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Thomas Jefferson (13 April 1743 N.S.–4 July 1826) was the third President of the United States (1801–09), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and one of the most influential Founding Fathers for his promotion of the ideals of Republicanism in the United States. Major events during his presidency include the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806).

As a political philosopher, Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment and knew many intellectual leaders in Britain and France. He idealized the independent yeoman farmer as exemplar of the republican virtue, distrusted cities and financiers, and favored states’ rights and a strictly limited federal government. Jefferson supported the separation of church and state and was the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779, 1786). He was the eponym of Jeffersonian democracy and the founder and leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, which dominated American politics for a quarter-century. Jefferson served as the wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781), first United States Secretary of State (1789–1793) and second Vice President (1797–1801).

A polymath, Jefferson achieved distinction as an horticulturist, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, author, inventor, and the founder of the University of Virginia, among other roles. President John F. Kennedy welcomed forty-nine Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962, saying, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House—with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”[1]

Early life and education

Thomas Jefferson was born on 13 April 1743 (Gregorian N.S) into a wealthy Virginia family, the third of eight children. His mother was Jane Randolph, daughter of Isham Randolph, and a cousin of Peyton Randolph. Jefferson’s father was Peter Jefferson, a planter and surveyor who owned plantations in Albemarle County (Shadwell, then Edge Hill, Virginia.)

In 1752, Jefferson began attending a local school run by William Douglas, a Scottish minister. At the age of nine, Jefferson began studying Latin, Greek, and French. In 1757, when he was 14 years old, his father died. Jefferson inherited about 5,000 acres (20 km²) of land and dozens of slaves. He built his home there, which eventually became known as Monticello.

After his father’s death, he was taught at the school of the learned minister James Maury from 1758 to 1760.[2] The school was in Fredericksville Parish near Gordonsville, Virginia, twelve miles from Shadwell, and Jefferson boarded with Maury’s family. There he received a classical education and studied history and science.

In 1760 Jefferson entered the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg at the age of 16; he studied there for two years, graduating with highest honors in 1762. At William & Mary, he enrolled in the philosophy school and studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under W&M Professor William Small, who introduced the enthusiastic Jefferson to the writings of the British Empiricists, including John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Sir Isaac Newton (Jefferson called them the “three greatest men the world had ever produced”[3]). He also perfected his French, carried his Greek grammar book wherever he went, practiced the violin, and read Tacitus and Homer. A keen and diligent student, Jefferson displayed an avid curiosity in all fields and, according to the family tradition, frequently studied fifteen hours a day. His closest college friend, John Page of Rosewell, reported that Jefferson “could tear himself away from his dearest friends, to fly to his studies.”

While in college, Jefferson was a member of a secret organization called the Flat Hat Club, now the namesake of the William & Mary student newspaper. He lodged and boarded at the College in the building known today as the Sir Christopher Wren Building, attending communal meals in the Great Hall, and morning and evening prayers in the Wren Chapel. Jefferson often attended the lavish parties of royal governor Francis Fauquier, where he played his violin and developed an early love for wines. [2]After graduating in 1762 with highest honors, he studied law with his friend and mentor, George Wythe, and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767.

In 1772, Jefferson married a 23-year-old widow, Martha Wayles Skelton. They had six children: Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772–1836), Jane Randolph (1774–1775), a stillborn or unnamed son (1777), Mary Wayles (1778–1804), Lucy Elizabeth (1780–1781), and Lucy Elizabeth (1782–1785). Martha died on September 6, 1782 and Jefferson never remarried.

Political career from 1774 to 1800

Colonial legislator

Jefferson practiced law and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses. In 1774, he wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America, which was intended as instructions for the Virginia delegates to a national congress. The pamphlet was a powerful argument of American terms for a settlement with Britain. It helped speed the way to independence, and marked Jefferson as one of the most thoughtful patriot spokesmen.

The Second Continental Congress

Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and a contributor to American political and civil culture. The Continental Congress delegated the task of writing the Declaration to a Committee of Five that unanimously solicited Jefferson, considered the best writer, to write the first draft, and in fact wrote all of them with no help at all.

State legislator

In September 1776, Jefferson returned to Virginia and was elected to the new Virginia House of Delegates. During his term in the House, Jefferson set out to reform and update Virginia’s system of laws to reflect its new status as a democratic state. He drafted 126 bills in three years, including laws to abolish primogeniture, establish freedom of religion, and streamline the judicial system. In 1778, Jefferson’s “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” led to several academic reforms at his alma mater, including an elective system of study — the first in an American university.

Governor of Virginia

Jefferson served as governor of Virginia from 1779–1781. As governor, he oversaw the transfer of the state capitol from Williamsburg to the more central location of Richmond in 1780. He continued to advocate educational reforms at the College of William and Mary, including the nation’s first student-policed honor code. In 1779, at Jefferson’s behest, William and Mary appointed George Wythe to be the first professor of law in an American university. Dissatisfied with the rate of changes he wanted to push through, he later became the founder of the University of Virginia, which was the first university at which higher education was completely separate from religious doctrine.

Virginia was invaded twice by the British during Jefferson’s term as governor. He, along with Patrick Henry and other Virginia Patriot leaders, were but ten minutes away from being captured by Banastre Tarleton, a British colonel leading a cavalry column that was raiding the area in June 1781.[5] Public disapproval of his performance delayed his future political prospects, and he was never again elected to office in Virginia.[6]

Minister to France

From 1785–1789, Jefferson served as minister to France. He lived in a residence on the Champs Elysees in Paris. He did not attend the Constitutional Convention. He did generally support the new Constitution, although he thought the document flawed for lack of a Bill of Rights.

