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 the rights of man 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). Just after the war ended, from mid-1784 Jefferson served as a diplomat, stationed in Paris. In May 1785, he became the United States Minister to France.
|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.
|Alma mater||College of William and Mary|
|Religion||Christian deism (unaffiliated deism) [note 1]|
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 the rights of man 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). Just after the war ended, from mid-1784 Jefferson served as a diplomat, stationed in Paris. In May 1785, he became the United States Minister to France.
Jefferson was 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 subsequently resigned from Washington's cabinet. Elected Vice President in 1796, when he came in second to President John Adams of the Federalists, 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 the purchase of the vast Louisiana Territory from France (1803), and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) to explore the new west. His second term was beset with troubles at home, such as the failed treason trial of his former Vice President Aaron Burr. With escalating trouble with Britain who was challenging American neutrality and threatening shipping at sea, he tried economic warfare with his embargo laws which only damaged American trade. In 1803, President Jefferson initiated a process of Indian tribal removal and relocation to the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi River, in order to open lands for eventual American settlers. In 1807 he drafted and signed into law a bill banning the importation of slaves into the United States.
A leader in the Enlightenment, Jefferson was a polymath who spoke five languages and was deeply interested in science, invention, architecture, religion and philosophy, interests that led him to the founding of the University of Virginia after his presidency. He designed his own large mansion on a 5,000 acre plantation near Charlottesville, Virginia, which he named Monticello and the University of Virginia building. While 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. Since his own day, controversy has ensued over allegations that he fathered children by his slave, Sally Hemings; DNA tests in 1998, together with historical research, suggest he fathered at least one. Although he has been criticized by many present-day scholars over the issues of racism and slavery, Jefferson remains 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 Shadwell, Goochland County, Virginia, now part of Albemarle County. His father was Peter Jefferson, a planter and surveyor. 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.
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. The first known record Jefferson made in regards to slave ownership, was in 1774, when he owned 41.
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. 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 six thousand 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. 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. She read widely, did fine needle work and was an amateur musician. Jefferson played the violin and Martha 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; 17.2 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. As he had promised his wife, Jefferson 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.[note 2] Construction was done mostly by local masons and carpenters, assisted by Jefferson's slaves. 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.
In 18th century colonial Virginia there were no architecture schools, so 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. In 1794, following his 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 was a lawyer 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. Beside practicing law, Jefferson represented Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Burgesses beginning on May 11, 1769 and ending June 20, 1775. Following the passage of the Intolerable Acts by the British Parliament in 1774, Jefferson wrote a set of resolutions against the acts. 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. Jefferson viewed 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 Independence, Jefferson returned to Virginia and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for Albemarle County. 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. He served as a Delegate from September 26, 1776 – 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 William and Mary College, 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 learned of the transfer and 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, and ethnography. 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.
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, to function as the executive arm of Congress. The plan was adopted but failed in practice. Jefferson wrote an ordinance banning slavery in all the nation's territories though it wasn't passed into law. He later resigned from Congress when he was appointed as minister to France.
When Jefferson's wife Martha died, friends such as John Adams noted that the widower Jefferson seemed so depressed that he might be suicidal. They believed that sending him to France would take his mind off his wife's death, so he was appointed minister to France in 1785. During his nineteen-day voyage en route to France Jefferson taught himself how to read and write Spanish.
Still in his 40s, Jefferson was minister to France from 1785 to 1789, the year the French Revolution started. Months before Jefferson assumed the role as Minister to France he arrived in Paris on August 6, 1784 and four days later 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." Jefferson attended the ceremony held at Passy bidding farewell to Franklin, who departed for the United States on July 12, 1785.
Though France was at the brink of revolution, Jefferson's tenure there was generally an uneventful one. He often found it difficult to fill the shoes of his predecessor Benjamin Franklin, who at the time was one of the most famous people in the world. He enjoyed the architecture, arts, and the salon culture of Paris. He often dined with many of the city's most prominent people, and stocked up on wines to take back to the US. While in Paris, Jefferson corresponded with many people who had important roles in the imminent French Revolution. These included the Marquis de Lafayette, and 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 these ideals he held regarding the natural tendencies of government and its relationship to the people:
Jefferson's eldest daughter Martha, known as Patsy, went with him to France in 1784. 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, who trained as a French chef for his master's service. Jefferson's youngest daughter Lucy died of whooping cough in 1785 in the United States, and he was bereft. In 1786, Jefferson 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. In 1787, Jefferson sent for his youngest surviving child, Polly, then age nine. He requested that a slave accompany Polly on the transatlantic voyage. By chance, Sally Hemings, a younger sister of James, was chosen; she lived in the Jefferson household in Paris for about two years.
