Jefferson Essay Research Paper Thomas Jefferson third

Jefferson Essay, Research Paper Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, was one of the most brilliant men in history. His interests were boundless, and his accomplishments were great and varied. He was

Jefferson Essay, Research Paper

Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, was one of the most brilliant men

in history. His interests were boundless, and his accomplishments were great and varied. He was

a philosopher, educator, naturalist, politician, scientist, architect, inventor, pioneer in scientific

farming, musician, and writer, and was the foremost spokesmen for democracy in his day.

He was born at Shadwell in Goochland County, Virginia on April 13, 1743, to Jane

Randolph and Peter Jefferson. Jefferson Graduated from the college of William and Mary in 1760

(Adams, Page #26). His interest in science was fostered by Dr. William Small, teacher of

mathematics and philosophy, who introduced him to Gov. Francis Fauquier and to George Wythe,

then the most noted teacher of law in Virginia. To ?habitual conversation? with these friends

Jefferson said he ?owed much instruction? (Dos Passos, Page #102).

In 1767 Jefferson was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in the capitol (Adams,

Page #43). Jefferson was elected justice of the peace and church vestryman in 1768. In May of

the next year he was elected to the House of Burgesses, in which he served until the house cease

to function in 1775. He was appointed county lieutenant of Albemarle in 1770 and the same year

completed the building of his new home, Monticello. Two years later he married, January 1, 1772,

Martha Skelton, a widow who was both attractive and accomplished, the daughter of John

Wayles, a well known lawyer, and just before the College of William and Mary appointed him

surveyor of the county in 1773 (Adams, Page #46-47).

Jefferson?s most remarkable contribution in legislative work before the Revolution came

through work on committees and though such writings as his paper to the Virginia Convention, A

Summary View of the Rights of British America. In defining the grievances with Great Britain,

Jefferson denied that Parliament had any authority over the colonies, and he attacked the

restrictive acts passed by Parliament as a deliberate plan to destroy colonial freedom. Jefferson

also accused the king of rejecting the best laws passed by colonial legislatures, of preventing the

outlaw of slavery, of permitting his governors to break up colonial assemblies, and of sending

armed forces without right to do so(Dos Passos, Page #169). On June 21, 1775 he was given a

seat in the Continental Congress, appointed to the committee to draft the Declaration of

Independence, and he was chosen by the committee to write the declaration because of his

?peculiar felicity of style.? The Declaration of Independence was formally adopted on July 4,

1776 (Conlin Page #141-144).

In 1776 Jefferson was elected to the Virginia legislature, giving up his seat in the

Continental Congress and declining an offer to serve with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane as

commissioners to France, mostly because of personal reasons having to do with his family, but

also, because he felt he could best serve the revolutionary cause by furthering the reformation of

Virginia ( Adams, Page #98-99). He then served three years in the house of delegates. While

there he began the revision of the laws of Virginia. His most noteworthy achievement during this

time was his proposal of the Statute for Religious Freedom, which stated in Jefferson?s own

words, ?that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or

ministry whatsoever?, and that no one should suffer in any way for their ?religious opinions or

beliefs.? The bill was eventually adopted in 1786. Jefferson also had succeeded in the of passing

bills to abolish primogeniture and entail. Although never passed, his Bill of Universal Diffusion of

Knowledge, set forth a philosophy of providing free public schooling for all citizens (Adams

Page #104-110).

During this period, Jefferson managed to spend considerable time with his family, but

even in leisure he was never idle. He took up building projects at Monticello and continued to

develop his land. Jefferson was a philosopher and at the same time an architect and inventor. He

invented the dumbwaiter, a swivel chair, a lamp-heater, and an improved plow for which the

French gave him a medal. He tinkered with clocks, steam engines, and metronomes. He collected

plans of large cities and later helped in the planning of Washington, DC. Jefferson kept an over

sea correspondence with Giovanni Fabbroni, an Italian naturalist, in order to compare climate and

plant life in Virginia and southern Europe. He added to his valuable collection of books and

bought instruments for making astronomical observations. He also fostered his love of music. In

a letter to the Italian, Philip Mazzei, Jefferson describes music as ?the favorite passion of my

soul? and wished that his servants were also musicians, ?so that one might have a band…without

enlarging their domestic expenses? (Adams, Page #115-122).

Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia in 1779, at the age of thirty-six, where he

served two terms (Wibberley, Page #73). As a governor in the mist of a revolution, Jefferson had

little military experience and could do little to directly help in war against Britain. Virginia had no

standing army, or navy, and he could send no militia men because there were little or no supplies

to equip them with. The government was continually having to retreat, and Jefferson sent his

family off to safety in Tuckahoe (Wibberley, Page #80). Some blamed Jefferson for the defeat at

Richmond and Charlottesville, and later a committee of the legislature investigated his conduct in

office during the British invasion. Although he was exonerated, his reputation was badly

tarnished in his home state (Wibberley, Page #110). Jefferson refused to serve another term as

governor, and even declined the appointment by Congress to go to Paris as a minister to negotiate

peace. During this period he wrote The Notes on the State of Virginia containing essays on a

variety of subjects ranging from the study of weather, through botany, anthropology, zoology and

the philology of Indian languages to his private observations on how long it took a slave to dig so

many cubic feet of clay out of a ditch. Through it Jefferson gained much of his reputation as a

pioneer American scientist (Padover, Page #10).

