|3rd President of the United States|
March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1809
|Vice President||Aaron Burr
|Preceded by||John Adams|
|Succeeded by||James Madison|
|2nd Vice President of the United States|
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
|Preceded by||John Adams|
|Succeeded by||Aaron Burr|
|1st United States Secretary of State|
March 22, 1790 – December 31, 1793
|Preceded by||John Jay (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Edmund Randolph|
|United States Minister to France|
May 17, 1785 – September 26, 1789
|Appointed by||Congress of the Confederation|
|Preceded by||Benjamin Franklin|
|Succeeded by||William Short|
|Delegate to the Congress of the Confederation
November 3, 1783 – May 7, 1784
|Preceded by||James Madison|
|Succeeded by||Richard Henry Lee|
|2nd Governor of Virginia|
June 1, 1779 – June 3, 1781
|Preceded by||Patrick Henry|
|Succeeded by||William Fleming|
|Delegate to the Second Continental Congress
June 20, 1775 – September 26, 1776
|Preceded by||George Washington|
|Succeeded by||John Harvie|
April 13, 1743|
|Died||July 4, 1826
Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.
|Children||Martha, Jane, Mary, Lucy, Lucy Elizabeth|
|Alma mater||College of William and Mary|
|Profession||Statesman, planter, lawyer, architect|
|Religion||Christian deism (unaffiliated deism)[a]|
Thomas Jefferson (April 13 [O.S. April 2] 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809). He was a spokesman for democracy, and embraced the principles of republicanism and the rights of the individual with worldwide influence. At the beginning of the American Revolution, he served in the Continental Congress, representing Virginia, and then served as a wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781). In May 1785, he became the United States Minister to France and later the first United States Secretary of State (1790–1793) serving under President George Washington. In opposition to Alexander Hamilton's Federalism, Jefferson and his close friend, James Madison, organized the Democratic-Republican Party, and later resigned from Washington's cabinet. Elected Vice President in 1796, Jefferson opposed Adams, and with Madison secretly wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which attempted to nullify the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Elected president in what Jefferson called the Revolution of 1800, he oversaw acquisition of the vast Louisiana Territory from France (1803), and sent out the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806), and later three others, to explore the new west. Jefferson doubled the size of the United States during his presidency. His second term was beset with troubles at home, such as the failed treason trial of his former Vice President Aaron Burr. When Britain threatened American shipping challenging U.S. neutrality during its war with Napoleon, he tried economic warfare with his embargo laws. But it only damaged American trade. In 1803, President Jefferson initiated a process of Indian tribal removal to the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi River, having opened lands for eventual American settlers. In 1807 Jefferson drafted and signed into law a bill that banned slave importation into the United States.
A leader in the Enlightenment, Jefferson was a polymath in the arts, sciences, and politics. Considered an important architect in the classical tradition, he designed his home Monticello and other notable buildings. Jefferson was keenly interested in science, invention, architecture, religion, and philosophy; he was an active member and eventual president of the American Philosophical Society. He was conversant in French, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, and studied other languages and linguistics, interests which led him to found the University of Virginia after his presidency. Although not a notable orator, Jefferson was a skilled writer and corresponded with many influential people in America and Europe throughout his adult life. After Martha Jefferson, his wife of eleven years, died in 1782, Jefferson kept his promise to her that he would never remarry. Their marriage had produced six children, of whom two survived to adulthood.
As long as he lived, Jefferson expressed opposition to slavery, yet he owned hundreds of slaves and freed only a few of them. Historians generally believe that after the death of his wife Jefferson had a long-term relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, and fathered some or all of her children. Although criticized by many present-day scholars over the issues of racism and slavery, Jefferson is consistently rated as one of the greatest U.S. presidents.
The third of ten children, Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 (April 2, 1743 OS) at the family home in a one and a half story farmhouse not farm from the Virginia wilderness. According to his autobiography, Jefferson's earliest memory was being handed to a slave on horseback and carried 50 miles away to their new home which overlooked the Rivanna River near Richmond, in Shadwell, Goochland County, Virginia, now part of Albemarle County. Much of his correspondence to relatives makes mention of this memory. His father was Peter Jefferson, a planter and surveyor who died when Jefferson was fourteen, never getting the chance to measure up to him as an adult. Jefferson's facial appearance resembled that of his father, but his slim physical form resembled that of his mother's family. He was of possible Welsh descent, although this remains unclear. His mother was Jane Randolph, daughter of Isham Randolph, a ship's captain and sometime planter. Peter and Jane married in 1739. Thomas Jefferson showed little interest in learning about his ancestry; he only knew of the existence of his paternal grandfather. However, Jefferson wrote in his autobiography that his father came from the foothills of Snowdon.
Before the widower William Randolph, an old friend of Peter Jefferson, died in 1745, he appointed Peter as guardian to manage his Tuckahoe Plantation and care for his four children. That year the Jeffersons relocated to Tuckahoe, where they lived for the next seven years before returning to Shadwell in 1752. Peter Jefferson died in 1757 and the Jefferson estate was divided between Peter's two sons, Thomas and Randolph. Thomas inherited approximately 5,000 acres (2,000 ha; 7.8 sq mi) of land, including Monticello, and between 20 and 40 slaves. He took control of the property after he came of age at 21. The precise amount of land and number of slaves that Jefferson inherited is estimated.
Jefferson began his childhood education under the direction of tutors at Tuckahoe along with the Randolph children. In 1752, Jefferson began attending a local school run by a Scottish Presbyterian minister. At the age of nine, Jefferson began studying Latin, Greek, and French; he learned to ride horses, and began to appreciate the study of nature. He studied under Reverend James Maury from 1758 to 1760 near Gordonsville, Virginia. While boarding with Maury's family, he studied history, science, and the classics.
At age 16, Jefferson entered the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg and first met the law professor George Wythe who became his influential mentor. He studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under Professor William Small, who introduced the enthusiastic Jefferson to the writings of the British Empiricists, including John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton. He also improved his French, Greek, and violin. A diligent student, Jefferson displayed an avid curiosity in all fields and graduated in 1762, completing his studies in only two years. Jefferson read law while working as a law clerk for Wythe. During this time, he also read a wide variety of English classics and political works. Jefferson was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767.
Throughout his life, Jefferson depended on books for his education. In 1770, Jefferson's home as well as family library (consisting of 200 volumes) in Shadwell, Virginia, was destroyed by fire. By 1773 he had collected 1,250 titles. By 1815, his collection had grown to almost 6,500 volumes. He collected and accumulated thousands of books for his library at Monticello. When Jefferson's father Peter died Thomas inherited, among other things, his large library. A significant portion of Jefferson's library was also bequeathed to him in the will of George Wythe, who had an extensive collection. After the British burned the Library of Congress in 1814 Jefferson offered to sell his collection of more than 6,000 books to the Library of Congress for $23,950. After realizing he was no longer in possession of such a grand collection he wrote in a letter to John Adams, "I cannot live without books". He intended to pay off some of his large debt, but immediately started buying more books. In February 2011 the New York Times reported that a part of Jefferson's retirement library, containing 74 volumes with 28 book titles, was discovered at Washington University in St. Louis. In honor of Jefferson's contribution, the library's website for federal legislative information was named THOMAS.
After practicing as a circuit lawyer for several years, Jefferson married the 23-year-old widow Martha Wayles Skelton on January 1, 1772. They were third cousins. Their marriage took place at the house of Martha's father and the marriage ceremony was conducted by the Reverend William Coutts, while the celebrations lasted for several days. Martha Jefferson was attractive, gracious, and popular with her friends; she was a frequent hostess for Jefferson and managed the large household. They had a happy marriage which is considered the happiest period of Jefferson's life. Martha read widely, did fine needle work and was an amateur musician. Jefferson, who was accomplished on the violin and cello, played with Martha who was an accomplished piano player. It is said that she was attracted to Thomas largely because of their mutual love of music. During the ten years of their marriage, Martha bore six children: Martha, called Patsy, (1772–1836); Jane (1774–1775); an unnamed son (1777); Mary Wayles, called Polly, (1778–1804); Lucy Elizabeth (1780–1781); and Lucy Elizabeth (1782–1785). Only Martha and Mary survived to adulthood. After her father John Wayles died in 1773, Martha and her husband Jefferson inherited his 135 slaves, 11,000 acres (4,500 ha; 17 sq mi) and the debts of his estate. These took Jefferson and other co-executors of the estate years to pay off, which contributed to his financial problems.
Later in life, Martha Jefferson suffered from diabetes and ill health, and frequent childbirth further weakened her. A few months after the birth of her last child, Martha died on September 6, 1782, at the age of 33. Jefferson was at his wife's bedside and was distraught after her death. In the following three weeks, Jefferson shut himself in his room, where he paced back and forth until he was nearly exhausted. Later he would often take long rides on secluded roads to mourn for his wife.
Martha's mother had died young, and as a girl Martha lived with two stepmothers. Shortly before her death, Martha told Jefferson that she could not bear to have another mother raise her children. She pleaded with him to promise never to marry again. Jefferson gave his dying wife his solemn promise and never remarried.
In 1768, Jefferson began construction of his primary residence, Monticello, (Italian for "Little Mountain") on a hilltop overlooking a 5,000 acre plantation.[b] Construction was done mostly by local masons and carpenters, assisted by Jefferson's slaves, who also played a major role. Jefferson moved into the South Pavilion (an outbuilding) in 1770, where his new wife, Martha, joined him in 1772. Turning Monticello into a neoclassical masterpiece after the Palladian style would be his continuing project.
As here were no architecture schools then, Jefferson learned the trade on his own from various books and by studying some of the various classical architectural designs of the day. His "bible" was Andrea Palladio's The Four Books of Architecture, which taught him the basic principles of classical design. While Minister to France during 1784–1789, Jefferson had opportunity to see some of the classical buildings with which he had become acquainted from his reading, as well as to discover the "modern" trends in French architecture then fashionable in Paris. After service as Secretary of State (1790–93), he began rebuilding Monticello based on the ideas he had acquired in Europe. The remodeling continued throughout most of his presidency (1801–09). The most notable change was the addition of the octagonal dome.
Jefferson studied law in colonial Virginia from 1768 to 1773 with his friend and mentor, George Wythe. Jefferson's client list featured members of Virginia's elite families, including members of his mother's family, the Randolphs. Following his study with George Wythe, Jefferson was admitted to the bar of the General Court of Virginia in 1767 and then lived with his mother at Shadwell. His practice took him up and down the Valley from Staunton to Winchester. It was while he was at Shadwell that he lost his library, legal papers, and notes for the coming legal term to a fire. He was desperate, even frantic, but George Wythe consoled him with a line from Virgil, "Carry on, and preserve yourselves for better times."
