One of America’s Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, was an outspoken advocate for democracy. Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States (from 1801 to 1809), was also the foremost author of the 1776 U.S. Declaration of Independence.
In 1800, in the turbulent days of party conflicts, Jefferson was writing in a personal letter: “On the altar of God almighty I have sworn everlasting hostility against any form of tyranny over man’s mind.”
Thomas Jefferson (born in Shadwell, Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1743) was a powerful and outspoken advocate of the concept of Liberty. His father had been a planter and surveyor, and Thomas inherited from him around 5,000 acres of land, and his high social standing was because of his mother, a Randolph family member, and the Randolphs were a highly prominent political family in the state of Virginia.
Thomas Jefferson studied at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, and he went on to specialize in Law as he studied with George Wythe. In 1772, Thomas married widow Martha Wayles Skelton, and together they lived in Thomas’ partly constructed Monticello mountaintop house.
Jefferson, tall, freckled, sandy-haired, and a little awkward, was an eloquent correspondent, but in no way a good public speaker, and he rather used his pen than his voice In Virginia’s House of Burgesses and later in the Continental Congress, to make fierce contributions to the patriot cause. Jefferson was known as the ‘silent member of Congress’, and at the age of 33, he drafted the American Declaration of Independence. In subsequent years, Thomas worked hard to turn the Declaration’s words into reality in Virginia, and in 1786, Jefferson wrote a significant bill to establish the freedom of religion.
In 1785, Jefferson became Benjamin Franklin’s successor as minister to France, but his warm sympathy towards the French Revolution brought him in a highly conflictual situation with Alexander Hamilton at the time that Jefferson’s function in President Washington’s Cabinet was Secretary of State. As a result, Jefferson resigned from this function in 1793.
This was a period of sharp political conflicts, and it was also the time that we could see two key separate parties started to form, the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists. It wasn’t long before Thomas Jefferson took leadership of the party of the Republicans, who were sympathizing with the revolutionary cause that was going on in France. Jefferson was strongly attacking the Federalist policies, he was strongly opposing a centralized Government, and he was also a strong advocate of rights of individual states.
Although Jefferson was reluctant as presidential candidate in 1796, he had come within 3 votes of getting elected President. He had been President Adams’ opponent, but a flaw in the U.S. Constitution caused him to become Vice President. This constitutional defect led to a more significant problem in 1800 when the Republican party establishment was casting a tied vote between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson when they attempted to get as well a President as a Vice President that came from their own ranks. The House of Representatives needed to settle the tie, and although Hamilton disliked both Burr and Jefferson, he endorsed Jefferson’s election.
When Jefferson became President, the revolutionary struggle in France already was over. He drastically slashed the expenditures for Army and Navy, he cut the federal budget immensely and eliminated the highly unpopular tax on whiskey. All his measures resulted in a reduction of the national debt by some 35 percent.
Jefferson also directed a naval squadron to the Mediterranean in order to eliminate the Barbary pirates who were threatening and destroying American commerce in that region. Jefferson additionally was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. Though the U.S. Constitution did not include any provisions to acquire new land, he overcame his reluctance over constitutionality issues as soon as he had the chance to acquire the Louisiana Territory in 1803 from Napoleon
During Thomas Jefferson’s second term as President, he was more and more busy with keeping America from getting involved in the terrifying Napoleonic wars, although both France and England had been interfering with American merchantmen’s neutrality rights. As a solution, Jefferson came up with an embargo on American shipping, but this didn’t work properly and it was highly unpopular.
After his Presidency, Jefferson returned to Monticello to work on projects such as founding the University of Virginia which happened in 1819. There was a French aristocrat who rightly observed that Thomas Jefferson had placed his mind and his house “on a highly elevated location which allowed him to contemplate the mighty universe.” Thomas Jefferson died on the 4th of July, 1826.