Jefferson was elected delegate to congress in June, 1783, and during this term he served

on almost every important committee and drafted as many as 31 state papers, one of the most

important of which was a proposal for the organization of the Northwest Territory. The proposal

was adopted by Congress but never put into effect, and was later rewritten and called the

Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which left out Jefferson?s clause on the abolition of slavery. The

ordinance made provisions for newly acquired lands and their admittance to the United States

(Adams Page #159-164). Another important proposal was Jefferson?s report on the coinage

system. His recommendation of the establishment of the dollar as the central monetary unit, with

a 10-dollar gold coin and a one-tenth-dollar silver and one-hundredth dollar copper coin, was

eventually adopted by congress. He drew up a report on the definitive treaty of peace, which was

adopted, and his report of December 20,1783, was accepted as the basis for procedure in

negotiating treaties of commerce with foreign countries (Wibberley Page #140).

In 1784 Congress appointed Jefferson, with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, to

negotiate commercial treaties with foreign countries. He was appointed minister to France in

1785 when Benjamin Franklin retired from the position and remained in France until October

1789. One of Jefferson?s most important functions in France was to report home how ?the

vaunted scene of Europe…struck a savage of the mountains of America.? Not impressed

Jefferson said, ?It will make you adore your own country? (Adams Page #173-176).

Soon after Jefferson?s return to the United Sates He was offered the appointment of

secretary of state by George Washington, which he accepted and entered the office on March 22,

1790 (Dos Passos Page #360). During this period, Jefferson differed with Secretary of the

Treasury Alexander Hamilton?s theories of foreign policies and government fiancee, and was

leader of a faction opposing Hamilton. Jefferson distrusted centralized power and believed that

the purpose of government was to assure the freedom of individual citizens. Hamilton, on the

other hand distrusted popular rule and once exclaimed, ?The people is a great beast.? The rivalry

of the factions of Hamilton and Jefferson marked the beginning of the political parties in the

United States. The Jefferson group denounced the Hamilton group and as monarchists and

claimed the title of Republicans (Dos Passos Page #368-372). The Hamilton party became known

as the Federalists and the Jefferson party became know as the Democratic-Republicans (Adams,

Page #246).

The most important question confronting Jefferson as secretary of state grew out of the

policy of neutrality adopted by the United States toward its ally, France. At the time of the

French revolution, Jefferson was determined that the United states should take no action that

would oppose the principle right of the French people to revolt, yet he shared the conviction of

Washington and Hamilton that US policies should be for America and French policies for France.

This policy was accepted by Washington in his Farewell Address. Jefferson resigned from the

office of secretary on December 31, 1793, and retired to Monticello (Adams, Page #251-253).

In 1796 John Adams, the Federalist candidate, was elected president. Jefferson, the

Republican candidate, was elected vice-president. Because Adams and Jefferson were political

opponents although good personal friends, Jefferson played little part in the administration.

Jefferson?s attempts during this period to have Congress enact bills that would promote public

education were not successful (Padover, Page #105). During this period he wrote the Manual of

Parliamentary Practice, a book of parliamentary rules which was published in 1801 and still

remains the standard for our legislative bodies (Adams, Page #279).

In the election of 1800 the Federalist party lost ground, and the Democratic-Republican

candidates, Jefferson and Aaron Burr, received an equal number of votes. Then it was up to the

house of representatives to name one of them president. Jefferson was chosen to be the first

president to be inaugurated in the city of Washington. He was re-elected in 1804,when John

Adams, as a Republican elector from Massachusetts, voted for him (Adams, Page #297). During

his term in the office he pardoned all those still imprisoned under the Sedition Act. He reenacted

the five-year residency requirement for citizenship, and replaced all Federalist office holders with

Republicans. He also enacted a plan to remove the national debt by 1817, while at the same time

reducing taxes (Conlin Page #205). The greatest achievements of Jefferson?s administration were

the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition through

the Northwest part of the territory acquired in the purchase, in 1804 (Adams Page #318-319).

Jefferson retired from the White House to Monticello on March 4,1809, and from then on

his chief public interest was education. He wrote to Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours in 1816:

?Enlighten the people generally and tyranny and oppressions of both mind and body will vanish

like evil spirits at the dawn of day? (Padover, Page #274). In 1814 he became a trustee of the

then unorganized Albemarle Academy, which later became Central College. The University of

Virginia later developed, from which came the realization of Jefferson?s dream of free public

education. Many of the architectural specifications for buildings of the university were drawn by

Jefferson himself, and many of the structures on the campus were built under his direct

supervision (Adams, Page #351-352). He also designed his own home Monticello, and

anonymously entered a competition among architects for the designing of the White House itself

(Conlin, Page #204). In 1815 Jefferson sold his 6500 volume collection to the federal

government for a mere $23,950 in the restoration of the Library of Congress, which was being

built up again after its destruction in the British?s burning Washington in the War of 1812

(Adams, Page #336).

Jefferson never lost faith in his concept of progress though education nor his faith in ?the

people?, that they would responsibly ?elect the really good and wise.? Late in life he wrote to his

friend John Adams: ?You and I will yet look down from heaven with joy at the fulfillment of our

great dreams.? Both men died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the

Declaration of Independence (Adams, Page #356-358).

Dos Passos, J. (1954). The head and heart of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Double &

Company, Inc.

Wibberly, L. (1964). A dawn in the trees. New York: Farrar, Straus and Company.

Adams, J. (1936). The living Jefferson. New York: Charles Scribner?s Sons.

Padover, S. (1956). A Jefferson profile as revealed in his letters. New York: The John Day


Conlin, J. (1997). The American past. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace