Thomas Jefferson 0791076024, 9780791076026, 9781438103105

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Thomas Jefferson 
 0791076024, 9780791076026, 9781438103105

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ASSOCIATE EDITOR Kate Sullivan PRODUCTION EDITOR Megan Emery ASSISTANT PHOTO EDITOR Noelle Nardone SERIES DESIGNER Keith Trego COVER DESIGNER Keith Trego LAYOUT 21st Century Publishing and Communications, Inc. ©2004 by Chelsea House Publishers, a subsidiary of Haights Cross Communications. All rights reserved. Printed and bound in the United States of America. First Printing 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data applied for. ISBN 0-7910-7602-4


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candle can defy the darkness. It need not have the power of a great searchlight to be a welcome break from the gloom of night. So it goes in the assessment of leadership. He who lights the candle may not have the skill or imagination to turn the light that flickers for a moment into a perpetual glow, but history will assign credit to the degree it is due. Some of our great American presidents may have had a single moment that bridged the chasm between the ordinary and the exceptional. Others may have assured their lofty place in our history through the sum total of their accomplishments. When asked who were our greatest presidents, we cannot fail to open our list with the Founding Fathers who put together this



FOREWORD nation and nursed it through the difficult years of its infancy. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison took the high principles of the revolution against British tyranny and turned the concept of democracy into a nation that became the beacon of hope to oppressed peoples around the globe. Almost invariably we add to that list our wartime presidents—Abraham Lincoln, perhaps Woodrow Wilson, and certainly Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Nonetheless there is a thread of irony that runs through the inclusion of the names of those wartime presidents: In many aspects their leadership was enhanced by the fact that, without objection from the people, they assumed extraordinary powers to pursue victory over the nation’s enemies (or, in the case of Lincoln, the Southern states). The complexities of the democratic procedures by which the United States Constitution deliberately tried to withhold unchecked power from the presidency encumbered the presidents who needed their hands freed of the entangling bureaucracy that is the federal government. Much of our history is written far after the events themselves took place. History may be amended by a much later generation seeking a precedent to justify an action considered necessary at the latter time. The history, in a sense, becomes what later generations interpret it to be. President Jefferson in 1803 negotiated the purchase of vast lands in the south and west of North America from the French. The deal became knows as the Louisiana Purchase. A century and a half later, to justify seizing the nation’s


FOREWORD steel mills that were being shut down by a labor strike, President Truman cited the Louisiana Purchase as a case when the president in a major matter ignored Congress and acted almost solely on his own authority. The case went to the Supreme Court, which overturned Truman six to three. The chief justice, Fred Vinson, was one of the three justices who supported the president. Many historians, however, agreed with the court’s majority, pointing out that Jefferson scarcely acted alone: Members of Congress were in the forefront of the agitation to consummate the Louisiana Purchase and Congress voted to fund it. With more than two centuries of history and precedent now behind us, the Constitution is still found to be flexible when honest and sincere individuals support their own causes with quite different readings of it. These are the questions that end up for interpretation by the Supreme Court. As late as the early years of the twenty-first century, perhaps the most fateful decision any president ever can make—to commit the nation to war—was again debated and precedent ignored. The Constitution says that only the Congress has the authority to declare war. Yet the Congress, with the objection of few members, ignored this Constitutional provision and voted to give President George W. Bush the right to take the United States to war whenever and under whatever conditions he decided. Thus a president’s place in history may well be determined by how much power he seizes or is granted in


FOREWORD re-interpreting and circumventing the remarkable document that is the Constitution. Although the Founding Fathers thought they had spelled out the president’s authority in their clear division of powers between the branches of the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, their wisdom has been challenged frequently by ensuing generations. The need and the demand for change is dictated by the march of events, the vast alterations in society, the global condition beyond our influence, and the progress of technology far beyond the imaginations of any of the generations which preceded them. The extent to which the powers of the presidency will be enhanced and utilized by the chief executives to come in large degree will depend, as they have throughout our history, on the character of the presidents themselves. The limitations on those powers, in turn, will depend on the strength and will of those other two legs of the threelegged stool of American government — the legislative and the judiciary. And as long as this nation remains a democracy, the final say will rest with an educated electorate in perpetual exercise of its constitutional rights to free speech and a free and alert press.


