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The third President of the United States (1801-1809). A member of the second Continental Congress, he drafted the Declaration of Independence (1776). His presidency was marked by the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France (1803) and the Tripolitan War (1801-1805). A political philosopher, educator, and architect, Jefferson designed his own estate, Monticello, and buildings for the University of Virginia.
Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826), third president of the United States (1801-1809) and author of the Declaration of Independence. He was a philosopher, educator, naturalist, politician, scientist, architect, inventor, pioneer in scientific farming, musician, and writer. Jefferson was the foremost spokesperson of his day for democracy. As president, he strengthened the powers of the executive branch of government. He was also the first president to lead a political party. Jefferson had great faith in popular rule and sought to develop a government that would best assure the freedom and well-being of the individual.
Jefferson was born in western Goochland County, Virginia. In 1760 he entered the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He later studied law and was reasonably successful as a lawyer, but his main source of income was his land. In 1767 Jefferson began work on his mountaintop estate, Monticello, near what is now Charlottesville, Virginia. He designed the mansion himself. He was serving as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the lower chamber of the Virginia legislature, when he married Martha Wayles Skelton in 1772.
Jefferson took an active part in the events that led to the American Revolution (1775-1783). His literary talents made him a highly valued member of committees when public papers were drafted. Early in 1774 the colonies were angered by the British Parliament's passage of what were called the Intolerable Acts. One of these, the Boston Port Act, closed the harbor of Boston, Massachusetts, in retaliation for a protest incident.
During 1775 and 1776 Jefferson sat in the Continental Congress. During this time the American Revolution broke out. In the congress Jefferson wrote his most famous document, the Declaration of Independence. As an expression of the philosophy of the rights of the people in an age when absolute monarchs ruled throughout the world, it had an immense impact in both America and Europe. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted, and within a few days the declaration was read throughout the colonies. In September Jefferson returned to Virginia to take part in a convention of the new Virginia legislature. His guiding principle was to place as few restrictions as possible upon the people. His most noteworthy achievement at the convention was a bill establishing religious freedom and ensuring the separation of church and state.
In 1779 Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia. The state's constitution strictly limited the governor's power, and Jefferson had previously agreed with this approach, but he found that the restrictions prevented his taking necessary quick action in time of war. In 1781 the British attacked Richmond, the capital of Virginia. Jefferson, his council, and the legislature fled the city. Jefferson quit the governorship, recommending the election of someone with military experience. He spent the next two years in retirement at Monticello. In September 1782 his wife died. After spending the next few months in almost total seclusion, he returned to politics.
In 1783 Jefferson was elected to the Congress of the Confederation. The following year Congress sent Jefferson as a diplomat to France. When French king Louis XVI convened a national representative body, the Estates-General, in 1787, Jefferson attended every day. The violence and cruelty of later developments in France distressed him greatly, but he never lost faith in the principles of the French Revolution (1789-1799). During Jefferson's stay abroad he was frequently consulted on significant developments at home, including the 1787 drafting of the Constitution of the United States and the addition of the ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights.
When Jefferson returned to the United States in 1789, President George Washington asked him to become secretary of state. Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton were completely at odds in their political thinking. Jefferson distrusted centralization of power and favored an economy based on agriculture that stressed individual freedom. Hamilton, on the other hand, worked to promote commerce, industry, and a strong central government. Soon after Jefferson became secretary of state, he and Hamilton argued over Hamilton's plans to finance the federal debt and to establish a national bank.
A compromise was reached on the debt issue, but Jefferson argued that the Constitution did not specifically empower the federal government to establish a national bank. Hamilton held that the Constitution allowed the Congress of the United States to enact laws "necessary and proper" for the execution of its powers. Jefferson's views were rejected when President Washington signed a bill establishing a national bank. Out of the differing political philosophies of Jefferson and Hamilton emerged the first political parties in the United States. Hamilton's followers became known as the Federalists, later known as the Federalist Party, and Jefferson's were Republicans, later known as the Democratic-Republican Party.
In 1793 Jefferson resigned as secretary of state and returned to Monticello. Even in retirement he kept a close eye on political issues. He was particularly distressed with Jay's Treaty, negotiated with Great Britain in 1794 by Supreme Court Justice John Jay to resolve remaining differences with Britain. In 1796 Jefferson ran for president but was defeated by John Adams, a Federalist. Jefferson became vice president under the system prevailing at the time. Jefferson had little to do with the Adams administration. Friction between the Federalists and Republicans increased when news was released in 1797 and 1798 that agents of the French foreign minister had requested a bribe from American diplomats. This was called the XYZ Affair. Anti-French feeling rose over the corrupt proposal and was exploited by the Federalists to damage the Republican, whose policies were generally pro-French. The Federalists then renounced the treaties it had made with France during the American Revolution and ordered an expansion of military forces. They also passed a number of acts that placed restrictions on noncitizens and prohibited criticism of the president or the government. Among them were the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts. These acts effectively muzzled the Republican press. In 1798 Jefferson, assured that there was no effective action he could take in Adams's administration, returned to Monticello, where he secretly drafted what were to be called the Kentucky Resolutions. The resolutions declared that the actions of the federal government were subject to the "final judgement" of the states. This was the first statement of the doctrine of nullification later used by supporters of states' rights to resist unpopular federal policy.
