Governor of Virginia. U.S. Minister to France. Secretary of State under Washington. Vice-
president of United State of America. President of United State (1801 to 1809).
Jefferson was born at Shawl in what is now Albemarle County, Va., on Apr. 13, 1743. He treated his
pedigree lightly, but his mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, came from one of the first families ofVirginia; his father, Peter Jefferson, was a well-to-do landowner, although not in the class of the
wealthiest planters. Jefferson attended (1760-62) the College of William and Mary and the studied
law with George Wythe. In 1769 he began six years of service as a representative in the Virginia House
of Burgsses. The following year he began building Monticello on land inherited from hisfather. The
mansion, which he designed in every detail, took years to complete, but part of it was ready for
occupancy when he married Martha Wayles Skelton on Jan. 1, 1772. They had six children, two of
whom survived into adulthood.
“Author of the Declaration of America Independence, of the State of Virginia for religious freedom,
and Father of the University of Virginia”. (Malone,p.1). Elected to the Second Continental Congress,
meeting in Philadelphia, Jefferson was appointed on June 11, 1776, to head a committee of five in
preparing the Declaration of Independence. He was its primary author, although his initial draft was
amended after consultation with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams and altered both stylistically and
substantively by Congress. Jefferson’sreference to the voluntary allegiance of colonists to the crown
was struck; also deleted was a clause that censured the monarchy for imposing slavery upon America. Based upon the same natural rights theory contained in A Summary View, to which it bears a strong resemblance, the Declaration of Independence made Jefferson son internationally famous. Years later that fame evoked the jealousy of JohnAdams, who complained that the declaration’s ideas were “hackneyed.” Jefferson agreed; he wrote of the declaration, “Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intented to be an expression of the American mind.”
There are three faces of Thomas Jefferson, only two of them well know. One is the public figureauthor of the Declaration of Independence, governor, secretary of state, vice president, and president. The second is the Sage of Monticello, wrapped in the bosom of his family, engaged in science, philosophy, agriculture, architecture America’s Renaissance man. It is not surprising that many of the critical letters sent to Jefferson about political affairs were not signed. The republic was still inits infancy, and even though freedom of expression was guaranteed by the Constitution, citizens had seen men sent to prison during the previous administration for defaming President John Adams in print. The right of the lowliest citizen to castigate elected figures with impunity had not yet achieved its present protected status. “I consider anonymous letters as sufficient foundation for enquiryinto the facts they communicate” (McLaughlin, p. 4). The first report Jefferson received about the Burr conspiracy was a note from an anonymous write. It described Aaron Burr’s alleged plan to sever the western states from the Union and set up a monarchy in Mexico, an act for which he was ultimately tried and exonerated.
When Jefferson left Paris on Sept. 26, 1789, he expected to return tohis post. On that date and unknown to him, however, Congress confirmed his appointment as secretary of state in the first administration of George Washington. Jefferson accepted the position with some reluctance and largely because of Washington’s insistence. He immediately expressed his alarm at the regal forms and ceremonies that marked the executive office, but his fears were tempered...
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