1 A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE THE SECOND CONTINENTAL Congress opened on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia. Many of the greatest men in the American colonies had gathered to debate how they should deal with the increasingly harsh policies of their king. King George III of England, the ruler of the colonies, had passed unpopular taxes without the colonists’ approval, increased the British military presence in his colonies, and forced trade that was clearly unfair to the colonists dependent on England. Each colony had sent representatives to the Congress to help determine the best course of action. The names of those connected to the Congress—more than 50 men—would one day become



Thomas Jefferson was one of the lesser known delegates at the Second Continental Congress, held in Philadelphia in 1775. He was not yet recognized as a leader of the independence movement, as were men such as George Washington and John Adams, but his writing on the subject quickly earned him respect and admiration.

recognized as the leaders of the American Revolution: Patrick Henry, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and others. Most of these men had attended the First Continental Congress in the hope of forcing the king to correct the injustices his government had


THOMAS JEFFERSON committed. They wanted a fairer system—representation in the British Parliament in order to participate in the decisions that would govern life in the colonies. The king had been unresponsive, and by the time the Second Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia, the mood among its members was less forgiving. Many of them now felt that independence, rather than participation in the British government, was the only solution. There was talk of creating an army, appointing a commander in chief, setting up a separate system of currency, and printing what was called Continental money. The recent battles at Lexington and Concord had made it clear that a line had been crossed. Now troops were drilling in the streets of Philadelphia, and there was talk of war. The delegation from Virginia contained a new member, one who had not attended the First Congress. He had been selected to come to Philadelphia as a substitute for the respected leader Peyton Randolph, who had been forced to stay in Virginia. This substitute was Thomas Jefferson. The Congress had its opening session on May 10, 1775, but Jefferson did not arrive until June 21, riding into Philadelphia in a fancy coach pulled by two horses. The journey had taken him 10 days; he had become lost twice during the trip. Although Jefferson was new to the Congress, he was not unknown to its members. The 32-year-old Virginian had already earned a reputation as a writer — he had drafted a paper outlining the relationship that he thought should exist between the colony of Virginia and


A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE England; the paper was designed to serve as instructions to the men who had represented Virginia at the First Continental Congress. The paper, published with the title A Summary View of the Rights of British America, had received much attention both in the colonies and in England. It charged King George III with “abuse of power” for his policies of taxation without representation and of banning American goods and preventing free trade. Perhaps even more noteworthy for a slave-owner, Jefferson had included in A Summary View a proposal to bring an end to slavery. Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, Jefferson was quickly nominated to serve on a committee that had been set up to outline the reasons why the colonies felt justified in arming themselves against England. Jefferson was well suited to the task. He held strong views but preferred to express them on paper rather than saying them out loud. The Continental Congress consisted of many of the greatest speakers of that time. Jefferson’s skills were different. He tended to operate quietly on the sidelines, and although at six feet two inches he towered above many of his fellow congressmen, few remembered him as impressive a figure as his fellow Virginian George Washington, who was selected commander in chief of the new Continental Army shortly after Jefferson’s arrival. Jefferson was thin and a bit gangly and not as social as some of the more outgoing members of the Congress. Fellow congressman John Adams offered his thoughts on Thomas Jefferson after working with him


THOMAS JEFFERSON for about a year: “During the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three Sentences together.” Jefferson’s written words more than made up for his silence during debates, and he helped draft A Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms, the bold document that Congress sent to England in 1775 to make it clear that the colonies would not passively accept England’s policies. Jefferson left Philadelphia in late July 1775 and returned to Virginia to spend time with his wife and family. He was soon reelected to the Congress and forced to return to Philadelphia. It was a time of fast-moving events in the colonies. The Continental forces suffered a humiliating defeat near Quebec, Canada, but another branch of the army successfully forced the British army from Boston, which they had been occupying. British forces were soon joined by Native Americans, who fought fiercely against the colonists. Spies were thought to be everywhere, and neighbors who had once socialized together found themselves on opposite sides, some proudly calling themselves “Loyalists,” because they were loyal to England and King George III, while others called themselves “Patriots,” because they rallied around the cause of greater freedom for the colonies. When the members of the Second Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia in the spring of 1776, the mood was much more somber. Despite the dramatic events in Boston and Canada, there had not


A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE yet been a public call for independence. Members of the Congress might speak of it in private or hint about it in their letters, but the bold step of publicly declaring that the colonies wished to be independent had not yet been taken. The Congress itself was still divided on this point. Some believed that freedom could only be achieved by a complete break with England, but others felt that the goal should be greater representation in the British Parliament and fairer policies from the king. In fact, six of the colonies — Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and South Carolina — had given clear instructions to their delegates not to vote for any independence movement. Thomas Jefferson, the junior delegate from Virginia, arrived at the Congress on May 14, 1776, already looking forward to the day when he could leave Philadelphia. The city was noisy, and smallpox was spreading. The British Parliament had made it clear only a few months earlier that any Americans who did not immediately declare their loyalty to the king would be considered traitors and face death by hanging. All trade with the American colonies was outlawed. It was a desperate time. Almost immediately after Jefferson’s arrival in Philadelphia, Congress issued a statement calling on each colony to set up its own individual system of government and to write its own constitution. Jefferson felt torn, knowing that he needed to remain in Philadelphia but feeling desperate to be back in Williamsburg to help write


THOMAS JEFFERSON the constitution for what he then considered to be his “new country”—Virginia. Although Jefferson could not return to Virginia, he did contribute to the colony’s new constitution. He wrote three different drafts of the proposed document, and many of his words made it into the final version of the document, including the 20 “crimes” with which Jefferson charged Britain. Writing this document helped to shape Jefferson’s views of government, many of which would appear in a document that he would draft for the Continental Congress a few weeks later. Another Virginia delegate, Richard Henry Lee, took the first bold step for independence. On June 7, Lee stood up and began to utter historic words: These United Colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. Debates quickly followed. Many delegates could not vote for independence until they received approval from their individual colonies. Some argued that George Washington’s military campaign seemed doomed to failure and others that no formal written declaration of independence should be made public until it was clear that the people unanimously supported it.