The Republicans again nominated Jefferson for president in 1800. For vice president they nominated Aaron Burr. Jefferson and Burr each polled 73 electoral votes. President Adams came next with 65 votes. The tie in the electoral vote threw the election into the House of Representatives, where a deadlock ensued in the Federalist-dominated chamber until Jefferson won election on the 36th ballot. Burr became vice president. As a result of this election, the 12th Amendment was added to the Constitution, specifying separate ballots for president and vice president.
President of the United States
Jefferson was inaugurated on March 4, 1801, the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C. His inaugural address attempted to dispel conservative fears that democracy would lead to mob rule and anarchy. His program was moderate enough to win the support of both parties. During his last days in office Adams tried to ensure Federalist control of the judiciary by filling 16 new circuit courts and about 200 offices with Federalists. Jefferson had the judgeships abolished and withheld commissions that had not yet been delivered.
Jefferson's chief accomplishment as president was the Louisiana Purchase (1803). The huge territory, stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, was owned by France. Jefferson sent American diplomats to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans for $2 million. French emperor Napoleon I offered to sell all of Louisiana for $15 million. The purchase was made, and the Senate ratified the sale. Jefferson won the 1804 presidential election in a landslide. George Clinton was elected vice president.
Second Term as President
During Jefferson's second term, opposition within his own party, led by Congressman John Randolph of Virginia, proved to be his major problem. Randolph gathered around him a group of Federalists and dissident Republicans who were able to prevent Jefferson from accomplishing much of his legislative program. As the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) in Europe continued, the United States found it increasingly difficult to maintain neutrality. In 1807 Jefferson put the Embargo Act into effect, forbidding American ships from sailing from American ports to any European port. Jefferson believed that Great Britain and France could not survive without American trade, but the embargo caused greater damage to the American economy, and Americans did their best to evade the embargo. A few days before he left office in 1809, Jefferson had the Embargo Act repealed. He declined to run for a third term.
Jefferson returned to his estate in Virginia. He furnished Monticello with rare and beautiful objects and with his own remarkable inventions. In 1815 he sold his 6500-volume book collection to the federal government as the nucleus of the restored Library of Congress, which had been destroyed during the War of 1812 (1812-1815). He also helped found the University of Virginia. Architecturally designed by Jefferson and based on his plans and recommendations, the university opened its doors in 1825. Jefferson and John Adams, who had been political adversaries for much of their careers, reconciled their differences and began a lively correspondence that touched on many subjects. Both Jefferson and Adams, who had played such great parts in the winning of independence, died on Independence Day, July 4, 1826.
Business and Commerce
The selfish spirit of commerce,
which knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, 15 April 1809. .
If there be one principle
more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is
that we should have nothing to do with conquest.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, 28 July 1791.
E pluribus unum. (Out of
Motto for the Seal of the United States. Adopted 20 June 1782, recommended by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, 10 Aug. 1776, and proposed by Swiss artist Pierre Eugene du Simitière. It had originally appeared on the title page of the Gentleman's Journal (Jan. 1692).
Books constitute capital.
A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not,
then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in
the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, Sept. 1821, to former President James Madison.
I hold it that 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.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, 30 Jan. 1787, to statesman James Madison, speaking of Shays's Rebellion.
Thomas Jefferson, third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, said:"I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian." He referred to the revelation of st. john as "the ravings of a maniac" and wrote:
The christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of christ levelled to every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power, and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained."
From: _Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate History_ by Fawn M. Brodie, p. 453 (1974, W.W) Norton and Co. Inc. New York, NY) Quoting a letter by TJ to Alexander Smyth Jan 17, 1825, and _Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim_ by Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 246 (1991, Madison Books, Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to John Adams, July 5, 1814.
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."
-- Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President, Deist
"The Christian god can be easily pictured as virtually the same as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of the people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites. To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical."
"I have examined all the known superstitions of the Word, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the world ..."
"The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind ... to filch wealth and power to themselves. [They], in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ."
"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god."
"Information is the currency of democracy."
"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." - 1814