Secretary of State

After returning from France, Jefferson served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington (1789–1793). Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton began sparring over national fiscal policy, especially the funding of the debts of the war, with Hamilton believing that the debts should be equally shared, and Jefferson believing that each state should be responsible for its own debt (Virginia had not accumulated much debt during the Revolution). In further sparring with the Federalists, Jefferson came to equate Hamilton and the rest of the Federalists with Tories and monarchists who threatened to undermine republicanism. He equated Federalsim with “Royalism,” and made a point to state that “Hamiltonians were panting after…and itching for crowns, coronets and mitres”.[7] Jefferson and James Madison founded and led the Democratic-Republican Party. He worked with Madison and his campaign manager John J. Beckley to build a nationwide network of Republican allies to combat Federalists across the country.

Jefferson strongly supported France against Britain when war broke out between those nations in 1793. Historian Lawrence S. Kaplan notes Jefferson’s “visceral support for the French cause,” while agreeing with Washington that the nation should not get involved in the fighting.[8] The arrival in 1793 of an aggressive new French minister, Citizen Genêt, caused a crisis for the Secretary of State, as he watched Genêt try to violate American neutrality, manipulate public opinion, and even go over Washington’s head in appealing to the people; projects that Jefferson helped to thwart. According to Schachner, Jefferson believed that political success at home depended on the success of the French army in Europe:[9]

Jefferson still clung to his sympathies with France and hoped for the success of her arms abroad and a cordial compact with her at home. He was afraid that any French reverses on the European battlefields would give “wonderful vigor to our monocrats, and unquestionably affect the tone of administering our government. Indeed, I fear that if this summer should prove disastrous to the French, it will damp that energy of republicanism in our new Congress, from which I had hoped so much reformation.”

A Break from office

Jefferson at the end of 1793 retired to Monticello where he continued to orchestrate opposition to Hamilton and Washington. However, the Jay Treaty of 1794, orchestrated by Hamilton, brought peace and trade with Britain — while Madison, with strong support from Jefferson, wanted, Miller says, “to strangle the former mother country” without actually going to war. “It became an article of faith among Republicans that ‘commercial weapons’ would suffice to bring Great Britain to any terms the United States chose to dictate.” Jefferson, in retirement, strongly encouraged Madison.[10]

The 1796 election and Vice Presidency

As the Republican candidate in 1796 he lost to John Adams, but had enough electoral votes to become Vice President (1797–1801). He wrote a manual of parliamentary procedure, but otherwise avoided the Senate.

With a quasi-War (that is, an undeclared naval war) with France underway, the Federalists under John Adams started a navy, built up the army, levied new taxes, readied for war, and enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. Jefferson interpreted the Alien and Sedition Acts as an attack on his party more than on dangerous enemy aliens; they were used to attack his party, with the most notable attacks coming from Matthew Lyon, congressman of Vermont. He and Madison rallied support by anonymously writing the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which declared that the federal government had no right to exercise powers not specifically delegated to it by the states. Should the federal government assume such powers, its acts under them could be voided by a state. The Resolutions’ are importance because they present the first statements of the states’ rights theory that led to the later concepts of nullification and interposition.

The election of 1800

Working closely with Aaron Burr of New York, Jefferson rallied his party, attacking the new taxes especially, and stood for the Presidency in 1800. Consistent with the traditions of the times, he did not formally campaign for the position. Prior to the passage of the 12th Amendment, a problem with the new union’s electoral system arose. He tied with Burr for first place in the Electoral College, leaving the House of Representatives (where the Federalists still had some power) to decide the election.

After lengthy debate within the Federalist-controlled House, Hamilton convinced his party that Jefferson would be a lesser political evil than Burr and that such scandal within the electoral process would undermine the still-young regime. The issue was resolved by the House, on 17 February 1801 after thirty-six ballots, when Jefferson was elected President and Burr Vice President. Burr’s refusal to remove himself from consideration created ill will with Jefferson, who dropped Burr from the ticket in 1804 after Burr killed Hamilton in a duel.

Presidency 1801–1809

Main article: Presidency of Thomas Jefferson

Administration and Cabinet

Jefferson Cabinet
President Thomas Jefferson 18011809
Vice President Aaron Burr 18011805
  George Clinton 18051809
Secretary of State James Madison 18011809
Secretary of Treasury Samuel Dexter 1801
  Albert Gallatin 18011809
Secretary of War Henry Dearborn 18011809
Attorney General Levi Lincoln, Sr. 18011804
  Robert Smith 1805
  John Breckinridge 18051806
  Caesar A. Rodney 18071809
Postmaster General Joseph Habersham 1801
  Gideon Granger 18011809
Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert 1801
  Robert Smith 18011809

Supreme Court appointments

Jefferson appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

States admitted to the Union

  • Ohio – March 1, 1803

Father of a university

After leaving the Presidency, Jefferson continued to be active in public affairs. He also became increasingly obsessed with founding a new institution of higher learning, specifically one free of church influences where students could specialize in many new areas not offered at other universities. A letter to Joseph Priestley, in January 1800, indicated that he had been planning the university for decades before its establishment.His dream was realized in 1819, with the founding of the University of Virginia. Upon its opening in 1825, it was then the first university to offer a full slate of elective courses to its students. One of the largest construction projects to that time in North America, it was notable for being centered about a library rather than a church. In fact, no campus chapel was included in his original plans. Until his death, he invited university students and faculty of the school to his home; Edgar Allan Poe was among them.

Jefferson is widely recognized for his architectural planning of the UVA campus, an innovative design that is a powerful representation of his aspirations for both state sponsored education and an agrarian democracy in the new Republic. His educational idea of creating specialized units of learning is physically expressed in the configuration of his campus plan, which he called the Academical Village. Individual academic units are expressed visually as distinct structures, called Pavilions, facing a grassy quadrangle, each housing classroom, faculty office, and residences. Each is visually equal in importance, and they are linked together with a series of open air arcades that are the front facades of student accommodations. Gardens and vegetable plots are placed behind, affirming the importance of the agrarian lifestyle.

His highly ordered site plan establishes an ensemble of buildings surrounding a central rectangular quadrangle, named the Lawn, which is lined on either side with the academic teaching units and their linking arcades. The quad is enclosed at one end with the library, the repository of knowledge, at the head of the table. The remaining side opposite the library remained open-ended for future growth. The lawn rises gradually as a series of stepped terraces, each a few feet higher than the last, rising up to the library set in the most prominent position at the top, while also suggesting that the Academical Village facilitates easier movement to the future.

