Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, the third president of the United States, enlightener, author of the US Declaration of Independence, ideologist and one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. Thomas Jefferson is a very controversial and contentious figure among the founders of the United States. He was the creator of a democratic ideological – political tradition in the U Ss. The stability of each state depends on the ideas of founding fathers. Fantastic flourishing of the United States in the XIX century is associated primarily with the name of Thomas Jefferson as owing to him, the United States of America had long remained the freest country in the world. The aim of the paper is to study and analyze Thomas Jefferson’s life with the attention to his political and social activities and his impact on the American bourgeois revolution and the further US statehood.
An outstanding politician, educator, humanist, scholar and ideologist of the American Revolution was born in 1743, on the 13th of April, in Virginia. His ancestors came from Wales. Great-grandfather served as inspector of roads, grandfather was the sheriff of the city, and his father – a major employer. Thomas’s mother Jane Randolph belonged to the oldest and most well-born clan of Virginia; they were wealthy planters. Thomas Jefferson was also the owner of plantations and slaves although he was an ideological adversary of slavery. He received good education as he studied enthusiastically and persistently. Thomas read Socrates, Cicero and Plato. “In fact, Jefferson was learning to read Cicero in Latin, Homer and Plato in Greek and modern French literature in the original.” Influenced by the concepts of equal rights of a person, there were doubts about the true price of legality and morality of the social system of that time. During his study, there was a formation of revolutionary ideology. When Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary (1762), he studied law and in 1767 was admitted to practice law. “Nineteen-year-old Jefferson was one of the best educated men in Virginia.” In 1772, he married Martha Skelton. Thus, Jefferson met the beginning of the revolutionary storms as a wealthy planter, a successful lawyer, a happy husband and father. Thomas Jefferson made a great impact during the American Revolution and the War of Independence. All his activities from 1764 to 1789 were aimed specifically at the struggle for independence and the formation of the American republic.
Between Dream and Reality
Thomas Jefferson became one of the leading figures of the Patriotic Movement several years before the independence. In 1774, he published anonymously a brilliant pamphlet A Summary View of the Rights of British America; however, his authorship was well known. People in other colonies learned about Jefferson. In 1776, a 33-year-old Virginian was charged with drafting the Declaration of Independence. The huge popularity of the Declaration helped strengthening the glory of the spiritual leader of the revolution. However, other founding fathers also dreamed about this glory. Young and energetic, Thomas Jefferson embodied the youth of the revolution and the American nation. Only he could write the declaration. It was his, not Adams’ and Franklin’s finest hour. The Declaration of Independence indicated Jefferson’s broad erudition, bold ideas and brilliant abilities.
In the language of high and easily understood by common people prose, he succinctly outlined the revolutionary creed of the Enlightenment: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life liberty and pursuit of happiness.” In his appeal to the patriots A Summary View of the Rights of British America, Jefferson hatched a new topic – democratic transformation in the USA. He took the side of the needy and poor in the main problem for the historical destinies – agriculture. Jefferson’s agrarian dream got more specific features from the beginning of the revolution.
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson proposed a rough copy of the state constitution, according to which all free acres went into the public domain and could be used for free allotment of the needy and poor with the plot of 50 acres. Speaking for the elimination of contrasts in the possession of landed property and its progressive taxation, Jefferson never defined what should be its maximum. His offers seriously infringed the interests of slaveholders; Jefferson blocked their entrance to unoccupied western lands. A contradicted American reality and that amazing historical era in which he lived – the era that deserved the title of the Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason and the Age of Revolution – reflected and embodied in his worldview.
Developing democratic ideals, Thomas Jefferson, at the same time, made all sorts of trades-off with the planters. In a year after the revolution, they achieved sales of the western land fund. Through the press of bourgeois circles, Thomas Jefferson rejected the thought of granting all the needy and poor with free minimum land ownership. Jefferson lost in his showdown with planters’ tops on the question of slavery. Until 1776, in the patriotic movement, there was not a single open vote in defense of slavery. During the first discussion of slavery in the Continental Congress, it became clear that the southern planters profiting from the slave trade considered an item condemning Negro bondage unnecessary and deleted it. However, gradually, the idea spread that slavery existed and was maintained solely by the fault of the British Crown. Thomas Jefferson shared this idea as well.
At the same time, in Virginia, Jefferson’s home state, the convention discussing a bill of rights and the state constitution strongly objected to the provision that “All men are created equal.” A little later, courts declared that the adoption of the Declaration of Independence of the natural equality of men applied neither to free blacks nor to slaves. Although the courts were in favor of high qualification, Jefferson insisted on giving the right to vote to all free adult white men. In addition, he required the approval of the Constitution and some important laws based on the direct expression of popular will.
Jefferson’s interpretation of the right to revolution and overthrow of unwanted government proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence underwent significant changes. He did not exclude the possibility of armed actions of the masses. Moreover, based on the analysis of Shays’ Rebellion experience, he came to important generalizations: the ability to protect the rights is an indicator of democracy of the political system and not its weakness. In the conflict “people – governors”, people are always right and their uprising helps identify and eliminate the abuse of power.