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.
Yet, according to one account, an earlier private dinner on June 20, 1790 that Jefferson hosted with Hamilton and Madison in New York City "brokered one of the great political deals in American history." 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. In 1793, the French minister Edmond-Charles Genêt caused a crisis when he tried to influence public opinion by appealing to the American people, something which Jefferson tried to stop.
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. John C. Miller notes that 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, Jefferson lost to John Adams, 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.[note 3] 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 historian Ron Chernow says, "[H]e wasn't calling for peaceful protests or civil disobedience: he was calling for outright rebellion, if needed, against the federal government of which he was vice president."
Chernow believes that Jefferson "thus set forth a radical doctrine of states' rights that effectively undermined the constitution." He argues that neither Jefferson nor Madison sensed that they had sponsored measures as inimical as the Alien and Sedition Acts. The historian Garry Wills argued, "Their nullification effort, if others had picked it up, would have been a greater threat to freedom than the misguided [alien and sedition] laws, which were soon rendered feckless by ridicule and electoral pressure." 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.  According to Chernow, during the Quasi-War, Jefferson engaged in a "secret campaign to sabotage Adams in French eyes." 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 them 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.
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. He had 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 disinguish between President and Vice President). Therefore, the election was decided in the outgoing Congress, by the Federalist-dominated House of Representatives.
Though the Federalists wanted neither Jefferson nor Burr to be president, Hamilton 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.[note 4]
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.
He 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.
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. Though he and his supporters attempted to dismantle several of the accomplishments of his two predecessors, notably the national bank, military, and federal taxation system, they were only partially successful.
|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.
For decades, North African pirates had been capturing American ships and crew members and demanding huge ransoms for their release. Before Independence, American merchant ships were protected from the Barbary pirates by the naval and diplomatic influence of Great Britain. Jefferson had opposed paying tribute to the Barbary states since as far back as 1785.
When the American Revolution began, American ships were protected by the 1778 alliance with France, which required the French nation to protect "American vessels and effects against all violence, insults, attacks ...". On December 20, 1777, Morocco's Sultan Mohammed III declared that the American merchant ships would be under the protection of the sultanate and could thus enjoy safe passage into the Mediterranean and along the coast.
Upon independence the United States had to protect its own merchant vessels. At this time the United States was paying $80,000 to the Barbary States as a 'tribute' for protection against piracy, as did Britain and France. After Tripoli made new demands on the new President for an immediate sum of $225,000 and an annual payment of $25,000, President Jefferson refused and at that point decided it would be easier to fight the pirates than give into their continuing demands. As a result the pasha of Tripoli declared war on the United States on May 10, 1801 and the First Barbary War began. Before being elected President, Jefferson had opposed funds for a Navy to be used for anything more than a coastal defense, however the continued pirate attacks on American shipping interests in the Atlantic and Mediterranean 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; if a state of war existed they could use their own discretion. The frigates were the famous USS Philadelphia, USS President and the USS Essex along with the schooner USS Enterprise and became the first American naval squadron to cross the Atlantic. Under the command of Commodore Richard Dale the squadron sailed into the Mediterranean on July 1 where it stopped at Gibraltar for supplies and information. Here Dale learned that Tripoli had already declared war upon the United States. Jefferson and the young American navy 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. Having lost the revenue potential of Haiti while escalating his wars against the rest of Europe, Napoleon gave up on an empire in North America and used the purchase money to help finance France's war campaign on its home front.
Jefferson had sent James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston to Paris in 1802 to try to buy the city of New Orleans and adjacent coastal areas, with the assistance of French nobleman, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, a friend and close ally of Jefferson. Napoleon offered to sell the entire Territory for a price of $15 million, which Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin financed easily through New England banks. The purchase was without explicit Constitutional authority, but most contemporaries thought that this opportunity was exceptional and could not be missed. In the face of criticism from some of Jefferson's other contemporaries 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. The Purchase proved to be one of the largest fertile tracts of land on the planet, and it marked the end of French imperial ambitions in North America which were potentially in conflict with American expansion west; France was removed as a threat to the United States.
On December 20, 1803 the French flag was lowered in New Orleans and the U.S. flag raised, symbolizing the transfer of the Louisiana territory 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).
