History Of Thomas Jefferson


Michael Benton, Contributor

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history of thomas jeffersonIn the annals of history, Thomas Jefferson is remembered as one of the most important Founding Fathers of the United States of America. As the author of the Declaration of Independence, first Secretary of State and third President of the United States, it is not a surprise to find his influence in every part of American government. But the history of Thomas Jefferson as a man is much more than just political. Jefferson was a renowned polymath who also found success as an architect, botanist, theologian and educator. Less admirably, he was also a wealthy Virginia planter owning hundreds of slaves on his numerous plantations such as the one at Monticello. The written history on Thomas Jefferson is often molded to the political ideals of the author; myths and misattributed quotes have followed. For proponents of small government, Jefferson's agrarian principles harken back to an idyllic period in American history. For critics of American inequality, Jefferson's hypocrisy on the issue of slavery is telling. Both groups have plenty of historical evidence to draw on as Thomas Jefferson was a prime example of the duality of man.

Born in 1743 at his father's plantation in the hilly, frontier region of Piedmont, VA, Thomas Jefferson developed a passion for nature from his earliest years. Since his time as a student at the College of William & Mary, Jefferson had shown a passion for numerous subjects which allowed him to excel and stand out from his peers. After studying law for five years under the eminent George Wythe, Jefferson was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767 and set up a successful office in Williamsburg with a long list of wealthy clientele. Following in the footsteps of his father and forefathers, Jefferson took up politics and was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses as the representative of Albemarle County. It was in this legislature that Jefferson would first produce resolutions against the actions of the British government, including protests against the so-called Intolerable Acts passed by Parliament. When another Virginia politician was called back from the Second Constitutional Convention to lead the House of Burgesses, Jefferson took his place in Philadelphia. It was there that he met his lifelong friend and rival, John Adams, who nominated the young polymath to take the lead in drafting the Declaration of Independence. The inspiration for Jefferson's use of words such as "liberty" and "natural rights" comes directly from the Enlightenment philosophers who he read voraciously as a student and politician. Propelled to fame, Jefferson served as a wartime Governor in Virginia during the war and was chosen as the Minister to France subsequent to the war's resolution.

Before he became the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson served as the Secretary of State under George Washington and as Vice President after losing the election of 1796 to John Adams. In the election of 1800, Jefferson led a coalition of anti-Federalists that had become one of the first political parties, the Democratic-Republicans. After the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark planned an expedition to the Pacific. In the time of Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark created a huge political boon.