Besides practicing law, Jefferson represented Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Burgesses beginning on May 11, 1769 and ending June 20, 1775. Though inheriting 150 slaves from his father, Jefferson proved more willing to reform Virginia's slavery in his early career than later when he became an embodiment of slave-holding interest in the new republic. In 1769 he made one effort to enact enabling legislation for the masters' "permission of the emancipation of slaves," thus taking away the discretion in each case from the royal Governor and his General Court. It was rejected, and although Jefferson had persuaded his cousin Richard Bland to take the lead, the reaction in the House was conclusive. Jefferson recalled Bland was "treated with the grossest indecorum."
As a lawyer, Jefferson was closely involved with and took on a number of freedom suits for slaves seeking their freedom. He took the case of Samuel Howell (i.e.Samuel Howell v. Wade Netherland) without charging him a fee. Howell was the grandson of a white woman and a black man who sued that he should be freed immediately, not waiting until the statutory age of emancipation at thirty-one for such a mixed-race case. Jefferson made a natural-law argument, "everyone comes into the world with a right to his own person and using it at his own will ... This is what is called personal liberty, and is given him by the author of nature, because it is necessary for his own sustenance." This was Jefferson's first known public comment on the idea of natural law—an idea that he would later use in the Declaration of Independence. At this point the judge hearing the case abruptly cut him off and Jefferson lost the case. As a consolation Jefferson gave Howell some money, presumably used to help him when he ran away shortly thereafter.
While smallpox inoculation was still discouraged in many of the colonies including Virginia, the procedure was brought to Norfolk County, Virginia, and it resulted in riots in 1768 and again in 1769. Jefferson agreed to defend the victims, including Dr. Archibald Campbell, whose house had been burned as a result of the inoculations carried out there. Jefferson, who had been inoculated himself in Philadelphia at age 23, would give up his law practice before the case was resolved, but he later served on the General Assembly committee proposing to reduce the 1769 restrictions on smallpox inoculation.
Following the passage of the Intolerable Acts by the British Parliament in 1774, Jefferson wrote a set of resolutions against the acts, one of which was called The day of Fasting and Prayer resolution, calling on Reverend Charles Clay to help him execute the plan. The resolution also called for a boycott of all British goods. These were later expanded into A Summary View of the Rights of British America, in which he expressed his belief that people had the right to govern themselves.
Jefferson served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress beginning in June 1775, soon after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. He didn't know many people in the Congress, but sought out John Adams who, along with his cousin Samuel, had emerged as a leader of the convention. Jefferson and Adams established a friendship that would last the rest of their lives; it led to the drafting of Jefferson to write the declaration of independence. When Congress began considering a resolution of independence in June 1776, Adams ensured that Jefferson was appointed to the five-man committee to write a declaration in support of the resolution. After discussing the general outline for the document, the committee decided that Jefferson would write the first draft. The committee in general, and Jefferson in particular, thought Adams should write the document. Adams persuaded the committee to choose Jefferson, who was reluctant to take the assignment, and promised to consult with the younger man. Over the next seventeen days, Jefferson had limited time for writing and finished the draft quickly. Consulting with other committee members, Jefferson also drew on his own proposed draft of the Virginia Constitution, George Mason's draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and other sources. The other committee members made some changes. Most notably Jefferson had written, "We hold these truths to be sacred and un-deniable..." Franklin changed it to, "We hold these truths to be self-evident." A final draft was presented to the Congress on June 28, 1776. The title of the document was "A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled."
Jefferson viewed the Independence of the American people from the mother country Britain as breaking away from "parent stock", and that the War of Independence from Britain was a natural outcome of being separated by the Atlantic Ocean. In Jefferson's view English colonists were compelled to rely on "common sense" and rediscover the "laws of nature". According to Jefferson, the Independence of the original British colonies was in a historical succession following a similar pattern when the Saxons colonized Britain and left their mother country Europe hundreds of years earlier.
After voting in favor of the resolution of independence on July 2, Congress turned its attention to the declaration. Over three days of debate, Congress made changes and deleted nearly a fourth of the text, most notably a passage critical of the slave trade. While Jefferson resented the changes, he did not speak publicly about the revisions. On July 4, 1776, the Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence and the delegates signed the document. The Declaration would eventually be considered one of Jefferson's major achievements; his preamble has been considered an enduring statement of human rights. All men are created equal has been called "one of the best-known sentences in the English language" containing "the most potent and consequential words in American history". The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive. This view was notably promoted by Abraham Lincoln, who based his philosophy on it, and argued for the Declaration as a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.
After the colonies won their Independence, Jefferson returned to Virginia and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for Albemarle County in September 1776. Before his return, he commented on the drafting of the state's constitution; he continued to support freehold suffrage, by which only property holders could vote. For nearly three years, he worked on committees writing laws for Virginia. He was especially proud of the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. He served as a Delegate from September 26, 1776 to June 1, 1779, as the war continued. Jefferson wanted to abolish primogeniture and provide for general education, which he hoped to make the basis of "republican government." He also wanted to disestablish the Anglican church in Virginia, but this was not done until 1786, while he was in France as US Minister. After Thomas Ludwell Lee died in 1778 Jefferson was given the task of studying and revising the state's laws. Jefferson drafted 126 bills in three years, including laws to establish fee simple tenure in land and to streamline the judicial system. In 1778, Jefferson's "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge" and subsequent efforts to reduce control by clergy led to some small changes at College of William & Mary, but free public education was not established until the late nineteenth century. In 1779, at Jefferson's behest, William and Mary appointed his mentor George Wythe as the first professor of law in an American university.
In 1779, at the age of thirty-six, Jefferson was elected Governor of Virginia by the two houses of the legislature. The term was then for one year, and he was re-elected in 1780. As governor in 1780, he transferred the state capital from Williamsburg to Richmond. Jefferson served as a wartime governor, as the united colonies continued the Revolutionary War against Great Britain. In late 1780, as Governor he prepared Richmond for attack by moving all military supplies to a foundry located five miles outside of town. In January 1781 General Benedict Arnold captured the foundry during his invasion of Richmond. Jefferson called for the Virginia militia to defend the city, but by the time the defense led by Sampson Mathews arrived, it was too late to prevent the siege. Jefferson evacuated Richmond as the armies engaged.
In early June 1781, Cornwallis dispatched a 250-man cavalry force commanded by Banastre Tarleton on a secret expedition to capture Governor Jefferson and members of the Assembly at Monticello but Jack Jouett of the Virginia militia thwarted the British plan by warning them. Jefferson escaped to Poplar Forest, his plantation to the west. Jefferson believed his gubernatorial term had expired in June, and he spent much of the summer with his family at Poplar Forest. His tenure as governor in general, and his decision to flee the capital in particular, was heavily criticized at the time, and has been criticized by historians ever since. The members of the General Assembly had quickly reconvened in June 1781 in Staunton, Virginia across the Blue Ridge Mountains. They voted to reward Jouett with a pair of pistols and a sword, but considered an official inquiry into Jefferson's actions, as they believed he had failed his responsibilities as governor. Jefferson was not re-elected.
In 1780, Jefferson as governor received numerous questions about Virginia from French diplomat François Barbé-Marbois, who was gathering pertinent data on the United States. Jefferson turned his written responses to Marbois into a book, Notes on the State of Virginia (1785). In a course of five years, Jefferson compiled the book; he included a discussion of contemporary scientific knowledge, and Virginia's history, politics, laws, and ethnography, and also extensive notes on the geography of rivers, lakes, and mountains. Jefferson was aided by Thomas Walker, George R. Clark, and geographer Thomas Hutchins. The book was first published in France in 1785 and in England in 1787. The book is Jefferson's argument about what constitutes a good society, which he believed was incarnated by Virginia. It also included extensive data about the state's natural resources and its economy. He wrote extensively about slavery, miscegenation, and his belief that blacks and whites could not live together as free people in one society because of lingering resentments over slavery, fearing that it would lead to the "extermination of the one or the other race". He also expressed that "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had chosen a people." In 1785 Jefferson's Notes ' was anonymously published in Paris in a limited edition of a few hundred copies. Its first public English-language edition, issued by John Stockdale in London, appeared in 1787. The book was later edited and published by Jefferson's grandson and executor, Jefferson W. Randolph in 1853.'
Following its victory in the Revolutionary War and peace treaty with Great Britain in 1783, the United States formed a Congress of the Confederation (informally called the Continental Congress), to which Jefferson was appointed as a Virginia delegate. As a member of the committee formed to set foreign exchange rates, he recommended that American currency should be based on the decimal system; his plan was adopted. Jefferson also recommended setting up the Committee of the States, an idea he introduced back in 1776 to be used when Congress was in recess, intended to function as the executive arm of Congress. However when Congress adjourned the following June the Committee assembled to perform their duties but within two months were quarreling amongst themselves and divided into two parties. By this time Jefferson was in France and having learned of the ordeal spoke to Franklin who compared the Committee to a needed light house and its members to a raging sea, rendering it inaccessible and hence dysfunctional.
In the 1783–84 session of the Continental Congress Jefferson acted as chairman of several important committees for purposes of establishing a viable system of government for the new Republic, playing a central role advancing policy for the settlement of the western territories. Jefferson was the principal author of the Land Ordinance of 1784 where Virginia ceded the vast area it owned northwest of the Ohio River to the national government. He insisted this territory not be used as colonial territory by any of the thirteen states, but rather that it be divided into sections where each could eventually become states. He plotted borders for nine new states in its initial stages and also wrote an ordinance banning slavery in all the nation's territories. Congress made extensive revisions in the text among which the ban was originally rejected. Jefferson thought that Congress had "mutilated" his work, but outnumbered he accepted the changes. The provisions for ban on slavery were eventually modified and implemented three years later in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and became the fundamental law for the entire Northwest. The ban came to be known as the Jefferson Priviso which was later hailed by the famous abolitionist Salmon P. Chase.
Jefferson was sent by the Confederation Congress[c] to Europe to join Benjamin Franklin and John Adams as ministers for purposes of negotiating commercial trade agreements with England, Spain, and France. Since Jefferson's wife Martha had died two years previous, friends noted that the widower Jefferson seemed so depressed that he might be suicidal and believed that sending him to France would also take his mind off his wife's death. Taking his young daughter Patsy and two servants they departed from Boston on July 5, 1784 and sailed to Paris, arriving on August 6. During his nineteen-day voyage to France Jefferson taught himself how to read and write Spanish.
