About Thomas Jefferson
The third president of the United States, he is probably one of the most iconic of the founding fathers. A powerful thinker and writer, he was responsible for forming some of the most important ideas of the fledgling nation and many of which survive till today. Born in Virginia in 1743, he inherited his family’s prodigious estate at the young age of 21. Like his fellow compatriots, he studied law and thereafter began a career in politics.
Jefferson Enter Politics
In 1775, a great proponent of independence, he was elected to the Continental Congress where he drafted the Declaration of Independence. As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates he worked on revising the state’s laws and drafted The Statute for Religious Freedom. He is also credited with the phrase, “wall of separation between church and state,” in a letter he wrote. One can see a sympathy of that idea and the notion of religious freedom in his statute.
Jefferson’s Enduring Ideas
One of his enduring ideas was that if the American experiment of democracy and individual freedom were to succeed the citizens would have to be educated in history and basic civics. A staunch defender of state sovereignty and rights one of his greatest fears was the British successfully reconquering the United States. He saw them as the number one foreign policy concern of the US, which put him at odds with Hamilton, who saw France more in that role and was relatively open to England.
Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists
The seeds of the first two political parties in the US formed from these rivals. The Federalists, run by Hamilton, generally argued for more national government with strong fiscal controls. The Democrat-Republicans founded by Jefferson favored his ideals which stood in stark contrast.
Jefferson as a Politician
Under the first US administration of George Washington, he served as the first Secretary of State. At the end of Washington’s second term he reluctantly ran for President but lost by a few votes to Adams so became his Vice President. At the end of Adams’ first term, Jefferson successfully won the presidency, serving two terms. During his administration, among many noteworthy events, scandals, and upheavals, he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase and launched the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Married to Martha Wayles Skelton, his personal life was rather tragic as only two of his children with his beloved wife survived to adulthood. His wife also died young, leaving him destitute. There is also speculation and interesting evidence that he fathered children with one of his slaves.