A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE Finally, after days of intense argument, it was agreed that a final vote for or against independence would be taken in 20 days, giving all of the delegations time to send to their individual colonies for instructions on how to vote. During the delay, it was agreed that a written document — a declaration of independence — would be prepared to illustrate the arguments for the Congress’ actions. Five men were selected to create this important document: John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert Livingston of New York, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Jefferson’s presence on the committee was, in part, a result of politics. The more senior Virginia delegate, Richard Henry Lee, would probably have represented Virginia on the committee, but he wanted to return to Williamsburg to help draft the Virginia constitution — the document that was thought to be much more critical at the time. Jefferson had also hoped to go back to Williamsburg to contribute to the constitution, but because he was junior to Lee, he was forced to remain in Philadelphia. A MIGHTY PEN Jefferson was ultimately chosen as chairperson of the committee. The committee’s meetings were held in secret, and no notes of their discussions were kept. As a result, it is not clear when or how Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft of the document that



Five men were selected to draft the Declaration of Independence (clockwise from left): Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Jefferson was the chairman of the committee and borrowed from many sources when he actually wrote the document, which underwent many revisions. The declaration ultimately excluded some of the points that Jefferson considered most important.


A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE would become the Declaration of Independence. It is likely that because he was the chairperson of the committee and because he was known to be a talented writer, he was the logical choice. The goals of the document were clear. It was not intended to serve as a showcase for new ideas or new arguments. Instead, it was designed to put down on paper, in plain and simple terms, an explanation for why the colonies had decided to fight for independence. Thomas Jefferson set to work alone in his spacious apartment, seated at a revolving chair and holding a small folding desk that served as a portable writing tray on his lap. Jefferson himself had designed both the chair and folding desk and then hired a Philadelphia cabinetmaker to make them. Jefferson wrote steadily and quickly, working day and night. He would later claim that he had not consulted any books or documents but had simply sat down and put on paper the thoughts that seemed to best express the call for independence. It may be true that he did not study other texts, but it is clear that he did borrow from those with which he was familiar, including his own writing (for example, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, his draft of A Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms, and his drafts for the Virginia constitution) and the declaration of rights for Virginia written by George Mason. Mason’s writing contained the phrase “all men are born equally free and independent, and have


THOMAS JEFFERSON certain inherent natural rights. . . . among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty.” Jefferson’s initial goal was to make it clear that King George III had treated his American subjects unfairly and so was no longer fit to rule over them. Jefferson listed all of the ways in which the king had violated the rights of the colonists and then continued by saying that if it was justified for people to respond to a tyrant with revolution, these people also had the right to set up a new system of government. Jefferson’s argument stressed that the Continental Congress was a body of “We hold these truths to be self-evident: representatives of the that all men are created equal; that people. In this role, it they are endowed by their creator with had a duty to break ties inalienable rights; that among these are with the British king in life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness: that to secure these rights, governments order to guarantee that are instituted among men, deriving the American people could their just power from the consent of the continue to hold on to their governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of most basic rights — the these ends, it is the right of the people rights of life, liberty, and to alter or abolish it, & to institute new the pursuit of happiness. government, laying its foundation on Jefferson wrote and such principles, & organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem edited his work and most likely to effect their safety showed it to John Adams & happiness.” and Benjamin Franklin. — The Declaration of Independence They made suggestions and then the document was shown to the remaining committee members, who also made their own changes.


A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE At least 47 changes were made from the time Jefferson wrote the first version to the time the document was finally submitted to Congress. Exactly who made each of these changes is not clear. Some of the phrases we most identify with the Declaration of Independence were added during the editing process, phrases like “separate and equal” (changed from “equal and independent”) and “they are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights” (from the original “from that equal creation they derive rights”). The document was presented to the Congress on June 28, when it was finally considered ready. On July 2, the Congress voted to declare independence and then began editing the declaration, making another 80 changes. It must have been difficult for Jefferson to listen and take notes on the discussion, as one after another of his phrases was cut or changed or as new words were added. About one-fourth of what he had originally written would be completely taken out of the final document, but he sat silently, the records showing that he did not debate or argue with anyone who suggested a change. When the final version was agreed on, two of Jefferson’s most passionate arguments had been removed. One was a paragraph that criticized the English people for supporting the king when he sent soldiers to “invade and destroy us.” The other was a paragraph holding the king responsible for supporting the slavery of Africans.



Discussion and debate over the Declaration of Independence finally ended with a vote on the morning of July 4, 1776. New York abstained from voting, but the other 12 colonies approved the document. George Washington, pictured standing here, was one of its prominent supporters.