Richard Henry Lee had also been considered for Minister to France but both Franklin and Lafayette, who was also speaking on behalf of France, preferred and requested that Jefferson succeed Franklin as Minister. Four days after his arrival Jefferson rode out to Passy to greet his old friend Benjamin Franklin. When the French foreign minister, the Count de Vergennes, commented to Jefferson, "You replace Monsieur Franklin, I hear," Jefferson replied, "I succeed him. No man can replace him." Franklin resigned as Minister to France in March 1785 and Jefferson was appointed his successor. Jefferson attended the ceremony held at Passy bidding farewell to Franklin, who departed for the United States on July 12, 1785.
Jefferson had Patsy educated at the Pentemont Abbey. While in France he taught her French and helped her with her studies. In January 1785, Lafayette, who had just arrived from America, broke the news to Jefferson that his daughter Lucy had recently died of whooping cough. His two youngest daughters were in the care of friends in the United States. To serve the household, Jefferson brought some of his slaves, including James Hemings, whom he had trained as a French chef.
In 1787, Jefferson sent for his youngest surviving child, Polly, then age nine. She was accompanied by Sally Hemings, a slave and younger sister of James. In 1786, Jefferson, through his artist friend John Trumbull, met and fell in love with Maria Cosway, an accomplished Italian-English artist and musician of 27. They saw each other frequently over a period of six weeks. A married woman, she returned to Great Britain, but they maintained a lifelong correspondence.
While in France he became a regular companion of Lafayette, who used his influence to help Jefferson procure trade agreements between America and France. Duties on whale oil were removed while Jefferson directed more of the tobacco trade directly to France instead of through British intermediaries. He often dined with many of the city's most prominent people, and stocked up on wines to take back to the United States. While in the city Jefferson corresponded with many people who had important roles in the imminent French Revolution including the Comte de Mirabeau, a popular pamphleteer who repeated ideals that had been the basis for the American Revolution. While in Paris he wrote a letter to Edward Carrington expressing some of the ideals he held regarding the natural tendencies of government and its relationship to the people:
France was at the brink of Revolution, and Jefferson allowed his residence in Paris, the Hôtel de Langeac, to be used as a meeting place by Lafayette and other republicans. With revolution looming Jefferson often found his mail opened and inspected by various postmasters, so he began to write his important messages using a code and invented his own enciphering device, the 'Wheel Cipher'. Jefferson would continue to write his important communications in codes throughout his public career. Jefferson was in Paris during the beginning of the French revolution, including the storming of the Bastille. Jefferson left Paris on September 26, 1789, intending to return after a brief return to his home. He would later be a firm supporter of the Revolution, although he was opposed to some of its very violent and bloody aspects.
In September 1789, Jefferson returned to the US from France with his two daughters and slaves. Immediately upon his return, President Washington wrote to him asking him to accept a seat in his Cabinet as Secretary of State. Jefferson accepted the appointment.
As Washington's Secretary of State (1790–1793), Jefferson argued with Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, about national fiscal policy, especially the funding of the debts of the war. Jefferson later associated Hamilton and the Federalists with "Royalism," and said the "Hamiltonians were panting after ... crowns, coronets and mitres." On May 23, 1792, Jefferson wrote a letter to President Washington describing the political alignments that were visible in the young nation. He urged the president to rally the citizenry in a party that would defend democracy against the corrupting influence of banks and monied interests. Historians recognize this letter as a milestone that defined the founding principles of today's Democratic Party. Due to their opposition to Hamilton, Jefferson and James Madison organized and led the anti-administration party (called Republican, and known later as Democratic-Republican). He worked with Madison and his campaign manager John J. Beckley to build a nationwide network of Republican allies. Jefferson's political actions and his attempt to undermine Hamilton nearly led Washington to dismiss Jefferson from his cabinet. Although Jefferson left the cabinet voluntarily, Washington never forgave him for his actions, and never spoke to him again.
Jefferson oversaw the first major issues to come before the President's Cabinet, the national debt and the new location of the capital. Jefferson had always opposed the mounting debt and Hamilton wished to consolidate the debts incurred by the States into one debt seeing it as a means to spur economic growth where he proposed his Assumption bill. On this issue both men were in partial agreement. They differed however about where the new location of the capital would be. Hamilton wanted the capital to be close to the major centers of commerce, i.e. New York and Philadelphia, whereas Washington and Jefferson, along with the agricultural south, wanted it located further away. After much deliberation between the two men they struck a compromise at a private dinner on June 20, 1790 that Jefferson hosted with Hamilton and Madison in New York City. Under the terms of this agreement, the nation's capital would be located on the Potomac River, and the federal government would assume the huge war debts of all 13 states.
The French minister said in 1793: "Senator Morris and Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton ... had the greatest influence over the President's mind, and that it was only with difficulty that he [Jefferson] counterbalanced their efforts." Jefferson supported France against Britain when they fought in 1793. Jefferson believed that political success at home depended on the success of the French army in Europe. Jefferson's views on the violence associated with the French Revolution were complex, as he sometimes expressed support, and sometimes opposition. This was the time where republicanism was at a crossroad, reflected in his letter exchange with William Short.
During his discussions with George Hammond, first British Minister to the U.S. from 1791, Jefferson tried to achieve three important goals: secure British admission of violating the Treaty of Paris (1783) ; vacate their posts in the Northwest (the territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River north of the Ohio); and compensate the United States to pay American slave owners for the slaves whom the British had freed and evacuated at the end of the war. After failing to gain agreement on any of these, Jefferson resigned in December 1793.
Jefferson retired to Monticello, from where he continued to oppose the policies of Hamilton and Washington. The Jay Treaty of 1794, led by Hamilton, brought peace and trade with Britain – while Madison, with strong support from Jefferson, wanted "to strangle the former mother country" without going to war. "It became an article of faith among Republicans that 'commercial weapons' would suffice to bring Great Britain to any terms the United States chose to dictate." Even during the violence of the Reign of Terror in France, Jefferson refused to disavow the revolution because "To back away from France would be to undermine the cause of republicanism in America."
As the Democratic-Republican (then called Republican) presidential candidate in 1796 he came in second to President John Adams of the Federalists, but had enough electoral votes to become Vice President (1797–1801). After the election he had hoped to forego the swearing in ceremony which to him seemed monarchical but was advised to go through with it so as not to draw criticism. Hoping to arrive at Philadelphia for the ceremony unnoticed he was instead greeted by a crowd of cheering supporters and a brass band. Unlike then Vice President Adams did before him, who threw himself into the middle of the debates, Jefferson instead let the Senate conduct their own debates and confined his activity to deciding issues of procedure which resulted in a position that was "honorable and easy" for him. One of the chief duties of a Vice President is presiding over the Senate, and Jefferson was concerned about its lack of rules leaving decisions to the discretion of the presiding officer. Years before holding his first office, Jefferson had spent much time researching procedures and rules for governing bodies. As a student he had studied parliamentary law and procedure for almost forty years, and had transcribed notes on parliamentary law into a manual which he would later call his Parliamentary Pocket Book, making him very qualified to preside over the Senate. Jefferson had also served on the committee appointed to draw up the rules of order for the Continental Congress in 1776. As Vice President, he was ready to reform Senatorial procedures.
With the Quasi-War underway, the Federalists under John Adams started rebuilding the military, levied new taxes, and enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts. Jefferson believed that these acts were intended to suppress Democratic-Republicans rather than dangerous enemy aliens, although the acts were allowed to expire. Jefferson and Madison rallied opposition support by anonymously writing the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which formed the basis of State's rights, declaring that the federal government had no right to exercise powers not specifically delegated to it by the states. Though the resolutions followed the "interposition" approach of Madison, Jefferson advocated nullification. At one point he drafted a threat for Kentucky to secede.[e] Jefferson's biographer Dumas Malone argued that had his actions become known at the time, Jefferson might have been impeached for treason.
In writing the Kentucky Resolutions, Jefferson warned that, "unless arrested at the threshold," the Alien and Sedition Acts would "necessarily drive these states into revolution and blood." The theoretical damage of the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions was "deep and lasting, and was a recipe for disunion". George Washington was so appalled by them that he told Patrick Henry that if "systematically and pertinaciously pursued", they would "dissolve the union or produce coercion." The influence of Jefferson's doctrine of states' rights reverberated to the Civil War and beyond. In the spring of 1797, he held four confidential talks with the French consul Joseph Letombe. In these private meetings, Jefferson attacked Adams, predicted that he would only serve one term, and encouraged France to invade England. Jefferson advised Letombe to stall any American envoys sent to Paris by instructing him to "listen to them and then drag out the negotiations at length and mollify them by the urbanity of the proceedings." This toughened the tone that the French government adopted with the new Adams Administration. Due to pressure against the Adams Administration from Jefferson and his supporters, Congress released the papers related to the XYZ Affair, which rallied a shift in popular opinion from Jefferson and the French government to supporting Adams.
During the presidential election of 1800, Jefferson worked closely with Aaron Burr, and after rallying support for his party Jefferson, along with Burr, received votes from a majority of the electors, but Jefferson and Burr were tied (the electoral voting at the time did not distinguish between President and Vice President). Therefore, the election was decided in the outgoing Congress, by the Federalist-dominated House of Representatives.
Though the Federalists opposed both Jefferson and Burr to be president, Alexander Hamilton, leader of the Federalists, convinced his party that Jefferson would be a lesser political evil than Burr and that such scandal within the electoral process would undermine the new constitution.[f]
In 1801 Jefferson negotiated with a moderate Federalist representative from Delaware, James Asheton Bayard II, through Maryland representative, Samuel Smith, to secure Bayard's support in breaking the electoral college deadlock.
On February 17, 1801, after thirty-six ballots, the House elected Jefferson President and Burr Vice President. Jefferson owed his election victory to the South's inflated number of Electors, which counted slaves under the three-fifths compromise.
Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office on March 4, 1801, at a time when partisan strife between the Democratic-Republican and Federalist parties was growing to alarming proportions. Jefferson was sworn in by Chief Justice John Marshall at the new Capitol in Washington DC. In contrast to the preceding president John Adams, Jefferson exhibited a dislike of formal etiquette. Unlike Washington, who arrived at his inauguration in a stagecoach drawn by six cream colored horses, Jefferson arrived alone on horseback without guard or escort. He was dressed in plain attire and, after dismounting, retired his own horse to the nearby stable.