Stylistically, Jefferson was a proponent of the Greek and Roman styles, which he believed to be most representative of American democracy by historical association. Each academic unit is designed with a two story temple front facing the quadrangle, while the library is modeled on the Roman Pantheon. The ensemble of buildings surrounding the quad is an unmistakable architectural statement of the importance of secular public education, while the exclusion of religious structures reinforces the principal of separation of church and state. The campus planning and architectural treatment remains today as a paradigm of the ordering of manmade structures to express intellectual ideas and aspirations. A survey of members of the American Institute of Architects identified Jefferson’s campus as the most significant work of architecture in America.

The university was designed as the capstone of the educational system of Virginia. In his vision, any citizen of the commonwealth could attend school with the sole criterion being ability.

Jefferson’s death

Jefferson died on the Fourth of July, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the same day as John Adams’ death. Although he was born into one of the wealthiest families in the United States, Thomas Jefferson was deep in debt when he died. His possessions were sold at auction. In 1831, Jefferson’s 552 acres (223 hectares) were sold for $7,000 to James T. Barclay. Thomas Jefferson is buried on his Monticello estate, in Charlottesville, Virginia. In his will, he left Monticello to the United States to be used as a school for orphans of navy officers. His epitaph, written by him with an insistence that only his words and “not a word more” be inscribed, reads:


Appearance and temperament

Jefferson was six feet,two-and-one-half inches (189 cm) in height, slender, erect and sinewy. He had angular features, a very ruddy complexion, strawberry blond hair and hazel-flecked, grey eyes. He was a poor public speaker who mumbled through his most important addresses. There was grace, nevertheless, in his manners; and his frank and earnest address, his quick sympathy (though he seemed cold to strangers), and his vivacious, desultory, informing talk gave him an engaging charm. He was a man of intense convictions and an emotional temperament. In later years, he was negligent in dress and loose in bearing.[citation needed]

“The Sage of Monticello” also cultivated an image that earned him the other nickname, “Man of the People”. He affected a popular air by greeting White House guests in homespun attire like a robe and slippers. Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison (Jefferson’s secretary of state), and Jefferson’s daughters relaxed White House protocol and turned formal state dinners into more casual and entertaining social events. [3] [4] Although a foremost defender of a free press, Jefferson at times sparred with partisan newspapers and appealed to the people. [5]

Jefferson’s writings were utilitarian and evidenced great intellect, and he had an affinity for languages. He learned Gaelic in order to translate Ossian, and sent to James Macpherson for the originals.

As President, he discontinued the practice of delivering the State of the Union Address in person, instead sending the address to Congress in writing (the practice was eventually revived by Woodrow Wilson); he gave only two public speeches during his Presidency. Jefferson had a lisp[citation needed] and preferred writing to public speaking partly because of this. He burned all of his letters between himself and his wife at her death, creating the portrait of a man who at times could be very private. Indeed, he preferred working in the privacy of his office than the public eye. [6]

Interests and activities

Jefferson was an accomplished architect who was extremely influential in bringing the Neo-Palladian style—popular among the Whig aristocracy of Britain—to the United States. The style was associated with Enlightenment ideas of republican civic virtue and political liberty. Jefferson designed his famous home, Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia; it included automatic doors, the first swivel chair, and other convenient devices invented by Jefferson. Nearby is the only university ever to have been founded by a U.S. president, the University of Virginia, of which the original curriculum and architecture Jefferson designed. Today, Monticello and the University of Virginia are together one of only four man-made World Heritage Sites in the United States of America. Jefferson also designed Poplar Forest, near Lynchburg, in Bedford County, Virginia, as a private retreat from a very public life. Jefferson is also credited with the architectural design of the Virginia State Capitol building, which was modeled after the Maison Carrée at Nîmes in southern France, an ancient Roman temple. Jefferson’s buildings helped initiate the ensuing American fashion for Federal style architecture.

Jefferson’s interests included archeology, a discipline then in its infancy. He has sometimes been called the “father of archeology” in recognition of his role in developing excavation techniques. When exploring an Indian burial mound on his Virginia estate in 1784, Jefferson avoided the common practice of simply digging downwards until something turned up. Instead, he cut a wedge out of the mound so that he could walk into it, look at the layers of occupation, and draw conclusions from them.

Thomas Jefferson enjoyed his fish pond at Monticello. It was around three feet (1 m) deep and mortar lined. He used the pond to keep fish that were recently caught as well as to keep eels fresh. This pond has been restored and can be seen from the west side of Monticello.

In 1780, he joined Benjamin Franklin’s American Philosophical Society. He served as president of the society from 1797 to 1815.

Jefferson was an avid wine lover and noted gourmet. During his years in France (1784–1789) he took extensive trips through French and other European wine regions and sent the best back home. He is noted for the bold pronouncement: “We could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” While there were extensive vineyards planted at Monticello, a significant portion were of the European wine grape Vitis vinifera and did not survive the many vine diseases native to the Americas.

In 1801, he published A Manual of Parliamentary Practice that is still in use. In 1812 Jefferson published a second edition.

After the British burned Washington, D.C. and the Library of Congress in August 1814, Jefferson offered his own collection to the nation. In January 1815, Congress accepted his offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6,487 books, and the foundation was laid for a great national library. Today, the Library of Congress’ website for federal legislative information is named THOMAS, in honor of Jefferson.[7]. His two volume 1764 edition of the Quran was used by Rep. Keith Ellison in 2007 for his swearing in to the U.S. House of representatives.[11]

Political philosophy

Jefferson was a leader in developing Republicanism in the United States. He insisted that the British aristocratic system was inherently corrupt and that Americans’ devotion to civic virtue required independence. In the 1790s he repeatedly warned that Hamilton and Adams were trying to impose a British-like monarchical system that threatened republicanism. He supported the War of 1812, hoping it would drive away the British military and ideological threat from Canada. Jefferson’s vision for American virtue was that of an agricultural nation of yeoman farmers minding their own affairs. It stood in contrast to the vision of Alexander Hamilton, who envisioned a nation of commerce and manufacturing, which Jefferson said offered too many temptations to corruption. Jefferson’s deep belief in the uniqueness and the potential of America made him the father of American exceptionalism. In particular, he was confident that an under-populated America could avoid what he considered the horrors of class-divided, industrialized Europe.

