, scientist, and

philosopher. No leader in this period of American History was as articulate,

wise, or aware of the problems and consequences of a free society as Thomas

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, a tobacco

plantation in Virginia. His father, Peter Jefferson, was an extremely smart

man, not to mention a self-made success, all despite the fact he was formally

uneducated. His mother, Jane Randolph was a member of one of the most

distinguished families in Virginia. Peter Jefferson died when Thomas was

14, leaving him many valuable properties and lands. As a result of being

formally uneducated himself he demanded his son Thomas be schooled. 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 made himself a

home in Monticello to raise a family. When he and Martha moved to

Monticello, only a small one room building was completed for them to stay

Jefferson was thirty years old when he first 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 continuing problem in British-Colonial relations overshadowed

routine action of 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. As a result, 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 which were more 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.

Because of these resolutions all important writing assignments were entrusted

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

When he retired in 1776, he was appointed to a five-man committee,

including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, which was given 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

In June of 1779, Jefferson was elected Governor of Virginia. He

continued his career as a public executive, confident of his abilities, of the

respect, and the affection of his common wealth. 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 legislatures were forced to flee from their new capital city of

Richmond. Jefferson, as head of 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 made in contrast to

the charges of betraying his duty, made by certain members in 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 of Virginia. This book went into great detail about the

beauty of external nature as in its clarification of moral, political, and social

issues, was read by scientist 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 decided to turn down 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 preferred the necessity of stronger

international commercial relations, and in 1784, wrote 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, 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 late 1789 (Smith 170). When he got back from

Europe President Washington asked Jefferson to be Secretary of State.

Jefferson accepted the post and found himself disagreeing with the

Seceratary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson thought that all of

Hamilton’s acts were dominated by one purpose: to establish government by

and for a privileged few. Jefferson repeatedly thought of retiring from the

cabinet position in which he was constantly arguing against Hamilton, the

power-hungry man in the capitol. After negotiating the country’s foreign

problems, Jefferson once again retired to Monticello. During retirement,

Jefferson supervised the farming of his many lands and designed a plow

which revolutionized agriculture; he tended 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, liberal propagandists, and agitators, also the

Sedition Act, to hold the press. The Sedition Act gave the Administration the

power to fine, imprison, and prosecute any opposing writer, so therefore the

Republicans were kept quiet in the remaining years of Adam’s

Administration (Randall 523, 528).

In 1800, Jefferson and Aaron Burr ran for office. The electoral vote,

in contrast to the popular vote, resulted in a tie between Jefferson and Burr.

The Federalist 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 important problem

of his career. Spain transferred to France its rights to the port of new

Orleans, and the section of land controlling 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 extremely important that America control the

Louisiana territory, either through peaceful negotiation or by war. When

French dictator Napoleon, suddenly offered to sell for fifteen million dollars,

not only the port of New Orleans, but also the entire piece of French owned

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 much thinking, Jefferson authorized the

purchase (Smith 266). Therefore his first term ended in a blaze of glory. The

people, happy with the good fortune of their nation, 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 full of defections and desertions. When his

term expired on march 3, 1809, he was thrilled to be leaving politics and

returned to Monticello (McLaughlin 376).

Jefferson’s daughter Martha said that in retirement her father never

abandoned 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 friendship, but

could not resist an intellectual challenge, or turn down an appeal for his

opinion, advice, or help. He continued to discuss with quick thinking and a

brilliant clarity such divers 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 as a means to an

end, but an end in itself. He felt education was the key to life 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 out an agent to select the faculty, he chose 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 flaw on his time and thought

which caused Jefferson endless embarrassment. His finances, always shaky,

finally collapsed. Jefferson had frequently advanced money to friends who

cared much more for possessions than he, and occasionally had been forced

to make good on their notes when they found it impossible to do so. He

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 sixteen thousand dollars to aid the leader who had devoted his industry

and resourcefulness to all America for half of a century (Smith 304).

On July 4, 1826, Jefferson died at Monticello. He was buried on the

hillside beside his wife. He had written the script for his headstone himself:

Author of the Declaration of American Independence

of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom

and father of the University of Virginia.

With absolute brilliance and an unbelievable sense of what was best

for the American people Thomas Jefferson established himself as one of the

best and most contributive leaders in American history.


Cite this Essay Thomas Jefferson

Essay Thomas Jefferson. (2018, Aug 11). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/essay-thomas-jefferson/

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