On the morning of July 4, 1776, the debate over the document was finally closed and a vote was taken. Twelve colonies voted in agreement with the declaration; only one — New York — abstained. It would be several days before the document was read out loud to cheering crowds and another month before all the delegates signed the final copy. Although the words were stirring and the arguments for independence were firm, it would be many years before the significance of that document would be fully appreciated.


A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE The American Revolution — and the country that would be created at its end — would be marked by these words: 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 the pursuit of Happiness. The cheering crowds made little impression on the declaration’s author. The endless debates over his words and the massive changes to each sentence had left Thomas Jefferson exhausted. He was not focused on where the declaration would lead the colonies. He simply wanted to go home.


2 YOUNG JEFFERSON THOMAS JEFFERSON WAS born on April 13, 1743, in a simple farmhouse on the edge of the Virginia wilderness to Peter and Jane Jefferson. Their home, one of only three or four farms in the county, was known as Shadwell. Occupying only about 1,000 acres, it was a small farm compared to the vast estates owned by some of his neighbors. The Jeffersons—Thomas, his parents, and his two older sisters—lived in a modest one-and-a-half story home overlooking the sparkling Rivanna River. Thomas Jefferson’s earliest memory would be of a journey made when he was two years old—a 50-mile ride over rutted roads from his family’s home at Shadwell to a larger plantation in



Thomas Jefferson was born and lived most of his life in Virginia. His father, Peter, named on this map, worked as a surveyor for a time. He taught Thomas some surveying skills, which Thomas would later use when deciding where to build his estate, Monticello, and how to landscape his property.

the east, near Richmond. His father’s best friend had died and in his will had named Peter as executor of his estate and guardian of his two children. The Jeffersons spent the next seven years at the estate known as Tuckahoe. Peter spent much of that time working as a surveyor. He was well paid for his dangerous journeys into the wilderness, and he taught Thomas some of his surveying skills, as well as taking him hiking, swimming, horseback riding,


THOMAS JEFFERSON fishing, and hunting. By the time he was five years old, Thomas was already able to read and was studying writing and arithmetic from the tutor at Tuckahoe. When Thomas was nine years old, the family returned to their home, where Peter expanded the farmhouse — the family had grown to six children, and twins were born a few years later. Peter spent more than half of each week away from home, staking out claims in Virginia’s southwestern wilderness. He decided that his son would have the one thing he had never had: a proper education. He sent nine-year-old Thomas away to study and live with a tutor, as many young men of his class did. There, Thomas learned French, Latin, and Greek, as well as dancing and music. He also became a skilled violin player. Peter Jefferson died unexpectedly at the age of 49. Thomas was only 14 years old when he inherited half of his father’s land, his choice of his father’s two plantations, and his father’s favorite servant. When he turned 21, he would inherit the remainder of his father’s estate. Peter also left Thomas his library of books, his cherry-wood writing desk, and his surveying tools. One of Peter’s final wishes was that Thomas would continue his education. A CLASSICAL EDUCATION Thomas Jefferson spent two years studying and living with another tutor. When he reached age 16, he took the next step that young, upper-class Virginia gentlemen


YOUNG JEFFERSON were expected to take: He enrolled in the College of William and Mary. A university education was designed to prepare these young men (women did not attended college) to manage their own estates. They were to become familiar with Latin, to be able to speak and write well, to gain enough knowledge of math to be able to do some basic surveying and manage the finances of their estates, and to be familiar with the laws of “In the first place as long as I stay at Virginia. Men of Jefferthe Mountains the Loss of one fourth of my Time is inevitable, by Company’s son’s class were expected coming here & detaining me from to eventually serve as school. And likewise my Absence will in magistrates or elected a great Measure put a Stop to so much Company, & by that Means lessen the officials. At William and Expences of the Estate in HousekeepMary, in the colony’s ing. And on the other Hand by going to capital, Williamsburg, the College I shall get a more universal they would be trained Acquaintance, which may hereafter be serviceable to me; & I suppose I can to become the colony’s pursue my Studies in the Greek & Latin future leaders. as well there as here, & likewise learn Jefferson arrived in something of the Mathematics.” — Jefferson, in a letter dated Williamsburg in March January 14, 1760 to a friend, 1760. It was his first trip explaining why felt he would benefit from a college education to this part of the colony, and he was impressed by the white townhouses lining Duke of Gloucester Street, the coaches pulled by six horses, and the elegant brick capitol building. He was quickly caught up in the excitement of the city, enjoying the theater, horse races, and dances at the Raleigh Tavern.