While the 1803 Louisiana Purchase was a great achievement of the Jefferson administration, domestically it was complicated by the establishment of pre-existing French slaveholders from modern Illinois to Missouri to Louisiana. Faced with the option to confiscate the slaves of French nationals, Jefferson chose to answer English and Spanish objections to the sale by quickly incorporating resident settlers politically into U.S. territories. Jefferson's failure to tamper with preexisting conditions led to criticism for his having allowed slavery to continue in the newly acquired territory, and the adoption of the Code Napoleon in the New Orleans Territory that would become the state of Louisiana. Since the Purchase historians have differed in their assessments regarding constitutional and slavery issues.
After the purchase of the Louisiana Territory Jefferson now needed to have this mostly unknown part of the country explored and mapped. In 1804 he appointed Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as leaders of the expedition, which explored the Louisiana Territory and beyond, producing a wealth of scientific and geographical knowledge, and ultimately contributing to the European-American settlement of the West.
Jefferson had chosen Lewis to lead the expedition rather than a someone with only the best scientific credentials because "It was impossible to find a character who to a complete science in botany, natural history, mineralogy & astronomy, joined the firmness of constitution & character, prudence, habits adapted to the woods & a familiarity with the Indian manners and character, requisite for this undertaking. All the latter qualifications Capt. Lewis has." Lewis however was not ignorant of science and he had demonstrated to Jefferson a marked capacity to learn, especially with Jefferson as his teacher. At Monticello Jefferson possessed the largest library in the world on the subject of the geography of the North American continent, and Lewis had full access to that library. He spent much time consulting maps and books and conferring with Jefferson on numerous topics. It was at this time Lewis had read Captain James Cook's A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London, 1784) an account of Cook's third voyage, and Le Page du Pratz'z The History of Louisiana ...(London, 1763) , works that Jefferson had also read, which greatly influenced his decision to commission an expedition into the newly acquired territory purchased by the United States in 1803.
Knowledge of the western part of the continent had been scant and incomplete, limited to what had been learned from trappers, traders, and explorers. Lewis and Clark, for whom the expedition became known, recruited the 45 men to accompany them, and spent a winter training them near St. Louis for the effort. The expedition had several goals expected by Jefferson, including finding a "direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce" (the long-sought Northwest Passage). They were to follow and map the rivers, record encounters with the various Indian tribes, make sketches of various plants, birds and animals, gather samples of various rocks and minerals and record all related scientific data. The expedition reached the Pacific Ocean by November 1805. With its return in 1806, it had fulfilled Jefferson's hopes by amassing much new data about the topographical features of the country and its natural resources, with details on the flora and fauna, as well as the many Indian tribes of the West with which he hoped to increase trading. The duration of this perilous expedition lasted from May 1804 to September 1806.
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. Burr was indicted for Hamilton's murder in New York and New Jersey causing him to flee to Georgia, however, 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 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 at Richmond Virginia, Chief Justice John Marshall presiding. The weak government case led to Burr’s acquittal, but Burr 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 dueling murder of Hamilton in July 1804. 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 within a year.
In 1807, Jefferson ordered his former vice president Aaron Burr tried for treason. Burr was charged with conspiring to levy war against the United States in an attempt to establish a separate confederacy composed of the Western states and territories, but was acquitted.
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.
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, “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.
Avoiding national humiliation on the one hand, and war on the other, Jefferson encouraged passage of the Embargo Act of 1807 to maintain American neutrality in the Napoleonic Wars under France’s Continental System. In the event, he got both war and national humiliation; the economy of the entire Northeast suffered severely, Jefferson was vehemently denounced, and his party lost support. Instead of retreating, Jefferson sent federal agents to secretly track down smugglers and violators. Jefferson's Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin had been against the embargo, foreseeing correctly the impossibility of enforcing the policy and the negative public reaction. The embargo was a financial disaster because the Americans could not export, while widespread disregard of the law meant federal enforcement was difficult. For the most part, it effectively throttled American overseas trade. All areas of the United States suffered.
Shortly before leaving office in March 1809, Jefferson signed the repeal of the disastrous 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 believed the problem was the traders and merchants, who showed a lack of self-sacrificing "republican virtue" by not complying with it. He later maintained that, had the embargo been widely observed it would have avoided war in 1812.
Historians have generally criticized Jefferson for his embargo policy. Doron Ben Atar argued that Jefferson's commercial and foreign policies were misguided, ineffective and harmful to American interests. Kaplan maintained that the War of 1812 was 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 obtained the repeal of some federal taxes in his bid to rely more on customs revenue, and dismantled much of the army and navy that he had inherited from Washington and Adams. 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 US postal system by not allowing blacks to carry mail.