Jefferson’s republican political principles were heavily influenced by the Country party of 18th century British opposition writers. He was influenced by John Locke (particularly relating to the principle of inalienable rights.) Historians find few traces of any influence by his French contemporary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.[12]

His opposition to the Bank of the United States was fierce: “I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”[13] Nevertheless Madison and Congress, seeing the financial chaos caused by the lack of a national bank in the War of 1812, disregarded his advice and created the Second Bank of the United States in 1816.

Jefferson believed that each individual has “certain inalienable rights”. That is, these rights exist with or without government; man cannot create, take, or give them away. It is the right of “liberty” on which Jefferson is most notable for expounding. He defines it by saying “rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’, because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”[14] Hence, for Jefferson, though government cannot create a right to liberty, it can indeed violate it. And the limit of an individual’s rightful liberty is not what law says it is but is simply a matter of stopping short of prohibiting other individuals from having the same liberty. A proper government, for Jefferson, is one that not only prohibits individuals in society from infringing on the liberty of other individuals, but also restrains itself from diminishing individual liberty.

Jefferson’s commitment to equality was expressed in his successful efforts to abolish primogeniture in Virginia, the rule by which the first born son inherited all the land.[15]

Jefferson believed that individuals have an innate sense of morality that prescribes right from wrong when dealing with other individuals—that whether they choose to restrain themselves or not, they have an innate sense of the natural rights of others. He even believed that moral sense to be reliable enough that an anarchist society could function well, provided that it was reasonably small. On several occasions, he expressed admiration for tribal, communal way of living of Native Americans:[16] In fact, Jefferson is sometimes seen as a philosophical anarchist.[17]

He said in a letter to Colonel Carrington: “I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments.” However, Jefferson believed anarchism to be “inconsistent with any great degree of population.”[18] Hence, he did advocate government for the American expanse provided that it exists by “consent of the governed”.

In the Preamble to his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant , that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles & organising its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness. [19]

Jefferson’s dedication to “consent of the governed” was so thorough that he believed that individuals could not be morally bound by the actions of preceding generations. This included debts as well as law. He said that “no society can make a perpetual constitution or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation.” He even calculated what he believed to be the proper cycle of legal revolution: “Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it is to be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.” He arrived at nineteen years through calculations with expectancy of life tables, taking into account what he believed to be the age of “maturity”—when an individual is able to reason for himself.[20] He also advocated that the National Debt should be eliminated. He did not believe that living individuals had a moral obligation to repay the debts of previous generations. He said that repaying such debts was “a question of generosity and not of right”.[21]

Jefferson’s very strong defense of States’ Rights, especially in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, set the tone for hostility to expansion of federal powers. However, some of his foreign policies did in fact strengthen the government. Most important was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, when he used the implied powers to annex a huge foreign territory and all its French and Indian inhabitants. His enforcement of the Embargo Act, while it failed in terms of foreign policy, demonstrated that the federal government could intervene with great force at the local level in controlling trade that might lead to war.

View on the carrying of arms

Jefferson’s commitment to liberty extended to many areas of individual freedom. In his “Commonplace Book,” he copied a passage from Cesare Beccaria related to the issue of gun control. The quote reads, “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

View on corporations

Jefferson’s quote, “I hope we shall crush… in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country [8]” is often attributed to being a strong warning against corporations and their function in American government and society.

However the term “corporations” in this context is an anachronism and in the 18th century was commonly understood to mean the joint-stock company. See also Corporation (feudal Europe). For instance, in 18th century England, the joint-stock company was a distinct entity created by the King of England as Royal Charter trading companies. These entities were awarded legal monopoly in designated regions of the world. Examples include the British East India Company, which effectively had a monopoly on all trade in the East Indies. The Company eventually transformed from a commercial trading venture to one that virtually ruled India as it acquired auxiliary governmental and military functions, until its dissolution in 1858.

The de facto government created monopoly in which Jefferson referred, bears no great resemblance to the modern day public and/or private corporation and should not be taken out of its proper historical context. Rather, it should be placed into the context of Jefferson’s overall view that the British aristocratic system and its derivatives such as these government created monopolies, were inherently corrupt.[citation needed]

Views on the judiciary

Trained as a lawyer, Jefferson was a great writer but never a good speaker or advocate and never comfortable in court. He believed that judges should be technical specialists but should not set policy. He denounced the 1801 Supreme Court ruling in Marbury v. Madison as a violation of democracy, but he did not have enough support in Congress to propose a Constitutional amendment to overturn it. He continued to oppose the doctrine of judicial review:

To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem [good justice is broad jurisdiction], and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.[22] 

Views on political violence

Concerning the Shays Rebellion after he had heard of the bloodshed, Jefferson wrote to William Smith, John Adams’s son-in-law, “What signify a few lives lost in a generation or two? The tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” Several anti-government groups have pointed to these words of his to justify their movement. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was wearing a T-shirt when arrested bearing the words, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”[23]

Religious views

During the presidential campaign of 1800, the Federalists attacked Jefferson as an infidel, claiming that Jefferson’s intoxication with the religious and political extremism of the French Revolution disqualified him from public office. But Jefferson wrote at length on religion and many scholars agree with the claim that Jefferson was a deist, a common position held by intellectuals in the late 18th century. As Avery Cardinal Dulles, a leading Roman Catholic theologian reports, “In his college years at William and Mary [Jefferson] came to admire Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke as three great paragons of wisdom. Under the influence of several professors he converted to the deist philosophy.”[24] Dulles concludes:

In summary, then, Jefferson was a deist because he believed in one God, in divine providence, in the divine moral law, and in rewards and punishments after death; but did not believe in supernatural revelation. He was a Christian deist because he saw Christianity as the highest expression of natural religion and Jesus as an incomparably great moral teacher. He was not an orthodox Christian because he rejected, among other things, the doctrines that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God. Jefferson’s religion is fairly typical of the American form of deism in his day.