THOMAS JEFFERSON He began his studies on March 25, 1760, and spent slightly more than two years at the college, living on campus. When Jefferson arrived, William and Mary was more than 60 years old and was organized into a prep school or grammar school, an Indian school attended by a few Native Americans, a divinity school for training future clergymen, and a philosophy school (in which Jefferson was enrolled). There were only two professors assigned to the philosophy school — in fact, there were only seven faculty members in total and no more than 100 students. The professor who would most influence Jefferson was Dr. William Small, who had been brought from Scotland to teach physics, metaphysics, and mathematics but soon ended up teaching nearly every class. He taught Jefferson ethics and rhetoric (the study of effectively using language) and clearly influenced much of Jefferson’s thinking. Small also introduced Jefferson to a man who would become another mentor: the prominent Williamsburg attorney George Wythe. By early 1761, Jefferson had decided to study law. At the time, there were no formal law schools for aspiring attorneys. Instead, a young man would become a kind of apprentice to a practicing lawyer, paying a fee to study law with him and assisting him with his business. George Wythe was considered the best legal mind in Virginia. He practiced before the Virginia General Court — the highest court in the colony. Jefferson


YOUNG JEFFERSON wanted to study with the best and to then join the legal elite. LEARNING THE LAW In April 1762, Thomas Jefferson began studying law with George Wythe. Wythe lived in an impressive home near the Governor’s Palace. He charged Jefferson and his other legal assistants no fee but expected them to work hard. Every morning, Jefferson walked from his rented rooms to Wythe’s home, where he spent several hours immersed in assigned reading from Wythe’s huge library. In Wythe’s office, Jefferson followed the details of the various cases as Wythe carefully explained what he was doing and why. As Jefferson learned more, he was allowed to do more, first handling legal research and then helping with preparation and eventually helping handle cases. Jefferson accompanied Wythe to court in Williamsburg and to the country courts. It was through Wythe that Jefferson was introduced to the royal governor of Virginia, Francis Fauquier. Jefferson would later described Fauquier as “the ablest man who ever filled that office.” Fauquier focused on maintaining good relations between the colonists and the king, and he was tremendously popular. He was fond of music and science and invited Jefferson to dinner at his elegant mansion and later to participate as an amateur musician in concerts given at the palace. Jefferson did have one serious romance while in Williamsburg. When he was 20, he met 16-year-old



Thomas Jefferson learned about the law from George Wythe, who lived in this house near the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia. Wythe was considered one of Virginia’s best legal minds, and he required hard work and diligence from those he taught.

Rebecca Burwell, a beautiful young girl whose family was deeply involved in the governing of the colony. Jefferson considered asking her to marry him and finally decided to speak to her one night while dancing in the Apollo Room of the Raleigh Tavern. Jefferson


YOUNG JEFFERSON had prepared and rehearsed a wonderful, romantic speech, but when the time came to speak, he choked and stammered out a few confusing words in between long, awkward pauses. Finally, he hinted to Rebecca that he had an important question to ask her that he would ask at another time. He waited too long. Another man proposed to Rebecca, and she accepted. Jefferson decided to put aside all thoughts of love — at least for a while — and focus on the law. In 1767, 24-year-old Jefferson was admitted to the bar of the General Court of the colony of Virginia. It was the highest court in the colony, with authority over civil and criminal cases. At least half of the new lawyer’s business would be in the distant county courts, providing legal counsel over generally small matters, usually involving disputes over land or estates. He spent a great deal of time during the seven years he served as a lawyer traveling from one county to another. His law practice was a successful one, but it did not bring him fame or a great fortune. Instead, it helped him build a network of contacts and friendships. While his practice was growing, however, he also had responsibilities as a landowner. At the age of 21, he had inherited an additional portion of his father’s estate. He was now considered the head of the household at Shadwell (where his mother lived) and was responsible for overseeing the business of the plantation there. He also decided to build his own home on a hilltop about


THOMAS JEFFERSON two miles from Shadwell. He called the place Monticello (meaning “little mountain” in Italian), and he drew up the plans for a house placed on a spot he had loved ever since he was a boy. The spot on which he had chosen to build was unusual for colonial America. It was a heavily wooded area at the very top of the hill. Jefferson loved the view, and the combination of an elegant home set in the midst of wild, natural beauty appealed to him. He decided to design his home himself and began sawing lumber and planting fruit trees in 1767. In October of 1768, Jefferson decided to run for a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses. He was only 25 years old, but he already had many important friends in the capital and he had taken on an important project in the region: opening up the Rivanna River to navigation. Tobacco from farms on the Rivanna, including Shadwell, had to be transported by land to the point where the Rivanna met the James River. Jefferson believed that it might be possible to transport crops by water — a solution that would save time and expense — if the river could be cleared of rocks. He took a canoe and traveled along the river, surveying to find the spots where rocks might prevent boats from moving. He approached the local legislature, received authorization to attempt a project to remove the rocks, and then approached his neighbors for financial support for the project. Jefferson succeeded in getting the Rivanna cleared, and soon most of the county’s tobacco


YOUNG JEFFERSON and produce was transported along that river. Jefferson would look upon the Rivanna River project as one of his most significant accomplishments. In 1769, Jefferson took his place as Albemarle County’s representative in the House of Burgesses. The relationship between England and its colonies was changing dramatically. Jefferson wanted to be involved in whatever the change might bring.