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The Path to Power
During the Revolution, Jefferson realized that the discrepancies between the poor and the rich and deep differences of wealth were common for European countries but not the United States. In the period of the Revolution, Thomas Jefferson believed that in the future, the USA would be an agricultural country inhabited by independent and small farmers. Many people supported him in these views. They were shared by the majority of Democrats, among which, B. Franklin was the most zealous advocate of agro-farming development of the United States. Thomas Jefferson argued that the agricultural development path excluded the possibility of mass poverty. An agrarian country, in contrast to the industrial, was insured against the emergence and development of political corruption, which had become a real disaster in commercial and industrial England. He also singled out the moral virtues of farming, its simplicity, artlessness and simplicity of manners. Thomas Jefferson expressed the thought that while agrarian overpopulation was not formed in America, the state could happily evade bad alternatives of the industrial and commercial development.
The creation of the National Newspaper was one of the first initiatives of the Republican Party. During the folding of the Republican Party, Jefferson’s organizational and tactical abilities opened completely. In 1791, he made a journey to New York, during which close contacts with the leaders of the local anti-Federalists were established. Then, after hardening of links with opponents of Hamilton in Pennsylvania, an axis Virginia – New York – Pennsylvania developed, which became the core of the Republican Party. Jefferson’s views gained purely pragmatic character. His party sought to portray itself not only true but also the only guardian of the republican foundations. In 1793, the political struggle made Jefferson send in his resignation.
The Experience of Presidency
In 1800, the Republican Party gained most of the political power in the United States. The country was waiting for radical changes. The main cause for the success of the Republicans was that they could formulate and propose a good alternative to the economic and political course of the Federalists. First of all, the Republicans promised to breathe life into the Bill of Rights. Important points of their ideology were the economic demands maintained all along Jefferson’s administration activities; moreover, a proposal to improve the fiscal system in order to transfer the severity of taxes from the workers to the rich was extremely important for ordinary Americans. In the message to Congress, Thomas Jefferson made the task of abolishing all direct taxes. He placed a special emphasis on the social significance of the tax reform. The president argued that working people would be relieved of the tax burden since the entire burden of the remaining external taxes expressed in duties on imported items would fall on the wealthy citizens who were consumers of overseas products.
Thomas Jefferson abstained from open criticism of slavery. He hoped solely for incremental ways to deal with it. His idea of repatriation of free blacks from the United States had a conservative character. When in Virginia the conspiracy of slaves was uncovered, Instead of punishment, Thomas Jefferson proposed the governor to send them to Sierra Leone, which should pave the way to the black population of the country to its late fatherland in Africa. However, the leaders of Sierra Leone, a free Negro colony, refused to accept the American Negro. After that, Jefferson turned to St. Domingo. This plan did not get the support among president’s entourage burdened by the proximity of the black republic. A conservative position of southern Republicans concerning the problem of slavery did not prevent the unanimous and rapid adoption of a bill banning the importation of black slaves. It had a very common economic explanation. Planters met their necessities in the slave force because of its growth. Although the law prohibiting the importation of Negroes in the USA did not sapped the foundations of slavery, it is necessary to register this fact to Thomas Jefferson.
In subsequent periods, Thomas Jefferson took a more conservative position. It explains the political struggle he was engaged in to make deductions to conservative Republican allies. A moderate political line fully revealed during Jefferson’s presidency. However, even the evident drawbacks of his activity did not obscure the positive results in power. During this time, influenced by conscious efforts of Jefferson and his associates, democratic tendencies in the development of American society strengthened. As President, Jefferson bought French Louisiana from Napoleon and doubled the US territory. He is considered the founder of American viticulture and winemaking. Being in France, Jefferson studied this business thoroughly and brought grape vines to the United States.
Thomas Jefferson and the American Revolution
Thomas Jefferson’s political activity begins just at the time when the United States of America was covered by a storm of unrest. Increased pressure from London affected the interests of the general population. New navigation laws and especially the act of sugar have hurt profitable trade with the West Indies. Doubled import duties on industrial products from England led to unprecedented rise in the price. The United States of America was ready to revolt. The situation in the colonies was extremely difficult when Thomas Jefferson began his political activities. He plunged into the atmosphere of general excitement and heated arguments catching the basic essence of the event and joined the ranks of those who went further than passionate eloquence. Thomas Jefferson’s position was based on the objections to the remaining customs duties for tea and the rejection of the principle of royal intervention in the affairs of the American colonies. He believed that the duty for tea was a dangerous precedent and left as a symbol of British rule over North America. Indeed, subsequent events of 1770-1772 confirmed this assumption. Especially, the situation worsened in 1772, when London adopted a resolution according to which the salary of the governors, officials and judges was paid by royal treasury.
Shortly after the outbreak of the war in June of 1775, Thomas was elected to the Second Continental Congress that later made a historic decision on the separation of North American colonies from England. Without a speaker talent, Jefferson earned a reputation as the “silent deputy”. His main instrument of the impact was the pen. “Thomas Jefferson is a feather of the American Revolution.” Jefferson was charged to write the main work throughout American history – the Declaration of Independence. It was the first official government document that declared the concept of popular sovereignty as the basis of government. It was its progressive significance.
The name of Thomas Jefferson is one of the most honored among American people. He is among famous figures of world history. Jefferson’s work and life have left a deep mark in the memory of mankind. He was not only a great politician and statesman but also a humanist and philosopher. Thomas Jefferson lived a long life and made a lot of important things to his country and humanity. Multilateral activities and brilliant results that he achieved are admired not only by his contemporaries but also by future generations.