Biographer Merrill Peterson summarizes Jefferson’s theology:

First, that the Christianity of the churches was unreasonable, therefore unbelievable, but that stripped of priestly mystery, ritual, and dogma, reinterpreted in the light of historical evidence and human experience, and substituting the Newtonian cosmology for the discredited Biblical one, Christianity could be conformed to reason. Second, morality required no divine sanction or inspiration, no appeal beyond reason and nature, perhaps not even the hope of heaven or the fear of hell; and so the whole edifice of Christian revelation came tumbling to the ground.[25]

Jefferson used deist terminology in repeatedly stating his belief in a creator, and in the United States Declaration of Independence used the terms “Creator” and “Nature’s God”. Jefferson believed, furthermore, it was this Creator that endowed humanity with a number of inalienable rights, such as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. His experience in France just before the French Revolution made him deeply suspicious of Catholic priests and bishops as a force for reaction and ignorance. Similarly, his experience in America with inter-denominational intolerance served to reinforce this skeptical view of religion. In a letter to Willam Short, Jefferson wrote: “the serious enemies are the priests of the different religious sects, to whose spells on the human mind its improvement is ominous.”[26]

Jefferson was raised in the Church of England, at a time when it was the established church in Virginia and only denomination funded by Virginia tax money. Before the Revolution, Jefferson was a vestryman in his local church, a lay position that was part of political office at the time. He also had friends who were clergy, and he supported some churches financially. During his Presidency, Jefferson attended the weekly church services held in the House of Representatives. Jefferson later expressed general agreement with his friend Joseph Priestley’s Unitarianism, that is the rejection of the doctrine of Trinity. In a letter to a pioneer in Ohio he wrote, “I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its conscience to neither kings or priests, the genuine doctrine of only one God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.”[27]

Jefferson did not believe in the divinity of Jesus, but he had high esteem for Jesus’ moral teachings, which he viewed as the “principles of a pure deism, and juster notions of the attributes of God, to reform [prior Jewish] moral doctrines to the standard of reason, justice & philanthropy, and to inculcate the belief of a future state.”[28] Jefferson did not believe in miracles. He made his own condensed version of the Gospels, omitting Jesus’ virgin birth, miracles, divinity, and resurrection, primarily leaving only Jesus’ moral philosophy, of which he approved. This compilation was published after his death and became known as the Jefferson Bible.

[The Jefferson Bible] is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw.[29]

However, early in his administration he attended church services in the House of Representatives. He also permitted church services in executive branch buildings throughout his administration, believing that Christianity was a prop for republican government. [30]

Church and state

For Jefferson, separation of church and state was not an abstract right but a necessary reform of the religious “tyranny” of one Christian sect over many other Christians – and of the interference of the state in affairs of religion.

Following the Revolution, Jefferson played a leading role in the disestablishment of religion in Virginia. Previously the Anglican Church had tax support. As he wrote in his Notes on Virginia, a law was in effect in Virginia that “if a person brought up a Christian denies the being of a God, or the Trinity …he is punishable on the first offense by incapacity to hold any office …; on the second by a disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy …, and by three year’ imprisonment.” Prospective officer-holders were required to swear that they did not believe in the central Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

From 1784 to 1786, Jefferson and James Madison worked together to oppose Patrick Henry’s attempts to again assess taxes in Virginia to support churches. Instead, in 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed Jefferson’s Bill for Religious Freedom, which he had first submitted in 1779 and was one of only three accomplishments he put in his own epitaph. The law read:

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.[31]

One of Jefferson’s least well known writings is: “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make half the world fools and half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the world”- Thomas Jefferson, in his Notes on Virginia. [9]

Jefferson sought what he called a “wall of separation between Church and State”, which he believed was a principle expressed by the First Amendment. This phrase has been cited several times by the Supreme Court in its interpretation of the Establishment Clause.[32] In an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, he wrote:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.[33] 

Jefferson refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and thanksgiving during his Presidency, yet he did do so as Governor in Virginia. His private letters indicate he was skeptical of too much interference by clergy in matters of civil government. His letters contain the following observations: “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government”,[34] and, “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”[35] May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government”.[36] Yet, Jefferson advocated the influence of religion in abolishing the institution of slavery in America stating, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice can not sleep forever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! [37]

While the debate over Jefferson’s understanding over the separation of Church and state is far from being settled, as are his particular religious tenets, his dependence on divine Providence is not nearly as ambiguous. As he stated, in his second inaugural address:

I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with His providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power, and to whose goodness I ask you to join in supplications with me that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures that whatsoever they do shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations.[38]

Jefferson and slavery

Jefferson owned many slaves over his lifetime. Some find it baffling that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves yet was outspoken in saying that slavery was immoral and it should be abolished. Biographers point out that Jefferson was deep in debt and had encumbered his slaves by notes and mortgages; he could not free them until he finally was debt-free, which he never was.[39] Jefferson seems to have suffered pangs and trials of conscience as a result.[40]

During his long career in public office, Jefferson attempted numerous times to abolish or limit the advance of slavery. According to a biographer, Jefferson “believed that it was the responsibility of the state and society to free all slaves”.[41] In 1769, as a member of the House of Burgesses, Jefferson proposed for that body to emancipate slaves in Virginia, but he was unsuccessful.[42] In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence (1776), Jefferson condemned the British crown for sponsoring the importation of slavery to the colonies, charging that the crown “has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere.” However, this language was dropped from the Declaration at the request of delegates from South Carolina and Georgia.