3 VIRGINIA UNITES WHEN THOMAS JEFFERSON took his seat in the House of Burgesses, the colony of Virginia and all of the American colonies were experiencing a gradual change in the tone of their relationship with England. In 1763, the seven-year-long conflict known in America as the French and Indian War had finally ended. The conflict had been fought between English and French forces over the rights to territory in America, and the fighting had spread to Europe, where it was called the Seven Years’ War. When the conflict ended, Britain was faced with crushing debt, the cost of fighting on so many fronts for so many years.



This drawing celebrates the repeal of the Stamp Act, an issue that Jefferson encountered during his time in Virginia’s House of Burgesses. The 1765 passage of the Stamp Act, which taxed most items made of paper by requiring them to have an official stamp, caused much debate and fueled the colonies’ desire for independence. The Stamp Act was repealed in 1769.

Because the conflict had “officially” begun in America, many in Britain believed that the colonists should have the responsibility of paying some of the war debt. The British Parliament agreed and passed a law in 1765 instituting a new tax called the Stamp Act.


THOMAS JEFFERSON The tax affected nearly every colonist. Almost every official document and piece of business printed on paper — newspapers, advertisements, bills, legal documents, deeds, diplomas, and even playing cards—had to carry an official stamp. The stamp was expensive and increased the cost of printing and distributing any item carrying it. Jefferson was at the Virginia capital on May 30, 1765, when a young lawyer named Patrick Henry spoke out against the Stamp Act. Henry argued that the power to tax citizens did not belong to England but instead to the General Assembly of Virginia. He spoke of “American freedom,” a radical term to an audience that thought of itself first as English and then as Virginian. Up to that time there had been no sense of the colonies as anything other than separate British settlements, but with his speech Henry suggested that the colonies might have unified ideals and interests — ideals and interests that were separate from those of England. The speech horrified many of the other delegates, who began calling out “Treason! Treason!” Henry responded, “If this be treason, make the most of it!” Parliament was ultimately forced to repeal the Stamp Act, but in 1769, when Jefferson took his seat in the House of Burgesses, the issue of taxes was once more sparking protest in the colonies. New taxes known as the Townshend Acts had been passed by Parliament to tax any goods the colonies imported — things like paper, paint, glass, and tea. Violent protests


VIRGINIA UNITES broke out in the colony of Massachusetts, and the House of Representatives of that colony sent a letter to the legislative bodies of all of the other colonies asking them to stand united against the Townshend Acts. The British authorities responded by ordering the royal governors of each colony to dissolve any legislature that approved the Massachusetts request and to send any colonial “traitors” to London for trial. Jefferson and the other members of the House of Burgesses had met for only nine days when the challenge became clear — support the protestors in Massachusetts or stand with the king. The House issued a declaration that confirmed its loyalty to the king but stated that the power to tax the colonists lay with the House, not with the British Parliament. By that time there was a new royal governor in the colony of Virginia, the Baron de Botetourt. He had some sympathy for the colonists he governed, but he had been given clear instructions from England. He summoned the burgesses and informed them that because of their actions, the House of Burgesses was now dissolved. Jefferson and the others then walked over to the Raleigh Tavern and resumed their meeting. The colony of Virginia would play a historic role in the revolution to come, and much of what transpired had its beginnings in the group gathered at the Raleigh Tavern over the course of the next few days. The day after the House of Burgesses was formally dissolved, Thomas Jefferson signed his first significant public


THOMAS JEFFERSON document — a document that had been drafted by George Mason and brought to the meeting by George Washington, the representative from Fairfax County. The document was an agreement stating that the signers would buy none of the taxed British goods until the Townshend Acts were lifted. All 89 members of the House of Burgesses signed the document and then drank toasts to the king and Governor Botetourt. They still considered themselves British subjects, but for Jefferson and the others an important step had been taken: They were beginning to recognize that the colonists had certain rights — rights that might conflict with the interests of Britain. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENTS Governor Botetourt called for new elections in September, and all members of the House of Burgesses who had supported the boycott on British goods were reelected. In fact, the only ones who were not reelected were those who had not supported the boycott. At the House’s opening session, Governor Botetourt announced that Britain did not wish to heavily tax its American subjects and that Parliament would soon be lifting the taxes on paper, paint, and glass. One important item was omitted from the list: tea. Jefferson felt that the tax on tea was every bit as unjust as the Townshend Acts had been. In June 1770, he signed another document with other Virginia burgesses and merchants promising to continue his boycott of


VIRGINIA UNITES British goods until all of the taxes, including the one on tea, had been repealed. Jefferson’s duties expanded when, at the age of 27, he became the chief commander of the Virginia militia in Albemarle County. As Jefferson was assuming this new responsibility, he learned that Governor Botetourt had died. His death affected the course of events in Virginia: Botetourt had attempted to negotiate with the colonists, but his replacement would not be quite so willing to compromise. In the fall of 1770, Jefferson met an attractive young widow named Martha Skelton. She was five-and-a-half years younger than he and cheerful, friendly, and outgoing. She was also a talented musician and singer. Jefferson married Martha on January 1, 1772. It was the beginning of a happy time for him, and the marriage gave a new urgency to his plans for Monticello. The family home at Shadwell had burned to the ground in 1770, so now Jefferson focused on creating an impressive home on the top of the mountain. The construction was difficult, particularly at the earliest stages. The woods were thick, and both water and building materials had to be transported to the top of the mountain. Jefferson pored over architectural books, determined to create something quite different from the homes he saw in Williamsburg. He loved the ancient, classical style and wanted something similar for Monticello— something serene and dignified. He focused not only on the structure of the building, but