When Jefferson assumed office he was facing an $83 million national debt. Regarded by his supporters as the 'People's President' news of Jefferson's election was well received in many parts of the new country and was marked by celebrations throughout the Union. After his election some of his political opponents referred to him as the "Negro President", with critics like the Mercury and New-England Palladium of Boston stating that Jefferson had the gall to celebrate his election as a victory for democracy when he won "the temple of Liberty on the shoulders of slaves." As a result of his two predecessors' administrations, as well as the state of events in Europe, Jefferson inherited the presidency with relatively few urgent problems.
During Jefferson's first term of Republican governance he immediately began to dismantle Hamilton's Federalist fiscal system. His Secretary of Treasury, Albert Gallatin, claimed that "if this administration shall not reduce taxes, they never will be permanently reduced." The Swiss born Gallatin was Jefferson's most valued administrator and a critic of Alexander Hamilton's fiscal policy. Jefferson's administration began by eliminating the whiskey excise and all other federal internal taxes, claiming that closing "unnecessary offices", as well as cutting "useless establishments and expenses", allowed for the discontinuation of internal taxes. Jefferson and his administration also attempted to dismantle the national bank fearing its central role in increasing the national debt, along with much of the Navy as being unnecessary during peacetime, opting instead to building only gunboats for harbor and river defenses, but was only partially successful. With the exception the Attorney General office, the harmony of Jefferson's Cabinet remained stable for his eight years of presidency. Jefferson nominated moderate Republicans including James Madison Secretary of State, Henry Dearborn Secretary of War, Levi Lincoln Attorney General, and Robert Smith Secretary of Navy.
The First Barbary War was the only declared war that occurred during Jefferson's two terms as president and it marked the first war the United States engaged in on foreign soil and seas. Before Independence, American merchant ships were protected from the Barbary pirates by the naval and diplomatic influence of Great Britain. Then for decades, North African pirates captured American merchant ships, pillaging valuable cargoes and enslaving crew members, demanding huge ransoms for their release. Jefferson had opposed paying tribute to the Barbary States since as far back as 1785.
Before being elected President, Jefferson had opposed funds for a Navy to be used for anything more than a coastal defense, but the continued pirate attacks and the systematic kidnapping of American crew members could no longer be ignored. On May 15 Jefferson's cabinet voted unanimously to send three frigates and a schooner to the Mediterranean with orders to make a show of force but opt for peace; but Tripoli had already declared war upon the United States. The American navy had forced Tunis and Algiers into breaking their alliance with Tripoli which ultimately moved it out of the war. Jefferson also ordered five separate naval bombardments of Tripoli, which restored peace in the Mediterranean for a while, although Jefferson continued to pay the remaining Barbary States until the end of his presidency.
In 1803, in the midst of the Napoleonic wars between France and Britain, Thomas Jefferson authorized the Louisiana Purchase, a major land acquisition from France that doubled the size of the United States. While escalating his wars against the rest of Europe, and given the ongoing crisis in Haiti, Napoleon gave up on an empire in North America to use the purchase money to help finance Continental wars.
Jefferson had sent James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston to Paris in 1802 to arrange the purchase of the city of New Orleans and adjacent coastal areas. Napoleon I offered to sell the entire territory for $15 million, which Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin financed easily through New England banks. Most contemporaries thought that this was an exceptional opportunity, apart from any Constitutional reservations. Secretary of State James Madison gave his assurances that the Purchase was well within even the strictest interpretation of the Constitution, the Senate quickly ratified the treaty, and the House immediately authorized funding. Jefferson first asked Lafayette then subsequently Jefferson twice asked Monroe for the governorship, and finally William Claiborne was appointed to the seat.
The Purchase territory marked the end of French imperial ambitions in North America which were potentially in conflict with American expansion west. On December 20, 1803 the Louisiana territory was transferred from France to the United States. The entire territory was not finally secured until England and Mexico gave up their claims to northern and southern portions, respectively, during the presidency of James Polk (1845–1849).
The achievement of the Louisiana Purchase was domestically complicated by the pre-existing establishment of French slaveholders there. Faced with the option to confiscate the slaves of French nationals, Jefferson chose to quickly incorporate resident settlers politically into U.S. territories, allowing slavery to continue in the newly acquired territory and the adoption of the Code Napoleon in the New Orleans Territory. Since the Purchase, historians have differed in their assessments regarding constitutional and slavery issues, but Jefferson is considered as a major architect of America's western growth.
After the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Jefferson now needed to have this mostly unknown part of the continent explored and mapped for expanding westward settlement and trade. In 1804 he appointed his personal secretary Meriwether Lewis, along with William Clark, as leaders of the expedition, dubbing it the Corps of Discovery, which would explore this territory and beyond, which came to produce a wealth of scientific and geographical knowledge.
Two years into his presidency, Jefferson with the influence from various members of the American Philosophical Society persuaded Congress to fund an expedition to explore and map the newly acquired territory of the Louisiana Purchase to the Pacific Ocean. Making no attempt to hide the Expedition from Spanish, French, and British officials he instead claimed different reasons for the venture. After conferring with Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin about requesting funds for the expedition Jefferson was advised to make such request via a secret message due to poor relations with the opposition party in Congress.
Jefferson was influenced by exploration accounts of both Captain James Cook's A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1784), and Le Page du Pratz'z The History of Louisiana ... (1763). He considered it important for the United States to establish a claim of "Discovery" to the Pacific Northwest and Oregon territory by documenting and establishing an American presence there before Europeans made any claims. Hoping to find a long-sought-for Northwest Passage to the Pacific Jefferson believed such a passage would greatly promote commerce and trade for the country. Knowledge of the western continent was limited to what had been learned from trappers, traders, and explorers. Jefferson chose Lewis to lead the expedition rather than someone with only the best scientific credentials because of Lewis' military experience in the woods and "familiarity with the Indian manners and character, requisite for this undertaking." In the months leading up to the expedition, Jefferson tutored Lewis in the sciences of mapping, botany, natural history, mineralogy, and astronomy/navigation. Lewis demonstrated a marked capacity to learn. In his library at Monticello Jefferson possessed the largest collection of books in the world on the subject of the geography and natural history of the North American continent, along with an impressive collection of maps, and gave Lewis full access to that library. Jefferson also introduced Lewis to the American Philosophical Society and connected him with Caspar Wistar, the famed botanist Benjamin Smith Barton, and mathematics professor Robert Patterson, and Dr. Benjamin Rush all of whom offered their expertise to Lewis, Jefferson, and his proposed expedition. Lewis and Clark recruited a company of 45 men and spent a winter preparing near St. Louis.
Guided by Sacagawea and various Native-American tribes along the way, the expedition, traveling on the Columbia River, reached the Pacific Ocean by November 1805. After the winter thaw the expedition began their return trip on March 22, 1806 and returned to St. Louis on September 23 that year, successfully adding a wealth of scientific and geographical knowledge of the vast territory, along with knowledge of the many Indian tribes, including the Chinnoks, with whom Jefferson hoped to develop trade. The expedition was considered a success with the loss of only one life because of illness. The duration of this perilous expedition lasted from May 1804 to September 1806, and it led the way for the Oregon Trail. Two months after the expedition's end Jefferson made his first public statement to Congress giving a one sentence summary about its success before asserting the justification for the expenses involved. At the conclusion of the Expedition the American Philosophical Society ultimately became the repository for many of its findings, including seeds, fossils, plant, and other specimens along with the original journals and logs that were authored by Lewis, Clark, and other members of the expedition.
In addition to the Corps of Discovery, Jefferson organized three other western exploration expeditions including the William Dunbar and George Hunter expedition on the Ouachita River (1804–1805), the Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis expedition (1806) on the Red River, and the Zebulon Pike expedition (1806–1807) into the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest. All of the exploration expeditions sent out under Jefferson's presidency produced valuable information about the American frontier and wilderness.
Ideas for a national institution for military education were circulated during the American Revolution. In May 1801 the Secretary of War Henry Dearborn announced that the president had appointed Major Jonathan Williams, grandnephew of Benjamin Franklin, to direct organizing to establish such a school.
Following the advice of George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and others, in 1802 Jefferson and Congress agreed to authorize the funding and construction of the United States Military Academy at West Point on the Hudson River in New York.
On March 16, 1802, Jefferson signed the Military Peace Establishment Act, directing that a corps of engineers be established and "constitute a Military Academy." The Act would provide well-trained officers for a professional army. On July 4, 1802, the US Military Academy at West Point formally started as an institution for scientific and military learning.
As governor of Virginia (1780–1781) during the Revolutionary War, Jefferson recommended forcibly moving Cherokee and Shawnee tribes that fought on the British side to lands west of the Mississippi River. Later, as president, Jefferson proposed in private letters beginning in 1803 a policy that under Andrew Jackson would be called Indian removal, under an act passed in 1830. As president, he made a deal with elected officials of the state of Georgia: if Georgia would release its legal claims to "discovery" in lands to its west, the U.S. military would help expel the Cherokee people from Georgia. His deal violated an existing treaty between the United States government and the Cherokee Nation, which guaranteed its people the right to their historic lands. Jefferson believed that Natives should give up their own cultures, religions, and lifestyles to assimilate to western European culture and a European-style agriculture, which was more efficient. He believed that assimilation of Native Americans into the European-American economy would make them more dependent on trade, and that they would eventually be willing to give up land that they would otherwise not part with, in exchange for trade goods or to resolve unpaid debts. In keeping with his trade and acculturation policy, Jefferson kept Benjamin Hawkins as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Southeastern peoples, who became known as the Five Civilized Tribes for their adoption of European-American ways.
Jefferson believed assimilation was best for Native Americans; second best was removal to the west. He felt the worst outcome of the cultural and resources conflict between European Americans and Native Americans would be their attacking the whites. He told his Secretary of War, General Henry Dearborn (Indian affairs were then under the War Department): "if we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down until that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi." With the colonial and native civilizations in collision, compounded by British incitement of Indian tribes and mounting hostilities between the two peoples, Jefferson's administration took quick measures to avert another major conflict. His deal with Georgia was related to later measures to relocate the various Indian tribes to points further west.
On July 11, 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr mortally wounded Federalist Party leader Alexander Hamilton, George Washington's former Secretary of Treasury, in a duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton had been a key factor in Burr's defeat in running for the Governor of New York. Hamilton had made callous remarks regarding Burr. Believing his honor had been offended, Burr had challenged Hamilton to a duel in which Hamilton was mortally wounded. Burr was indicted for Hamilton's murder in New York and New Jersey causing him to flee to Georgia, although he remained President of the Senate during Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase's impeachment trial. The two Burr indictments were "quietly allowed to die". President Jefferson casually acknowledged Hamilton in a letter to his daughter three days after Hamilton's funeral. Hamilton had been Jefferson's primary political enemy for fourteen years.