In 1778, the legislature passed a bill he proposed to ban further importation of slaves into Virginia; although this did not bring complete emancipation, in his words, it “stopped the increase of the evil by importation, leaving to future efforts its final eradication”. In 1784, Jefferson’s draft of what became the Northwest Ordinance stipulated that “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude” in any of the new states admitted to the Union from the Northwest Territory.[43] In 1807, he signed a bill abolishing the slave trade. Jefferson attacked the institution of slavery in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1784):

There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.[44]

In this same work, Jefferson advanced his suspicion that blacks were inferior to whites “in the endowments both of body and mind”.[45] He also wrote, “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. [But] the two races…cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.” [10] According to historian Stephen Ambrose: “Jefferson, like all slaveholders and many other white members of American society, regarded Negroes as inferior, childlike, untrustworthy and, of course, as property. Jefferson, the genius of politics, could see no way for African-Americans to live in society as free people.”[46] His solution seems to have been for slaves to be freed then deported peacefully failing which the same result would be imposed by war and that, in Jefferson’s words, “human nature must shudder at the prospect held up [by war]. We should in vain look for an example in the Spanish deportation or deletion of the Moors. This precedent [the Spanish deportation or deletion] would fall far short of our case.[47]

On February 25, 1809, Jefferson repudiated his earlier view, writing:

Sir,–I have received the favor of your letter of August 17th, and with it the volume you were so kind to send me on the “Literature of Negroes”. Be assured that no person living wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a complete refutation of the doubts I have myself entertained and expressed on the grade of understanding allotted to them by nature, and to find that in this respect they are on a par with ourselves. My doubts were the result of personal observation on the limited sphere of my own State, where the opportunity for the development of their genius were not favorable and those of exercising it still less so. I expressed them therefore with great hesitation; but whatever be their degree of talent it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others. On this subject they are gaining daily in the opinions of nations, and hopeful advances are making toward their re-establishment on an equal footing with the other colors of the human family. I pray you therefore to accept my thanks for the many instances you have enabled me to observe of respectable intelligence in that race of men, which cannot fail to have effect in hastening the day of their relief; and to be assured of the sentiments of high and just esteem and consideration which I tender to yourself with all sincerity.[48] 

The downturn in land prices after 1819 pushed Jefferson further into debt. Jefferson finally emancipated his five most trusted slaves; the others were sold after his death to pay his debts.[49]

The Sally Hemings controversy

For more details on this topic, see Sally Hemings and Jefferson DNA Data.

Regarding marriage between blacks and whites, Jefferson wrote that “[t]he amalgamation of whites with blacks produces a degradation to which no lover of his country, no lover of excellence in the human character, can innocently consent.”[50] This is the subject of considerable controversy since Jefferson has been recognized as the father of at least some of the children of his slave Sally Hemings. In addition, Hemings was likely the half-sister of Jefferson’s deceased wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. The allegation that Jefferson fathered children with Hemings first gained widespread public attention in 1802, when journalist James T. Callender, wrote in a Richmond newspaper, “…[Jefferson] keeps and for many years has kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is Sally.” Jefferson never responded publicly about this issue but is said to have denied it in his private correspondence.[51]

A 1998 DNA study concluded that there was a DNA link between some of Hemings descendants and the Jefferson family, but did not conclusively prove that Jefferson himself was their ancestor. Three studies were released in the early 2000s, following the publication of the DNA evidence. In 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which runs Monticello, appointed a multi-disciplinary, 9-member in-house research committee of Ph.D.s and an M.D. to study the matter of the paternity of Hemings’s children. The committee concluded “it is very unlikely that any Jefferson other than Thomas Jefferson was the father of [Hemings’s six] children.”[52] In 2001, the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society[53] commissioned a study by an independent 13-member Scholars Commission. The commission concluded that the Jefferson paternity thesis was not persuasive. The National Genealogical Society Quarterly then published articles reviewing the evidence from a genealogical perspective and concluded that the link between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings was valid.[54]