In the years following Jefferson's political career he spent most of his time and energy pursing 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, specifically one 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. He believed such schools should be paid for by the general public, so less wealthy people could be educated as students. A letter to Joseph Priestley, in January 1800, indicated that he had been planning the University for decades before its founding.
In 1819, he founded the University of Virginia. Upon its opening in 1825, it was the first university to offer a full slate of elective courses to its students. One of the largest construction projects to that time in North America, the university was notable for being centered about a library rather than a church reinforcing the principle of separation of church and state. No campus chapel was included in Jefferson's original plans. Until his death, Jefferson invited students and faculty of the college to his home.
Jefferson was the principal designer of the University grounds. Its innovative design was an expression of his aspirations for both state-sponsored education and an agrarian democracy in the new Republic. His educational idea of creating specialized units of learning is expressed in the configuration of his campus plan, which he called the "Academical Village". Individual academic units were defined as distinct structures, represented by Pavilions, facing a grassy quadrangle. Each Pavilion housed classroom, faculty office, and residences. Though distinctive, each is visually equal in importance, and they are linked with a series of open-air arcades that are the front facades of student accommodations. Gardens and vegetable plots are placed behind and surrounded by serpentine walls, affirming the importance of the agrarian lifestyle.
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. A survey of members of the American Institute of Architects identified Jefferson's campus as the most significant work of architecture in America. The University was designed as the capstone of the educational system of Virginia. In his vision, any citizen of the state could attend school with the sole criterion being ability.
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 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. Jefferson's remains were carried by "servants, family and friends" to the family grave site at Monticello. [note 5]
- 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. 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.
|School||Enlightenment, Liberalism, Republicanism|
|Main interests||Politics, ethics, religion|
Jefferson idealized the independent yeoman as the best exemplar of republican virtues, distrusted cities and financiers, and often favored decentralized power. He suspended his qualms about exercising the powers of the federal government to buy Louisiana. Jefferson disliked the European system of established churches and called for a wall of separation between church and state at the federal level. (But this was hardly a new idea; Roger Williams (1603–1683), the Puritan-turned-Baptist founder of Rhode Island, had established such a wall at the state level about a century before Jefferson was born, and extended freedom of religion to Quakers and Jews.) Jefferson supported efforts to disestablish the Church of England, called the Anglican Church in Virginia after the Revolution,  and authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. His Jeffersonian democracy and Democratic-Republican Party became dominant in early American politics. Jefferson's republican political principles were strongly influenced by the 18th-century British opposition writers of the Whig Party. He had high regard for John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton.
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. Jefferson's political philosophy was a product of his time and his scientific interests. Influenced by Isaac Newton, he considered social systems as analogous to physical systems. In the social world, Jefferson likens love as 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 persons 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 and Hamilton were diametrically opposed on the issue of individual liberties. While Jefferson believed individual liberty was the fruit of equality and believed government to be the only danger, Hamilton felt that individual liberty must be organized by a central government to assure social, economic and intellectual equality. Whereas Madison became disillusioned with what he saw as excessive democracy in the states, Jefferson believed such excesses 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 states and federal government 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, his intent to deny women the franchise was rooted in his belief that a government must be controlled by the economically independent. He opposed women's participation in politics, saying that "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. Peter Onuf has argued that Jefferson envisioned democracy as an expression of society as a whole, and that he called for national self-determination, cultural uniformity, and education of all the people (or all the males, as he believed at the time). His emphasis on uniformity did not envision a multiracial republic in which some groups were not fully assimilated into the identical republican values. Onuf argues that Jefferson was unable and unwilling to abolish slavery until such a demand could issue naturally from the sensibilities of the entire people. Gordon Wood argues that Jefferson's philosophy of liberty personified American ideals. 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".
Jefferson expressed a dislike and distrust for banks and bankers and opposed borrowing from them because he believed it created long-term debt as well as monopolies, and inclined the people to dangerous speculation, as opposed to productive labor on the farm. 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 and was unconstitutional, assuming powers not granted to the federal government by the States and was therefore in violation of the Tenth Amendment, maintaining it violated the laws of Mortmain, Alienage, Forfeiture, Distribution and Monoploles. Jefferson along with his cohorts James Madison and William Giles accused Hamilton of maladministration in the duties of his office and for borrowing funds from European banks to support the national bank at the behest and interest of unscrupulous speculators, but his prolonged attempts to undermine Hamilton's efforts nearly led Washington to relieve Jefferson from his cabinet. After much deliberation Jefferson was unable to substantiate the accusations levied at Hamilton. Jefferson also opposed the bank loans that financed the War of 1812 fearing it would compromise the war effort and plunge the nation into serious long term debt.