After Aaron Burr was disgraced in the duel of 1804 and his own presidential ambitions were ended, he was reported by the British Ambassador as wanting to "effect a separation of the western part of the United States [at the Appalachian Mountains]". Jefferson believed that to be so by November 1806 because Burr had been rumored to be variously plotting with some western states to secede for an independent empire, or to raise a filibuster to conquer Mexico. At the very least, there were reports of Burr's recruiting men, stocking arms, and building boats. New Orleans seemed especially vulnerable, but at some point the American general there, James Wilkinson, a double agent for the Spanish, decided to turn on Burr. Jefferson issued a proclamation warning that there were U.S. citizens illegally plotting to take over Spanish holdings. Though Burr was nationally discredited, Jefferson feared for the very Union. In a report to Congress January 1807, Jefferson declared Burr's guilt "placed beyond question." By March 1807 Burr was arrested in New Orleans and placed on trial for treason in Richmond, Virginia, with Chief Justice John Marshall presiding. On June 13, Jefferson was subpoenaed by Burr to release documents that favored Burr's defense. Jefferson stated he had no loyalty to Burr and only released a few documents Burr had requested having invoked executive privilege. Jefferson refused to appear at Burr's trial. The weak government case led to Burr's acquittal, but with his reputation ruined he was never able to mount another adventure.
Because of his success and popularity during his first term Jefferson was nominated by the Republican congressional caucus in February 1804 for a second term as president. For Jefferson's second term, Burr was replaced as Jefferson's running mate following Burr's duel with and subsequent death of Hamilton in July 1804. Jefferson offered no testimonial or wrote any letter of tribute for Hamilton, his political enemy, and believed a "dignified silence" was best at this time. Jefferson chose George Clinton, also of New York but without the usual gentry family and connections. The Federalist caucus ran Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina, who had been John Adam's vice presidential candidate four years before. Jefferson-Clinton won overwhelmingly 162 electoral college votes to 14, running on issues of lower taxes, booming prosperity, and the Louisiana Purchase.
The domestic political split in Jefferson's own party came from fellow Virginian John Randolph of Roanoke in March 1806. Jefferson and Madison backed resolutions to limit or ban British imports in retaliation for British depredations against American shipping. Jefferson's Secretary of Treasury proposed spending $20 million in roads and canals in infrastructure, leading to the National Road west from Maryland. Randolph held that Jefferson had gone too far in a Federalist direction, building a congressional caucus of "Quids", from Latin tertium quid, "a third something", calling for a purity in republican principles and roundly denouncing both Jefferson and Madison.
Jefferson's popularity further suffered in his second term due to problems related to wars in Europe. Relations with Great Britain had always been bad, due partly to the violent personal antipathy between Jefferson and the British Ambassador, Anthony Merry. After Napoleon's decisive victory at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, Napoleon became much more aggressive in his negotiations over trading rights, and American efforts failed. Jefferson responded with the Embargo Act of 1807, directed at both France and Great Britain. This triggered economic chaos in the US and was strongly criticized at the time, resulting in Jefferson abandoning the policy a year later.
Following the Revolution all the states abolished the international slave trade, but South Carolina had reopened it. Jefferson awaited the results of his second term mid-term elections, and on his annual message of December 1806 he denounced the "violations of human rights" attending the international slave trade, calling on the newly elected Congress to criminalize it on the first day possible. In 1807, congress passed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, which Jefferson signed into effect January 1, 1808. While the act established severe punishment against the international trade, it did not regulate the domestic slave trade.
Riding on the popularity of his successful Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson confidently desired to annex Florida from Spain brokered by Emperor Napoleon. In an attempt to secure annexation Jefferson authorized Congress to secretly appropriate money, known as the $2,000,000 bill, for the project. The Congressional funding however drew criticism from Jefferson's opposition in the House Republican representative John Randolph, who believed the money would wind up in coffers of Napoleon. The bill was signed into law by Jefferson, however, negotiations failed and the funded project fell though. The $2,000,000 bill and the failure to acquire Florida caused Jefferson to loose clout among fellow Republicans while Jefferson's use of unofficial Congressional channels remained unpopular. Although Jefferson retained Republican leadership the unity and trust among Republicans declined.
Jefferson tried to prepare for war following the HMS Leopard attack on the USS Chesapeake off the Virginia coast in June 1807. He issued a proclamation banning armed British ships from entering U.S. waters. He then unilaterally without Congressional prior approval called on the governors of the states to prepare quotas for a total of 100,000 militia, and he ordered purchase of arms, ammunition, and supplies. Said the former Virginia governor who had fled Tarlton without calling out Virginia militia during the Revolution, "The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation [than strict observance of written laws]". The USS Revenge sent to receive an answer from the British government was itself fired upon, including its passenger, Vice President George Clinton. July 31, 1807 Jefferson called for a special session of Congress in October to prepare for war, embargo or do nothing. Jefferson hoped for embargo.
In December news arrived of Napoleon extending the Berlin Decree banning British imports everywhere, including the U.S. In Britain, George III ordered redoubling efforts at impressment including American sailors. But war fever of the summer had faded, Congress was in not in a mood to prepare the U.S. for war. Jefferson asked for and received the Embargo Act, the least bad option for him, and it gained time for building up defensive works, militias, and naval forces. Legislation passed December 1807, a projection of power and enforcement which historian Jon Meacham called surpassing even the hated Alien and Sedition Acts. Downturning economic consequences especially in New England and widespread negative reaction led to an end to the embargo in time for Jefferson's Secretary of State James Madison to win the 1808 presidential election.
In 1806 and 1807 British raids on American shipping and seaman were increasing, with thousands of Americans being impressed into service while Britain was showing no signs that it wanted to improve relations with the United States. In 1806 Jefferson responded with a call for a boycott on British goods, and on April 18 Congress passed the Non-Importation Acts, but they were never enacted and the date was postponed. Later in 1806, Jefferson asked James Monroe and William Pinkney to negotiate with Great Britain hoping to end the harassment of American shipping. After months of negotiations, the treaty was finalized but it lacked any provisions to end the impressment of United States citizens. Shortly thereafter the situation was compounded with the Chesapeake–Leopard Affair which all led up to the embargo of 1807.
Prompted by a letter from his friend John Page Jefferson on December 18 encouraged passage of the Embargo Act of 1807 to maintain American neutrality in the Napoleonic Wars. Subsequently both war and criticism resulted and the economy suffered, with Jefferson's party losing support. Instead of retreating, Jefferson sent federal agents to secretly track down smugglers and violators.
Jefferson's Secretary of State James Madison supported the embargo with even more vigor than Jefferson, while his Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin opposed the embargo because of its indefinite time frame and foreseeing correctly the impossibility of enforcing it without risking American neutrality. The embargo was a financial disaster because the Americans could not export. Shortly before leaving office in March 1809, Jefferson signed the repeal of the Embargo. In its place the Non-Intercourse Act was enacted, but it proved no more effective than the Embargo. The government found it was impossible to prevent American vessels from trading with the European belligerents once they had left American ports. Jefferson continued to support the Embargo Act seeing it as an alternative to war and a way to keep the United States out of War with Britain. However, he also realized that some changes were needed. Three acts were passed in Congress during 1807 and 1808. The acts were called the Supplementary, the Additional, and the Enforcement acts. Jefferson also believed the problem was the traders and merchants, who showed a lack of self-sacrificing "republican virtue" by not complying with it. Historians have generally noted that Jefferson's embargo act was ineffective and harmful to American interests yet it was also noted as an innovative non violent measure to aid France with its war with Britain while preserving American neutrality. Jefferson maintained that, had the embargo been widely observed it would have avoided war in 1812. The War of 1812 was considered the logical extension of his embargo and that, by entering the Napoleonic Wars on anti-British side, the United States gave up the advantages of neutrality.
He pardoned several people imprisoned under the Alien and Sedition Acts, passed in John Adams' term. He repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801, which removed nearly all of Adams' "midnight judges" from office. This quickly led to the Supreme Court deciding the important case of Marbury v. Madison. This also repealed a provision in the act that freed supreme court justices from having to constantly travel the country to serve as circuit court judges. This provision wasn't reinstated for another century, and its repeal under Jefferson ensured that justices would continue to bear heavy travel burdens throughout the nineteenth century. Jefferson also signed into law a bill that officially segregated the U.S. postal system by not allowing blacks to carry mail.[why?]
|The Jefferson Cabinet|
|Vice President||Aaron Burr||1801–1805|
|Secretary of State||James Madison||1801–1809|
|Secretary of Treasury||Samuel Dexter||1801|
|Secretary of War||Henry Dearborn||1801–1809|
|Attorney General||Levi Lincoln, Sr.||1801–1804|
|Caesar A. Rodney||1807–1809|
|Secretary of the Navy||Benjamin Stoddert||1801|
As president, Jefferson used his influence to bring Ohio into the Union on April 30, 1802, the first state under the Northwest Ordinance prohibiting slavery. In Congress, Jefferson had authored the Ordinance of 1787 in Congressional committee under the Articles of Confederation. He was therefore instrumental in prohibiting slavery not only to new territories, but in the new states to come beginning with Ohio.
Founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson was a member of the American Philosophical Society for 35 years. Through the Society he advanced the sciences and Enlightenment ideals, emphasizing that knowledge of science reinforced and extended freedom. He was elected into the Society in January 1780 while Governor of Virginia and the following year was elected a Counsellor. During his long tenure he served on many committees. He was elected as the Society's third President on March 3, 1797 only days after he was elected Vice President under Adams. Upon his acceptance Jefferson stated:
Jefferson presided over the Society's meeting for the first time during that same month. During this time he was compiling data for his Notes on the State of Virginia which he later shared with the Society. He served as the Society's president for the next eighteen years through both terms of his presidency. Along with topics on science and discovery, he often discussed ideas of abolition with dedicated abolitionist Society members including Comte de Volney and Tadeusz Kosciuszko. Jefferson also introduced Meriwether Lewis to the society where various scientists tutored him in preparation for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He offered his letter of resignation on three separate occasions, with the Society refusing his resignations each time, but remained active through correspondence. He attended his last Society meeting in person on May 2, 1800. The Society finally accepted his resignation at the meeting of January 20, 1815 "with great reluctance". After Jefferson's death in 1826 the Society draped the chair he had occupied in black for six months. Jefferson was also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences having been elected in 1787.