  1. ^ April 29, 1962 dinner honoring 49 Nobel Laureates (Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations, 1988, from Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 347).
  2. ^ The Thomas Jefferson Papers Timeline: 1743 -1827. Library of Congress. Retrieved on 200704-21.
  3. ^ Merrill D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson: Writings, p. 1236
  4. ^
  5. ^ Bennett, William J. (2006). “The Greatest Revolution”, America: The Last Best Hope (Volume I): From the Age of Discovery to a World at War. Nelson Current, 99. ISBN 1-59555-055-0. 
  6. ^ Ferling, John Adams vs Jefferson 2004 p 26
  7. ^ Ferling p 59
  8. ^ “Foreign Affairs,” in Peterson, ed. Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Encyclopedia (1986) p 325
  9. ^ Schachner 1:495
  10. ^ Miller (1960), 143–4, 148–9.
  11. ^But It’s Thomas Jefferson’s Koran!“, The Washington Post, January 3, 2007, p. C03.  Retrieved on Jan. 3, 2007
  12. ^ J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (1975), 533; see also Richard K. Matthews, The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson, (1986), p. 17, 139n.16.
  13. ^ Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor May 28, 1816, in Appleby and Ball (1999) p 209); also Bergh, ed. Writings 15:23
  14. ^ Letter to Isaac H. Tiffany, April 4, 1819 in Appleby and Ball (1999) p 224.
  15. ^ Brown 1954 pp 51–2
  16. ^ Notes on Virginia
  17. ^ Adler, Mortimer Jerome. The Great Ideas. Open Court Publishing 2000. p. 378
  18. ^ Letter to James Madison, 30 Jan 1787
  19. ^ Professor Julian Boyd’s reconstruction of Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence
  20. ^ Letter to James Madison, 6 September 1789
  21. ^ Letter to James Madison, 6 Sep 1789; Daniel Scott Smith, “Population and Political Ethics: Thomas Jefferson’s Demography of Generations,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 56, No. 3 (Jul., 1999), pp. 591–612 in jstor
  22. ^ Letter to William C. Jarvis, 1820
  23. ^ Hitchens, Author of America: Thomas Jefferson, 2005, pp. 68
  24. ^ Avery Cardinal Dulles, “The Deist Minimum” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life Issue: 149. (Jan 2005) pp 25+
  25. ^ Peterson 1975 p 50–51
  26. ^ Letter to William Short, April 13, 1820
  27. ^ Letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse June 26, 1822
  28. ^ Letter to Joseph Priestley, April 9 1803, Thomas Jefferson. Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. x, p.374
  29. ^ Letter to Charles Thomson 9 January 1816
  30. ^
  31. ^ Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: Writings (1984), p. 347
  32. ^ Reynolds (98 U.S. at 164, 1879); Everson (330 U.S. at 59, 1947); McCollum (333 U.S. at 232, 1948)
  33. ^ Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT, January 1, 1802
  34. ^ Letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813
  35. ^ Letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814
  36. ^ Letter to Roger C. Weightman June 24, 1826
  37. ^ Notes on the State of Virginia, Q.XVIII, 1782.
  38. ^ Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address
  39. ^ Herbert E. Sloan, Principle and Interest: Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt (2001) pp. 14–26, 220–1.
  40. ^ Hitchens, Christopher, Author of America: Thomas Jefferson, Atlas Books/HarperCollinsPublishers (Eminent Lives series), 2005, pp. 48
  41. ^ Willard Sterne Randall, Thomas Jefferson: A Life. p 593.
  42. ^ The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes at the Library of Congress.
  43. ^ Ordinance of 1787 Lalor Cyclopædia of Political Science
  44. ^ Notes on the State of Virginia, Ch 18.
  45. ^ Notes on the State of Virginia Query 14
  46. ^ Flawed Founders by Stephen E. Ambrose.
  47. ^ Hitchens, Christopher, Author of America: Thomas Jefferson, 2005, pp. 34–35
  48. ^ Letter of February 25, 1809 from Thomas Jefferson to French author Monsieur Gregoire, from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (H. A. Worthington, ed.), Volume V, p. 429. Citation and quote from Morris Kominsky, The Hoaxers, pp. 110-111.
  49. ^ Peterson (1975) 991–92, 1007.
  50. ^ Quiz: Question 11 – Was Thomas Jefferson racist?“Jefferson’s Blood,” PBS – Frontline (1995–2006 wgbh educational foundation).
  51. ^ The Thomas Jefferson – Sally Hemings Myth and the Politicization of American History
  52. ^ Report of the Research Committee on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, Appendix J: The Possible Paternity of Other Jeffersons, A Summary of Research
  53. ^ The Scholars Commission on the Jefferson-Hemings Issue
  54. ^ Helen F. M. Leary, “Sally Hemings’s Children: A Genealogical Analysis of the Evidence,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 89, no. 3 (Sep. 2001), 165–207. [1]


Primary sources

Thomas Jefferson: Writings: Autobiography / Notes on the State of Virginia / Public and Private Papers / Addresses / Letters (1984, ISBN 978-0-94045016-5) Library of America edition; see discussion of sources at [11]. There are numerous one-volume collections; this is perhaps the best place to start.
Thomas Jefferson, Political Writings ed by Joyce Appleby and Terence Ball. Cambridge University Press. 1999 online
Lipscomb, Andrew A. and Albert Ellery Bergh, eds. The Writings Of Thomas Jefferson 19 vol. (1907) not as complete nor as accurate as Boyd edition, but covers TJ from birth to death. It is out of copyright, and so is online free.
Edwin Morris Betts (editor), Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, (Thomas Jefferson Memorial: December 1, 1953) ISBN 1-882886-10-0. Letters, notes, and drawings—a journal of plantation management recording his contributions to scientific agriculture, including an experimental farm implementing innovations such as horizontal plowing and crop-rotation, and Jefferson’s own moldboard plow. It is a window to slave life, with data on food rations, daily work tasks, and slaves’ clothing. The book portrays the industries pursued by enslaved and free workmen, including in the blacksmith’s shop and spinning and weaving house.
Boyd, Julian P. et al, eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. The definitive multivolume edition; available at major academic libraries. 31 volumes covers TJ to 1800, with 1801 due out in 2006. See description at [12]
The Jefferson Cyclopedia (1900) large collection of TJ quotations arranged by 9000 topics; searchable; copyright has expired and it is online free.
The Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606–1827, 27,000 original manuscript documents at the Library of Congress online collection
Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), London: Stockdale. This was Jefferson’s only book
Shuffleton, Frank, ed., (1998) Penguin Classics paperback: ISBN 0-14-043667-7
Waldstreicher, David, ed., (2002) Palgrave Macmillan hardcover: ISBN 0-312-29428-X
online edition
Cappon, Lester J., ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters (1959)
Howell, Wilbur Samuel, ed. Jefferson’s Parliamentary Writings (1988). Jefferson’s Manual of Parliamentary Practice, written when he was vice-President, with other relevant papers
Smith, James Morton, ed. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776–1826, 3 vols. (1995)


Appleby, Joyce. Thomas Jefferson (2003), short interpretive essay by leading scholar
Bernstein, R. B. Thomas Jefferson. (2003) Well regarded short biography
Burstein, Andrew. Jefferson’s Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello. (2005).
Cunningham, Noble E. In Pursuit of Reason (1988) well-reviewed short biography
Ellis, Joseph J. American Sphinx:The Character of Thomas Jefferson (1996). Prize winning essays; assumes prior reading of a biography
“American Sphinx: The Contradictions of Thomas Jefferson.” essay by leading scholar online at [13]
Malone, Dumas. Jefferson and His Time, 6 vols. (1948–82). Multi-volume biography of TJ by leading expert; A short version is online
Onuf, Peter “The Scholars’ Jefferson,” William and Mary Quarterly 3d Series, L:4 (October 1993), 671–699. Historiographical review or scholarship about TJ; online through JSTOR at most academic libraries.
Pasley, Jeffrey L. “Politics and the Misadventures of Thomas Jefferson’s Modern Reputation: a Review Essay.” Journal of Southern History 2006 72(4): 871–908. Issn: 0022-4642 Fulltext in Ebsco
Peterson; Merrill D. Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation (1975), a standard scholarly biography
Peterson, Merrill D. ed. Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography (1986), 24 essays by leading scholars on aspects of Jefferson’s career.
Schachner, Nathan. Thomas Jefferson: A Biography (1951) 2 vol.
Salgo, Sandor. Thomas Jefferson: Musician and Violinist (1997), a book detailing Thomas Jefferson’s love of music

