Monday, November 23, 2015
Thomas Jefferson (#8)
Thomas Jefferson Installment #1
By: Reyna Shellhart (#8)
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in Shadwell, Virginia, where he spent his childhood roaming the woods and studying his books on a remote plantation. Thanks to the success of his father, Jefferson had an excellent education. After years in boarding school, where he excelled in classical languages, Jefferson enrolled in William and Mary College in his home state of Virginia, taking classes in science, mathematics, rhetoric, philosophy, and literature. He also studied law, and by the time he was admitted to the Virginia bar in April 1767, many considered him to have one of the nation's best legal minds.
He was a draftsman of the U.S. Declaration of Independence; the nation's first secretary of state (1789-94); second vice president (1797-1801); and, as the third president (1801-09), he was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. But before he became the nation's third President, Jefferson served as delegate to the Virginia House of Delegates, where he drafted legislation that abolished primogeniture, the law that made the eldest son the sole inheritor of his father's property. He also promoted religious freedom, helping to establish the country's separation between church and state, and he advocated free public education, an idea considered radical by his colleagues.
Jefferson died in bed at Monticello, his home, on July 4, 1826 -- the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence -- only a few hours before John Adams also passed away in Massachusetts. Jefferson is buried in the family cemetery at Monticello, in a grave marked by a plain gray tombstone. The brief inscription it bears, written by Jefferson himself, is as noteworthy for what it excludes as what it includes. The inscription suggests Jefferson's humility as well as his belief that his greatest gifts to posterity came in the realm of ideas rather than the realm of politics: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and father of the University Of Virginia." As the author the Declaration of Independence, the foundational text of American democracy and one of the most important documents in world history, Thomas Jefferson will be forever revered as one of the great American Founding Fathers. However, Jefferson was also a man of many contradictions.