He was indifferent with many of his fellow tobacco planters however, as they felt that banks were needed to finance the purchase of new land and new slaves, and support commerce. Jefferson often attacked banks, paper money and borrowing as inimical to Republicanism; in retirement in 1816, he wrote John Taylor:
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" though Jefferson's economic warfare against Britain resulted in hurting the American economy. 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 descendents” alongside any coastal confederacy remaining. “I feel myself as much identified with that [western] country ... as with this [United States].
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 in Spanish pay James Wilkinson, 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.
Jefferson lived in a Virginia planter society economically dependent on slavery. A wealthy slave owner himself, he was supported by the labor of slaves in his estate's fields and shops, yet wrote that he believed slavery was harmful to both slave and master. His views on slavery and African slaves, however, were complex; historians are divided on whether he truly opposed the institution. Over the course of his life, he owned some 600 slaves, buying and selling them as required by his financial situation, maintaining about 130 at any one time to work at Monticello. Jefferson held a paternalist stance towards his slaves, frequently mentioning them as a kind of extended family who needed his guidance, discipline and protection.
As was common at the time, Jefferson thought that African-Americans 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. Regardless of his views towards race, historians have generally described Jefferson as a humane slaveowner who did not allow his slaves to be overworked or excessively punished. According to a former Monticello slave, slaves were seldom punished except for stealing or fighting or extreme offenses.
Jefferson was a lifelong opponent of the international slave trade; his proposed solution for the slavery dilemma was to transport freed slaves to Africa where they could set up an independent black nation, leaving the United States a white society. 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 1 January 1808, the earliest date permitted by the Constitution. The abolition of the slave trade was a major achievement of Jefferson's presidency.
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 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. 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. Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, of so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being."
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. Jefferson was firmly anticlerical saying that in "every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot...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 and considered the idea of an immaterial Creator a heresy introduced into Christianity. 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 forbid 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. Jefferson was interested in birds and wine, and was a noted gourmet. Jefferson was a prolific writer. He learned Gaelic to translate Ossian, and sent to James Macpherson for the originals.
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 secure State Department messages 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 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. 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.
During his time in Paris as Minister to France, in 1786 the widower Jefferson became attached to Maria Cosway, an English artist, musician and composer. She was a highly educated, married woman with whom he fell in love. They were close and had some relationship about which biographers have speculated; she became part of his intimate circle of friends, and they spent nearly each day together over a six-week period. In 1786 when Cosway returned to London, Jefferson wrote a 4,000-word love letter to her, which has become well known as his "Dialogue of the Head vs. the Heart". After Jefferson left Paris, he and Cosway remained friends and had a lifelong correspondence. Each saved their letters from the other. Similarly, Jefferson kept at Monticello an engraving of Maria done by Luigi Schiavonetti, from a drawing by Richard Cosway. In turn, Cosway had Trumbull create a portrait of Jefferson which she kept.
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, saying it was a "rush to judgement," and that the claims are unsubstantiated and politically driven.
Since the DNA tests were made public, 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, could have fathered Hemings' children.
Jefferson freed two slaves of the extended Hemings family by manumission 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 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." Recent historians, including his biographer Dumas Malone of the mid-twentieth century and the historian Ron Chernow, have seen a more mixed picture. They have noted his views on race and slavery, his controversial tenure as governor of Virginia, his disloyalty under Washington and Adams, his sometimes extreme political writings, his advocacy of nullification and secession, his personal spending excesses, and his troubled second term as president. Other historians, such as Richard Drinnon and David Stannard, have criticized other aspects of his presidency, such as the harsh treatment of Native Americans under Jefferson.
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." Clarence E. Walker said that Jefferson rationalized being a slave owner and defended slavery since he believed the inferiority of Africans were "fixed in nature" and they needed supervision. The historian Gordon S. Wood has noted that 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. Wood argues that this predominated until the 1940s, when the progressive era view fell from favor, and Jefferson's reputation declined from its prior heights. As modern historians have seen slavery as a greater evil than the mercantilism that Jefferson's adversaries championed, Wood argues, 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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