THOMAS JEFFERSON on the grounds as well. Jefferson studied and experimented with different plants and different types of fruit trees, designing a blend of landscaped grounds existing in the midst of wilderness. He made detailed notes in something he called his Garden Book, in which he recorded the successes and failures of different plantings, as well as the weather at Monticello. Jefferson wanted to create a new design for his home, something that borrowed from the best of ancient traditions but was unique. His thoughts about his home were in many ways similar to the thoughts he would later develop about America. Both the shaping of his home and the shaping of his country would become tasks that would occupy him for the rest of his life. SPARKS OF PROTEST Jefferson’s first daughter was born in late September of 1772. She was named Martha, but the family called her Patsy. Less than two years after Patsy’s birth, in April of 1774, another daughter, named Jane Randolph, was born. It was a happy time for Jefferson. The plans for Monticello were becoming reality, and his family was growing. The happy times would not last. Jane Randolph would die after living only 18 months. Things in the colonies were becoming difficult as well: British authorities announced a new law closing the port of Boston on June 1, 1774, as punishment for the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s continuous acts of rebellion, including dumping



The Boston Tea Party was an act of rebellion against the Townshend Acts, which taxed paper, paint, glass, and tea. Colonists dressed as Indians boarded British ships and dumped the cargo, 50 tons of tea, into Boston Harbor. The British government responded by closing the harbor. Colonial leaders, including Thomas Jefferson, were angered by the British actions. This incident also fueled the desire for independence.

tea into Boston Harbor in protest of the hated tax, an incident known as the Boston Tea Party. Jefferson had been busy with personal matters and had


THOMAS JEFFERSON not been deeply involved with the House of Burgesses when the new royal governor — John Murray, Earl of Dunmore — had arrived in Williamsburg. Governor Dunmore was markedly different from Governor Botetourt. He held several titles and had previously served as the royal governor of New York, but his arrogance won him few friends among the colonists. Jefferson was outraged at the closing of Boston’s port and equally concerned that many in Virginia failed to understand that this was not merely a matter that affected Massachusetts but an act of tyranny that affected them all. He proposed a general day of fasting and prayer to demonstrate union with the people of Massachusetts and then was able to persuade another of the burgesses who was noted for being very religious — a representative named Robert Carter Nicholas — to introduce the idea in the House, where it was passed unanimously. Governor Dunmore did not take long to respond. He announced that the House was dissolved, and once more the representatives solemnly moved to the Raleigh Tavern. There, the representatives agreed that the time had come to call for a meeting of representatives from each colony to discuss their mutual concerns and made the important decision that “an attack on any one colony should be considered as an attack on the whole.” They called for an election of representatives from each of Virginia’s counties to select the men who would represent Virginia at this meeting and they


VIRGINIA UNITES decided that the meeting would begin on September 5th in Philadelphia. With these decisions, the group of Virginia legislators began the process that would bring the colonies together. What some in England viewed as a Boston rebellion would soon clearly be something else: a revolution. Jefferson was elected to represent Albemarle County at the meeting in Williamsburg, the meeting that would select Virginia’s representatives to the gathering of the colonies in Philadelphia. He had been deeply involved in the protest movement and had placed on paper his thoughts about what Virginia’s position should be. As Jefferson traveled to Williamsburg, he became sick with dysentery and was forced to return home. It was very bad timing for a man who clearly hoped to shape Virginia’s political future. Seven other men were chosen to serve as Virginia’s representatives to the congress of colonies; it was an impressive group that included George Washington and Patrick Henry. Because Jefferson could not be at the meeting in person, he decided to present his ideas on paper. He sent copies of his ideas to delegates Peyton Randolph and Patrick Henry. Jefferson would later write: “Whether Mr. Henry disapproved the ground taken, or was too lazy to read it (for he was the laziest man in reading I ever knew) I never learned: but he communicated it to nobody.” Randolph, however, did share his copy with his fellow delegates, many of whom approved it. It was thought a bit too bold to become



Patrick Henry is depicted here uttering his famous phrase, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Henry, another delegate from Virginia at the Continental Conventions, was one of the most radical and most vocal leaders of the independence movement. Thomas Jefferson first became involved in the movement after hearing Henry speak, and Jefferson sent his ideas about the colonies to Virginia delegates Henry and Peyton Randolph, who communicated Jefferson’s thoughts to the convention.