Academic studies

Ackerman, Bruce. The Failure of the Founding Fathers: Jefferson, Marshall, and the Rise of Presidential Democracy. (2005)
Adams, Henry. History of the United States of America during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1889; Library of America edition 1986) famous 4-volume history
Wills, Garry, Henry Adams and the Making of America (2005), detailed analysis of Adams’ History
Banning, Lance. The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology (1978)
Brown; Stuart Gerry. The First Republicans: Political Philosophy and Public Policy in the Party of Jefferson and Madison 1954
Channing; Edward. The Jeffersonian System: 1801–1811 (1906), “American Nation” survey of political history
Dunn, Susan. Jefferson’s Second Revolution: The Election Crisis of 1800 and the Triumph of Republicanism (2004)
Elkins; Stanley and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism (1995) in-depth coverage of politics of 1790s
Fatovic, Clement. “Constitutionalism and Presidential Prerogative: Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian Perspectives.” : American Journal of Political Science, 2004 48(3): 429–444. Issn: 0092-5853 Fulltext: in Swetswise, Ingenta, Jstor, and Ebsco
Ferling, John. Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (2004)
Finkelman, Paul. Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (2001), esp ch 6–7
Hatzenbuehler, Ronald L. “I Tremble for My Country”: Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia Gentry, (University Press of Florida; 206 pages; 2007). Argues that the TJ’s critique of his fellow gentry in Virginia masked his own reluctance to change
Hitchens, Christopher, Author of America: Thomas Jefferson, HarperCollins (2005.)
Horn, James P. P. Jan Ellen Lewis, and Peter S. Onuf, eds. The Revolution of 1800: Democracy, Race, and the New Republic (2002) 17 essays by scholars
Jayne, Allen. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy and Theology (2000); traces TJ’s sources and emphasizes his incorporation of Deist theology into the Declaration.
Roger G. Kennedy. Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase (2003).
Knudson, Jerry W. Jefferson and the Press: Crucible of Liberty. (2006)
Lewis, Jan Ellen, and Onuf, Peter S., eds. Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, Civic Culture. (1999)
McDonald, Forrest. The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson (1987) intellectual history approach to Jefferson’s Presidency
Matthews, Richard K. “The Radical Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson: An Essay in Retrieval,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XXVIII (2004)
Mayer, David N. The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson (2000)
Onuf, Peter S. Jefferson’s Empire: The Languages of American Nationhood. (2000). Online review
Onuf, Peter S., ed. Jeffersonian Legacies. (1993)
Onuf, Peter. “Thomas Jefferson, Federalist” (1993) online journal essay
Perry, Barbara A. “Jefferson’s Legacy to the Supreme Court: Freedom of Religion.” Journal of Supreme Court History 2006 31(2): 181–198. Issn: 1059-4329 Fulltext in Swetswise, Ingenta and Ebsco
Peterson, Merrill D. The Jefferson Image in the American Mind (1960), how Americans interpreted and remembered Jefferson
Rahe, Paul A. “Thomas Jefferson’s Machiavellian Political Science”. Review of Politics 1995 57(3): 449–481. ISSN 0034–6705 Fulltext online at Jstor and Ebsco. Machiavelli’s the Discourses on Livy set the context for Jefferson’s republican views on limited government, the politics of distrust, populism, executive power, and a comprehensive legislative program for the state of Virginia. The Louisiana Purchase illustrated Jefferson’s adherence to the Machiavellian principle that even a republic requires a prince capable of meeting emergencies. Jefferson also echoed the Machiavellian dictate that corruption and lethargy pose a significant threat to popular liberty
Sears, Louis Martin. Jefferson and the Embargo (1927), state by state impact
Sloan, Herbert J. Principle and Interest: Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt (1995). Shows the burden of debt in Jefferson’s personal finances and political thought.
Smelser, Marshall. The Democratic Republic: 1801–1815 (1968). “New American Nation” survey of political and diplomatic history
Staloff, Darren. Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding. (2005)
Taylor, Jeff. Where Did the Party Go?: William Jennings Bryan, Hubert Humphrey, and the Jeffersonian Legacy (2006), on Jefferson’s role in Democratic history and ideology.
Tucker, Robert W. and David C. Hendrickson. Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson (1992), foreign policy
Urofsky, Melvin I. “Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall: What Kind of Constitution Shall We Have?” Journal of Supreme Court History 2006 31(2): 109–125. Issn: 1059-4329 Fulltext: in Swetswise, Ingenta and Ebsco
Valsania, Maurizio. “‘Our Original Barbarism’: Man Vs. Nature in Thomas Jefferson’s Moral Experience.” Journal of the History of Ideas 2004 65(4): 627–645. Issn: 0022-5037 Fulltext: in Project Muse and Swetswise
Wagoner, Jennings L., Jr. Jefferson and Education. (2004).
Wiltse, Charles Maurice. The Jeffersonian Tradition in American Democracy (1935), analysis of Jefferson’s political philosophy
PBS interviews with 24 historians

Jefferson and religion

Gaustad, Edwin S. Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson (2001) Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 0-8028-0156-0
Sanford, Charles B. The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson (1987) University of Virginia Press, ISBN 0-8139-1131-1
Sheridan, Eugene R. Jefferson and Religion, preface by Martin Marty, (2001) University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 1-882886-08-9

2 Responses to “Thomas Jefferson”

  1. 1 Michael Tim February 28, 2009 at 5:28 pm

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