Author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia -voiced the aspirations of a new America as no other individual of his era. As public official, historian, philosopher, and plantation owner, he served his country for over five decades. This powerful advocate of liberty was born in 1743 in Albemarle County, Virginia, inheriting from his father, a planter and surveyor, some 5,000 acres of land, and from his mother, a Randolph, a high social standing. He studied at the College of William and Mary, then read law. In 1772 he married Martha Wayles Skelton, a widow, and took her to live in his partly constructed mountaintop home in Monticello. Freckled and sandy-haired, rather tall and awkward, Jefferson was eloquent as a correspondent, but he was no public speaker. In the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, he contributed his pen rather than his voice to the patriot cause. As the “silent member” of the Congress, Jefferson, at 33, drafted the Declaration of Independence. As a reluctant candidate for President in 1796, Jefferson came within three votes of election. Through a flaw in the Constitution, he became Vice President.
When Jefferson assumed the Presidency in 1800, the crisis in France had passed. He cut the budget, eliminated the unpopular tax on whiskey in the West, yet reduced the national debt by a third. Although the Constitution made no provision for the acquisition of new land, Jefferson suppressed his qualms over constitutionality when he had the opportunity to acquire the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803. During Jefferson’s second term, he was increasingly preoccupied with keeping the Nation from involvement in the Napoleonic wars, though both England and France interfered with the neutral rights of American merchantmen, Jefferson retired to Monticello to ponder such projects as his grand designs for the University of Virginia.
A French nobleman observed that he had placed his house and his mind “on an elevated situation, from which he might contemplate the universe.” He died on July 4, 1826, fifty years after signing the Declaration of Independence. The second President John Adams died the same day.
FAMOUS THOMAS JEFFERSON QUOTATIONS:
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
“A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”
“One man with courage is a majority.”
“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.”
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