In the years following Jefferson's political career he spent most of his time and energy pursuing educational interests, selling his vast collection of books to the Library of Congress, and founding and building the University of Virginia.
After leaving the Presidency, Jefferson continued to be active in public affairs. He wanted to found a new institution of higher learning free of church influences where students could specialize in many new areas not offered at other universities. Jefferson believed educating people was a good way to establish an organized society and that schools should be paid for by the general public in order to be accessible to students from all social strata.
In 1800, Jefferson wrote a letter to Joseph Priestley about his proposed University. In 1819, the 76-year-old Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He initiated and organized the legislative campaign for its charter and with the assistance of Edmund Bacon, procured and purchased the location. Jefferson was the principal designer of the buildings. Their innovative design was an expression of his aspirations for both state-sponsored education and an agrarian democracy in the new Republic. He also planned the University's curriculum and served as the first rector. Upon its opening in 1825, it was the first university to offer a full slate of elective courses to its students. With no campus chapel included in the original plans, the university was notable for being centered about a library rather than a church, reinforcing the principle of separation of church and state.
Stylistically, Jefferson was a proponent of the Greek and Roman styles, which he believed to be most representative of American democracy by historical association. Each academic unit is designed with a two-story temple front facing the quadrangle, while the library is modeled on the Roman Pantheon. The university was one of the largest construction projects to that time in North America, and a survey of members of the American Institute of Architects identified Jefferson's campus as the most significant work of architecture in America. In his vision, any citizen of the state could attend school with the sole criterion being ability.
Jefferson's educational ideas were expressed in the configuration of his campus plan, which he called the "Academical Village". Individual academic units were defined as distinct structures, each housed classrooms, faculty offices, and residences. Gardens and vegetable plots are placed behind and surrounded by serpentine walls, affirming the importance of the agrarian lifestyle.
After Jefferson died in 1826, James Madison replaced him as the University Rector. In a codicil to his last will, Jefferson left most of his library to the University. Until his death, Jefferson invited students and faculty of the college to his home.
In the summer of 1824 while Jefferson was making final plans for the opening of the University of Virginia, he learned that Lafayette had accepted an official invitation from President James Monroe to visit the United States and would be arriving soon. He knew this meant that he would soon be reunited with an old friend and consultant that guided him around France when he was Minister there. They had not seen each other since 1789. After visiting friends and dignitaries in New York, New England, and Washington, Lafayette finally arrived at Monticello on November 4 in a carriage provided by Jefferson with a military escort of 120 men. Jefferson, informed of and anticipating Lafayette's approach up the mountain to Monticello, waited outside on the front portico. By this time some 200 friends and neighbors had also arrived for the event. Lafayette's carriage pulled up to the front lawn where a bugle sounded the arrival of the procession with its revolutionary banners waving. Lafayette, advanced in age, slowly stepped down from the carriage. Jefferson, who was now 81 years old and in ill health, slowly descended the front steps and began making his way towards his old friend. Jefferson's grandson Randolph was present and witnessed the historic reunion: "As they approached each other, their uncertain gait quickened itself into a shuffling run, and exclaiming, 'Ah Jefferson!' 'Ah Lafayette!', they burst into tears as they fell into each other's arms." Everyone in attendance stood in respectful silence, many of them stifling sobs of their own. Jefferson and Lafayette then retired to the privacy of the house and began reminiscing the many events and encounters they shared years before. The next morning Jefferson, Lafayette and James Madison rode to the Central Hotel in Charlottesville in Jefferson's landau. They were escorted by mounted troops and followed by the local townspeople and other friends. After being greeted and honored with speeches they departed the hotel at noon and set out for a banquet at the University of Virginia which Jefferson was anxious for Lafayette to see. There were no students or faculty present as Jefferson had postponed the commencement of classes for the event beforehand. In the rotunda of the university with Jefferson seated between Lafayette and Madison, they enjoyed a fine dinner, complete with French wine which Jefferson had personally selected from the cellar at Monticello. It was the first public function at the University. After a three hour dinner Jefferson had someone read a speech he had prepared for Lafayette, as his voice was weak and could not carry very far. This would prove to be Jefferson's last public speech. Lafayette later accepted Jefferson's invitation for honorary membership to the University's Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. After an eleven day visit Lafayette bid Jefferson goodbye and departed Monticello on November 15.
Jefferson's health began to deteriorate in July 1825, from a combination of various illnesses and conditions probably including toxemia, uremia, and pneumonia. By May 1826 Jefferson's health was so frail that he was virtually a shut-in and by June he was confined to bed. He spent most of his waking hours going over his finances and debts. On May 22 Jefferson made his last entry in the 'Farm Book', noting the price of lamp oil at a dollar twenty five cents a gallon and the cost of lighting his estate for the last month. On June 24 Jefferson wrote his last letter, to Roger Weightman of a Washington newspaper, the National Intelligencer, where he once more reaffirmed his faith in the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence. On July 3 Jefferson was overcome by fever. Realizing he would never leave Monticello again, he was forced to decline an invitation to Washington to attend a fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Declaration.
During the last hours of Jefferson's life he was accompanied by his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph and his doctor, Robley Dunglison, and other family members and friends. He was at ease with the idea of death and was ready to die. When his doctor entered his room he said "Well Doctor, you see I am still here yet." After being checked by the doctor a family member and a friend offered words of hope that he was looking better to which Jefferson impatiently replied "Do not imagine for a moment that I feel the smallest solicitude as to the result" at which point he calmly gave directions for his funeral, forbidding any sort of celebration or parade. Moments later Jefferson called the rest of his family and friends around his bedside and with a distinct tone he uttered:
After falling back to sleep Jefferson later awoke at eight o'clock that evening and spoke his last words, "Is it the fourth yet?". His doctor replied, "It soon will be".
On July 4, at ten minutes before one o'clock in the afternoon, Jefferson died at the age of 83, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and a few hours before John Adams, whose own last words were, "Independence forever" and "Thomas Jefferson survives."
Jefferson's funeral was held July 5, performed by Reverend Charles Clay. The funeral was a simple and quiet affair, by his own request. No invitations were sent, but some friends and visitors came to the ceremony and burial to pay their respects. Jefferson's remains were carried by "servants, family and friends" to the family grave site at Monticello.[g]
- HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON
AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA.
Though born into a wealthy slave-owning family, Jefferson had many financial problems and died deeply in debt, unable to pass on his estate to his heirs. He gave instructions for disposal of his assets in his will, and after his death, his estate, possessions, and slaves were sold off in public auctions starting in 1827. In 1831 Monticello was sold by Martha Jefferson and the surviving Jefferson heirs to James Turner Barclay, and in 1834 Barclay in turn sold the house and remaining land to Uriah P. Levy.
Jefferson's political ideals were greatly influenced by the writings of John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton whom he considered the three greatest men that ever lived. Jefferson idealized the independent yeoman as the best example of republican virtues, distrusted cities and financiers, and often favored decentralized power. Jefferson believed that most of the tyranny and misfortunes that had plagued the common man in Europe were due to the inflated and corrupt political establishments and monarchies. He called for a wall of separation between church and state at the federal level, having had supported efforts to disestablish the Church of England, and authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The Republicans under Jefferson were strongly influenced by the 18th-century British opposition writers of the Whig Party, which believed in limited government. His Jeffersonian democracy and Democratic-Republican Party became dominant in early American politics.
Jefferson believed that each man has "certain inalienable rights" and "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others..." A proper government, for Jefferson, is one that not only prohibits individuals in society from infringing on the liberty of other individuals, but also restrains itself from diminishing individual liberty as a protection against tyranny from the majority. Influenced by Isaac Newton, Jefferson considered social systems as analogous to physical systems. In the social world, Jefferson likens love to a force similar to gravity in the physical world. People are naturally attracted to each other through love, but dependence corrupts this attraction and results in political problems. Removing or preventing corrupting dependence by banking or royal influences would enable men to be equal in practice.
In political terms, Americans thought that virtue was the "glue" that held together a republic, whereas patronage, dependency and coercion held together a monarchy. "Virtue" in this sense was public virtue, in particular self-sacrifice. Americans reasoned that liberty and republicanism required a virtuous society, and the society had to be free of dependence and extensive patronage networks, such as banking, government, or military. While Jefferson believed most people could not escape corrupting dependence, the franchise should be extended only to those who could, including the yeoman farmer. He disliked inter-generational dependence, such as national debt and unalterable governments. Jefferson believed that individual liberties were the fruit of equality and that they and were threatened only by government. Excesses of democracy for Jefferson were caused by institutional corruptions rather than human nature. He remained less suspicious of working democracy than many of his contemporaries.
As president, Jefferson tried to re-create the balance between the state and federal governments as it existed under the Articles of Confederation. He tried to shift the balance of power back to the states, taking this action from his classical republican conception that liberty could only be retained in small, homogeneous societies. He believed that the Federalist system enacted by Washington and Adams had encouraged corrupting patronage and dependence. Many of Jefferson's apparent contradictions can be understood within this philosophical framework. For example, he opposed women's right to vote or any participation in politics because he believed that a government must be controlled by the economically independent. Instead he argued: "our good ladies ... are contented to soothe and calm the minds of their husbands returning ruffled from political debate."
Jefferson is often cited as an important figure in early American democracy. He envisioned democracy as an expression of society as a whole, and called for national self-determination, cultural uniformity, and education of all males of the commonwealth. Jefferson believed that public education and a free press were essential to a democratic nation: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free it expects what never was and never will be. ... The people cannot be safe without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe".
By the end of his career, Jefferson was critical of his home state for violating "the principle of equal political rights", meaning the social right of universal male suffrage. But he arrived at that position by stages. Initially, with the onset of the Revolution, Jefferson accepted Blackstone's principle that property ownership would lead to the independent will required from voters in a republic, but he sought to further expand the suffrage by land distribution to the poor. Beginning in the Revolutionary Era and afterward, an alternative to property requirements was legally established by several states expanding the eligible voters from landed gentry to include male Euro-American tax-paying citizens, those owning either their own houses or their own tools and paying taxes on them.
After leaving Washington's cabinet as Secretary of State, by mid-October 1795 Jefferson's thoughts turned on the electoral bases of Republican and anti-Republican (Federalist) political coalitions. The "Republican" classification of the United States for which he would advocate included: 1. "the entire body of landholders" everywhere, and 2. "the body of laborers" without land, whether agricultural or mechanical. Beginning with Jefferson's electioneering for the "revolution of 1800", his democratic efforts were based on egalitarian appeals.
Republicans united behind Jefferson as Vice President, president of the Senate. The election practices of 1796 expanding democracy were extended nationwide, with local committees and correspondence networks set up. County committees framed local Republican tickets, and initiated partisan Republican newspapers. Privately, Jefferson promoted Republican candidates to run for local state offices. He sought an aristocracy of merit, not birth including his vice presidential candidate a New Yorker, George Clinton, the child of Irish immigrants. Jefferson in his later years referred to the 1800 election as the "revolution of 1800", "as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of '76 was in its form", one "not effected indeed by the sword ... but by the ... suffrage of the people." Voter participation grew in Jefferson's two terms, exploding to "unimaginable levels" compared to the Federalist Era, with doubling turnouts. John Quincy Adams noted following Jefferson's 1804 election, "The power of the Administration rests upon the support of a much stronger majority of the people throughout the Union than the former Administrations ever possessed."
Jefferson continued his campaign to expand the electorate in his retirement correspondence. In response to a pamphlet advocating a Virginia Constitutional Convention, he went further than the radical convention promoters. He sought a "general suffrage" of all taxpayers and militia-men, as well as equal representation by voter population in the state legislature, not skewed to favor slave-holding regions of the state. He also favored a reform of Virginia's country courthouse system to more nearly resemble that of the more democratic townships of New England.
Jefferson expressed a dislike and distrust for banks and bankers, and opposed borrowing believing it created long-term debt, monopolies, invited dangerous speculation, as opposed to productive labor, all to Republicanism. He once argued that each generation should pay back its debt within 19 years, and not impose a long-term debt on subsequent generations.
In 1791, President Washington asked Jefferson, who at the time was Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, if the Congress had the authority to create a national bank. While Hamilton believed Congress had the authority, Jefferson believed that a national bank in its capacity would ignore the needs of individuals and small farmers, would assume powers not granted to the federal government by the States, and therefore would violate the Tenth Amendment and the laws of Mortmain, Alienage, Forfeiture, Distribution, and Monopolies. But Jefferson was not dogmatic on these issues, even during Washington’s administration. He knew funding Revolutionary debt was important, and agreed to Hamilton’s nationalization plan in return for relocating the capital to Washington, DC. In his letter to Washington opposing Hamilton’s proposal for a United States Bank, Jefferson suggested that if Washington were of a divided mind, he should follow the recommendation of the majorities in Congress supporting establishment of a national bank which had voted three to one in favor.
Nevertheless, Jefferson used the agrarian opposition to banks and speculators to become the first defining principle in organizing an opposition party, recruiting candidates for congress on the issue as early as 1792. In retirement, Jefferson wrote John Taylor in 1816 that he and Taylor had ever hated the banks which could destroy the state constitutions, already suffering from speculators who “sweep away the fortunes and morals of our citizens”. Banks were more dangerous than standing armies, as funding by posterity is but “swindling futurity on a large scale”.
In the decades after the Revolutionary War, Jefferson considered Britain as an adversary to the United States and usually favored France. He said of the Napoleonic Wars, "The liberty of the whole world was depending on the issue of the contest". Jefferson once argued that America would become the world's great "empire of liberty"—that is, the model for democracy and republicanism. On departing the presidency in 1809, he described America as:
This statement expresses Jefferson's refusal as president to diplomatically recognize Haiti, founded in 1804 as the second republic in the world, after its successful slave revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. Fearing the success of the "slave republic" would rouse the American South's slaves to rebellion, Jefferson supported an arms and trade embargo against Haiti. But during the revolution, when Jefferson had wanted to discourage French efforts in 1802–1803 at regaining control (and rebuilding their empire in North America), he had allowed arms and contraband goods to reach Saint-Domingue.
During the French Revolution, Jefferson advocated rebellion and violence when necessary. In a letter to James Madison on January 30, 1787, Jefferson wrote, "A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. ... It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government." Similarly, in a letter to Abigail Adams on February 22, 1787 he wrote, "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all." Concerning Shays' Rebellion after he had heard of the bloodshed, on November 13, 1787 Jefferson wrote to William S. Smith, John Adams' son-in-law, "What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." In another letter to Smith during 1787, Jefferson wrote: "And what country can preserve its liberties, if the rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."
From his initial viewpoint in Paris at the time of the Constitution's ratification, Jefferson was transformed in office as president under a challenge which both strengthened the Union and Jefferson's commitment to it.
As late as 1804 before his second term began, Jefferson seemed at ease with the prospect of dividing the nation into separate democracies. In view of a prospective republic in the Mississippi River Valley, they would be "as much our children and our descendants" alongside any coastal confederacy remaining. "I feel myself as much identified with that [western] country ... as with this [United States].[h]
But midway through his second term, the idealistic internationalist yielded to the nationalist politician. "A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. ... The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation." The challenge of a filibustering Aaron Burr and the U.S. General James Wilkinson in Spanish pay, combined with English, Spanish, and Creek Amerindian threats led to a rationale later echoed by Lincoln. "To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.[i]
Jefferson lived in a Virginia planter society largely dependent on slavery and as a wealthy slave owner employed the needed slave labor to run the his household, plantation, tobacco fields, and various shops. Over the course of his life he owned some 600 slaves, buying and selling them as required, maintaining about 130 at any one time. On a number of occasions Jefferson would also purchase slaves to unite families. The first known record Jefferson made in regards to slave ownership was in 1774, when he owned 41.
Like children of farmers and shopkeepers who began doing chores at an early age, slave children were also expected to do chores and light work and began work at the age of ten, either in the fields, the nailery, the textile shop, or in the houses according to their capabilities. Children under ten usually minded the infants or did other light work in and around the house. Yet throughout his life Jefferson maintained that the institution of slavery was harmful to both slave and master in his writings and discourse. His views on slavery and African slaves, however, were complex; historians are divided on whether he truly opposed the institution largely because Jefferson was publicly silent on emancipation during his presidency and only freed a few slaves on his Monticello plantation. Some researchers suggest Jefferson's slave ownership contradicted his philosophy of "all men are created equal". Other historians, however, maintain that the sentiment in this statement is what actually inspired and drove Jefferson to advance legislation to abolish slavery and that he believed slavery was "contrary to the laws of nature" where everyone had a right to personal liberty.
Jefferson accepted conventional thought during his lifetime that Africans were an inferior race. In his 'Notes on the State of Virginia' (1785), he expressed a "strong suspicion" that the Negro was inferior to whites in both the endowments of body and mind but wasn't sure if it was because they were a "distinct race" or were so because of "time and circumstances". Historians have generally described Jefferson as a benevolent slaveowner, though some historians have expressed doubts about that. Jefferson did not allow his slaves to be overworked and gave them Sundays, Christmas, and Easter off. According to a former Monticello slave, slaves were seldom punished except for stealing or fighting or other extreme offenses, though there were some cases of excessive whippings at the hand of overseers. Slaves were provided with log cabins with a fireplace, good clothing and food and were allowed to have their own gardens and raise chickens which, along with eggs and produce, were sold by more than half the adult slaves to the Jefferson household.
Throughout Jefferson's political career he opposed the international slave trade. In his annual message to Congress in 1806, President Jefferson called for outlawing the trans-Atlantic slave trade, asking Congress to "withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights ... which the morality, the reputation, and the best of our country have long been eager to proscribe." Congress complied and on March 2, 1807, Jefferson signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves into law; it took effect January 1, 1808, the earliest date permitted by the Constitution. The abolition of the slave trade was a major achievement of Jefferson's presidency. Southern contemporary critics viewed Jefferson was opposed to slavery for his Notes on the State of Virginia, his letter to Benjamin Banneker in 1791, and his reference to St. George Tucker's federal plan to purchase and free slaves. Jefferson's 1803 Louisiana Purchase treaty allowed slavery to continue as the French were assured that there would be no interference with their interests when the purchase was made.
Although Jefferson owned many slaves during his life, it is widely held that he was opposed to the institution of slavery on both moral and practical grounds. He made several attempts to advance legislation to abolish slavery, and later proposed colonization of freed slaves to an independent country of their own in Liberia. Starting in 1779 Jefferson proposed a gradual emancipation plan of voluntary training, sponsorship, and resettlement for slave families to the Virginia legislature. In 1784 Jefferson proposed to the United States Congress legislation that would cease slavery in the Western Territories in the year 1800, however, this legislation was defeated by one vote. In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, a partial victory for Jefferson, that ceased slavery in North West Territory. During Jefferson's lifetime much of Virginia society, as proven by Robert Carter's slave emancipation in 1791, was strongly opposed to freed slaves becoming citizens, while their colonization was viewed as an acceptable alternative. Following the Gabriel Prosser rebellion in the summer of 1800, Jefferson again proposed a colonization plan for freed slaves to prevent a violent race war. Colonization became popular throughout the early 19th Century. While President, Jefferson privately attempted to colonize emancipated Virginia slaves to Sierra Leone off the coast of Africa through British and Portugal companies, these efforts were unsuccessful. The idea of recolonization was met with mixed reactions from proponents and critics among different political and religious groups of the day.
While Jefferson on occasion had expressed reservations about releasing unprepared slaves into freedom, it was something he had always wanted to do according to his main overseer of slaves, Edmund Bacon and his slave Joseph Fossett. Jefferson freed five slaves in his will providing a monetary endowment and trade tools to aid in making a living. Jefferson also successfully petitioned the Virginia legislature to allow freed slaves to remain in Virginia. Jefferson's encumbered debt from an agricultural depression and the mortgaging of his slaves legally prevented him from freeing the remaining slaves who were later auctioned locally by his surviving family to pay his creditors and avoid their confiscation by Virginia debt law.
For two centuries, the claim that Thomas Jefferson fathered children by his slave, Sally Hemings, has been a matter of discussion and disagreement. In 1802, the journalist James T. Callender, after being denied a position as postmaster by Jefferson, published allegations that Jefferson had taken Hemings as a concubine and had fathered several children with her. Sally's father was John Wayles, who held her as a slave, and he was also the father of Jefferson's wife Martha. Sally was three-quarters white and strikingly similar in looks and voice to Jefferson's late wife.
In 1998, in order to establish the male DNA line, a panel of researchers conducted a Y-DNA study of living descendants of Jefferson's uncle, Field, and of a descendant of Sally's son, Eston Hemings. The results, published in the journal Nature, showed a Y-DNA match with the male Jefferson line. In 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) assembled a team of historians whose report concluded that, together with the DNA and historic evidence, there was a high probability that Jefferson was the father of Eston and likely of all Hemings' children. W. M. Wallenborn, who worked on the Monticello report, disagreed, claiming the committee had already made up their minds before evaluating the evidence, was a "rush to judgement," and that the claims of Jefferson's paternity were unsubstantiated and politically driven.
Since the DNA tests were made public, it is widely held that most biographers and historians have concluded that the widower Jefferson had a long-term relationship with Hemings. Other scholars, including a team of professors associated with the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, maintain that the evidence is insufficient to conclude Thomas Jefferson's paternity, and note the possibility that other Jeffersons, including Thomas's brother Randolph Jefferson and his five sons who often fraternized with slaves, could have fathered Hemings' children.
Jefferson freed two slaves of the extended Hemings family in the 18th century. He allowed two of Sally Hemings's children to leave the Monticello estate without formal manumission when they came of age; five other slaves, including the two remaining sons of Sally Hemings, were freed by his will upon his death. Although not legally freed, Sally Hemings left Monticello with her sons. They were counted as free whites in the 1830 census.
Jefferson's religious and spiritual beliefs were a combination of various religious and theological precepts. Around 1764, Jefferson had lost faith in conventional religion after he had tested the Bible for its historical accuracy. Rather he adopted a stern code of personal moral conduct and drew inspiration from classical literature. While he embraced various Christian principles he rejected most of the orthodox Christianity of his day and was especially hostile to the Catholic Church as he saw it operate in France. Jefferson advanced the idea of Separation of Church and State, believing that the government should not have an official religion while at the same time it should not prohibit any particular religious expression. He first expressed these thoughts in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists in Connecticut.
Throughout his life Jefferson was intensely interested in theology, biblical study, and morality. As a landowner he played a role in governing his local Episcopal Church; in terms of belief he was inclined toward Deism and the moral philosophy of Christianity, though when he was home he attended the Episcopal church and raised his daughters in that faith.
In a private letter to Benjamin Rush, Jefferson refers to himself as "Christian" (1803): "To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence..." In a letter to his close friend William Short, Jefferson clarified, "it is not to be understood that I am with him [Jesus] in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentance toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it. Jefferson noted both benevolence and contradictions in Christian doctrine.
Jefferson praised the morality of Jesus and edited a compilation of his teachings, omitting the miracles and supernatural elements of the biblical account, titling it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He claimed that Christianity possessed, "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man." Jefferson was firmly anticlerical saying that in "every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty ... they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes."
Jefferson rejected the idea of immaterial beings, considering it as heresy. In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson wrote that to "talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings... At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is. Jesus taught nothing of it. He told us indeed that 'God is a spirit,' but he has not defined what a spirit is, nor said that it is not matter. And the ancient fathers generally, if not universally, held it to be matter: light and thin indeed, an etherial gas; but still matter."
In 1777, Jefferson drafted Virginia's An Act of Establishing Religious Freedom. Submitted in 1779, the Act was finally ratified in 1786 by the Virginia legislature. The Act forbade that men be forcibly compelled to attend or donate money to religious establishments, and that men "shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion." Jefferson initially supported restrictions banning clergy from holding public office, however, later in life he changed this view believing the clergy had the same rights as others to hold public office.
Jefferson was a farmer, with a lifelong interest in mechanical innovations, new crops, soil conditions, his gardens, and scientific agricultural techniques. His main cash crop was tobacco, but its price was usually low and it was rarely profitable. He tried to achieve self-sufficiency with wheat, vegetables, flax, corn, hogs, sheep, poultry, and cattle to feed and clothe his family, slaves and white employees, but he had cash flow problems and was always in debt.
Jefferson was an accomplished architect who helped popularize the Neo-Palladian style in the United States through designs for the University of Virginia and his own home, among others. Jefferson was interested in birds and wine, and was a noted gourmet. Jefferson was a prolific writer and linguist, and spoke several languages.
Jefferson had a lifelong interest in language and linguistics, could read and write in a number of languages and was conversant in several, including Greek, Italian, French, German, and Spanish. He also collected and understood a number of American Indian vocabularies and instructed Lewis and Clark to record and collect various Indian dialect during their Expedition. He also studied the ancient Anglo-Saxon language in a linguistic and philosophical capacity. In his early years Jefferson excelled in classical language while at boarding school where he received a classical education in Greek and Latin and was known to keep his Greek grammar book with him everywhere he went. He later came to regard the Greek language as the "perfect language" as expressed in its laws consequently becoming keenly interested in linguistics and political philosophy altogether. While attending the College of William & Mary he taught himself Italian. Here Jefferson first became familiar with the Anglo-Saxon language, especially as it was associated with English Common law and system of government. So interested in the subject that, while pursuing law, he set aside time to devote to its study, as the college offered no such curriculum. This is where Jefferson's interest in linguistics began rivaling his interest in law. He owned 17 volumes of Anglo-Saxon texts and grammar and later wrote an essay on the Anglo-Saxon language.
The study of language and linguistics played a significant role in how Jefferson modeled and expressed political and philosophical ideas. He believed that the progression of language provided a good model for the progression of political thought, that change in language was the result of common sense, natural law and consequently public acceptance and usage. He believed the study of ancient languages was essential in understanding the roots of modern language. While criticizing the British for not adapting or recognizing various colonial dialect Jefferson wanted the English language largely left intact, and taught that way to American school children. He owned a number of English language dictionaries, including Webster's A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, 1806. Included in his library were a number of other dictionaries, vocabularies and grammars, published in several languages. Interested in ancient language he also learned Gaelic to translate Ossian, and corresponded with James Macpherson for the original manuscripts. Much of Jefferson's correspondence is earmarked with Greek and Latin quotations and other references to language. Jefferson later included Italian and Anglo-Saxon among the languages taught at the University of Virginia.
Although his political career and private activities required him to speak in public and his writing on a wide range of topics was regarded as brilliant, Jefferson was not known as a good orator and preferred to remain silent if possible. Early in his political career in the Continental Congress, colleague John Adams wrote: "Mr. Jefferson had been now about a Year a Member of Congress, but had attended his Duty in the House but a very small part of the time and when there had never spoken in public: and during the whole Time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three Sentences together." Jefferson's two Inaugural Addresses were delivered in so "low a tone" as to be "only partly audible". Copies of the addresses were quickly printed and distributed and, once read, received much praise. Instead of delivering his State of the Union addresses himself, Jefferson wrote the annual messages and sent a representative to read them aloud in Congress. This started a tradition which continued until 1913, when Woodrow Wilson chose to deliver his own State of the Union address.
Jefferson invented many small practical devices and improved contemporary inventions. These include the design for a revolving book-stand to hold five volumes at once to be viewed by the reader. Another was the "Great Clock", powered by the Earth's gravitational pull on Revolutionary War cannonballs. Its chime on Monticello's roof could be heard as far as the University of Virginia. Louis Leschot, a machinist, aided Jefferson with the clock. Jefferson invented a 6 in (15 cm) long coded wooden cipher wheel mounted on a metal spindle, to keep State Department messages secure, while he was Secretary of State. The messages were scrambled and unscrambled by 26 alphabet letters on each circular segment of the wheel. He improved the moldboard plow, an idea he never patented and gave freely to posterity, and the polygraph, in collaboration with Charles Willson Peale. As Minister to France, Jefferson was impressed by France's military standardization program known as the Système Gribeauval. As president, he initiated a program at the Federal Armories to develop interchangeable parts for firearms. Jefferson's curiosity about devices and machines was insatiable. He made improvements and introduced innovations on an English printing press he had brought back with him. He also improved the pedometer, a device for counting the number of steps taken while walking, and gave one to James Madison. For Jefferson's inventiveness and ingenuity he received an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from Harvard University, receiving two such others before that.
Although not realized in Jefferson's lifetime, the concept of interchangeable parts eventually led to modern industry and was a major factor in the United States' industrial power by the late 19th century. Jefferson can also be accredited as the creator of the swivel chair, the first of which he created and used to write much of the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson has been memorialized in many ways, including buildings, sculptures, and currency. The Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birth. The interior of the memorial includes a 19-foot (6 m) statue of Jefferson and engravings of passages from his writings. Most prominent are the words inscribed around the monument near the roof: "I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." During the New Deal era of the 1930s, Democrats honored Jefferson and Andrew Jackson as their party's founding fathers and continued inspiration. He was portrayed by them as the spokesman for democracy and the common man. President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the effort to gain approvals for his monument in Washington.
Thomas Jefferson has been honored on U.S. postage since the first Jefferson postage stamp was released in 1856. Jefferson was the second president to be featured on U.S. Postage. His portrait appears on the U.S. $2 bill, nickel, and the $100 Series EE Savings Bond, and a Presidential Dollar which released into circulation on August 16, 2007.
Jefferson, together with George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, was chosen by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and approved by President Calvin Coolidge to be depicted in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial.
Other memorials to Jefferson include the commissioning of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Thomas Jefferson in Norfolk, Virginia on July 8, 2003, in commemoration of his establishment of a Survey of the Coast, the predecessor to NOAA's National Ocean Service. A bronze monument to Jefferson was erected in Jefferson Park, Chicago along Milwaukee Avenue in 2005.
Jefferson has often been seen as a major American icon of liberty, democracy, and republicanism. Some have hailed him as one of the most articulate spokesmen of the American Revolution, and as a renaissance man who promoted science and scholarship. Abraham Lincoln called Jefferson "the most distinguished politician in our history." Jefferson is widely championed for writing the Declaration of Independence and for being a prolific letter writer, having written more than 18,000 letters during his life. Many recent historians however have noted his views on race and slavery were inconsistent, his controversial tenure as governor of Virginia, his disloyalty under Washington and Adams, his advocacy of nullification and secession, his personal spending excesses, and his troubled second term as president. Some historians have criticized other aspects of his presidency, such as the harsh treatment of Native Americans during his presidency. Others yet have noted that by most accounts Jefferson was a kind and generous master, and expressed deep moral convictions against slavery his entire life. while still others maintain that many of the criticisms levied at Jefferson overlook much and are motivated by political and racial considerations.
Jefferson's legacy as a champion of Enlightenment ideals has been challenged by various modern historians, who find his continued ownership of hundreds of slaves at Monticello to be in conflict with his stated views on freedom and the equality of men. Cogliano says, "No single issue has contributed as much to the decline of Jefferson's reputation since World War II as the slavery question." During the progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th century, when scholars saw revolutionary America as a struggle between "haves" and "have nots", Jefferson's reputation reached new heights as his presidency was seen as the final defeat of the moneyed classes. Jefferson's legacy in recent decades has come under further scrutiny and criticism. However though Jefferson has been criticized for owning slaves, scholarly surveys continue to rate him among the top ten presidents.
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