Virginia’s official position, but Jefferson’s thoughts became public. Without Jefferson’s knowledge, someone had his


VIRGINIA UNITES ideas printed in a 23-page pamphlet. His name did not appear on the original, which was given the title “They know, and will therefore say, that kings are the servants, not the proprietors A Summary View of the of the people. Open your breast, sire, to Rights of British America. liberal and expanded thought. Let not It was distributed in the name of George the third be a blot in the page of history. . . . The great Williamsburg and within principles of right and wrong are legible a year had been reprinted to every reader; to pursue them requires in Philadelphia and cirnot the aid of many counsellors. The culated in England. whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your Jefferson would evenduty, and mankind will give you credit tually become known as where you fail. No longer persevere in the author of these bold sacrificing the rights of one part of the empire to the inordinate desires of arguments. His pamphlet another; but deal out to all equal and would earn him the repuimpartial right.” tation of being a leading — Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America revolutionary writer — a reputation that would contribute to his selection as the author of the Declaration of Independence.


4 VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATOR DESPITE THE IMPORTANCE the Declaration of Independence would play in shaping the United States, Jefferson—like the majority of his fellow delegates—felt the greatest loyalty to his home colony. There was at that time no sense of a single, unified government; instead, the members of the Continental Congress had gathered in Philadelphia to form a unified front against Britain. Jefferson considered himself a Virginian, not an “American,” and after the delegates voted for independence and war became increasingly likely, Jefferson wanted to be where he believed the most important action was taking place: Williamsburg.



Benjamin Franklin was another vocal leader of the independence movement. Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Silas Deane intended to sail to France in 1776 in order to negotiate a treaty with the king. Jefferson ultimately declined to go because his wife, Martha, was ill. He joined the Virginia House of Delegates instead.

He remained in Philadelphia from May to early September 1776, but as fall came, he became increasingly impatient to be back in Virginia. His focus was not on the act of declaring independence — it was on what would follow.


THOMAS JEFFERSON Jefferson finally left Philadelphia in early September, traveling for six days before arriving home at Monticello. Only a month would pass before he was again asked to serve all of the colonies, this time in a delegation with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane to travel to France and negotiate a treaty. Jefferson was tempted. He had earlier discussed the possibility with Benjamin Franklin of traveling to France together to meet with the French king. However, Martha had been sick for some time, and Jefferson did not want to be away from her for the long period of time a trip abroad would involve. He refused the appointment. Instead, he took Martha with him when he traveled to Williamsburg, where they were able to live comfortably as guests of the Wythes. Jefferson joined the new legislature — the House of Delegates — on October 7, 1776, determined to shape a revolutionary government in Virginia. For the next three years, Jefferson would serve as a legislator, and it was a period that would be a source of great pride to him. He was active both in the day-to-day business of the legislature — helping raise additional infantry battalions, setting the value of coins — and in more long-range plans for Virginia, many of which would not take place until after his term in the legislature had ended. Many of Jefferson’s ideas focused on his concerns about human rights. There is clearly a conflict here:


VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATOR Jefferson on more than one occasion proposed to abolish the slave trade and wrote passionately about perceived and potential human rights abuses, but he continued to be a slave-owner. As a legislator, Jefferson tackled the issue of slavery by creating an elaborate proposal that would gradually phase out the practice. He believed that Virginia’s economy— and the prejudices of its people — would not permit a shift in the status of the approximately 200,000 slaves in Virginia that would free them all at once. Instead, he proposed that the children of all slaves, when born after a certain date, would be considered free. They would be educated and, when adults, they would be settled in a community outside of Virginia, probably somewhere farther west, where they would set up an independent society. White immigrant settlers from Europe would be brought in to perform the labor that had previously been done by slaves. It was a radical plan—too radical, perhaps, for a society that relied heavily on slave labor. The plan never passed. Jefferson raised the issue of slavery on several occasions throughout his life but took no decisive action to free his own slaves. He made some provisions to free them upon his death, but when Jefferson died, his estate was in debt and most of the slaves — viewed as part of the estate’s “assets” — were sold. As a member of Virginia’s wealthiest class, Jefferson did take steps to eliminate the potential for greed that might simply replace one form of royalty, the British king, with


THOMAS JEFFERSON another, a dominant group of Virginia aristocrats. Quite early in his term as a legislator, Jefferson decided to address the issue of land and property distribution by proposing to eliminate the ancient English laws of “entail” and “primogeniture” that had been a part of the colony’s legal code. In entail, a property owner could specify that his land was never to be divided or sold off, and his wishes had to be obeyed, even one hundred years after he died. Under primogeniture, when a father died before writing a will, all of his property was given to the oldest son and legally could not be divided with any other brothers or sisters. Both of the proposals to abolish these laws ultimately passed. Jefferson also knew that education served as a class divider in the colonies. He believed that Virginia’s future should be based on the creation of a new class system, one in which leaders were selected based on their natural abilities rather than on money and titles they had inherited. He created a plan for a new school system in which every county would be divided into small school districts with no more than 100 children per school. Children would be educated for free for three years; they could then continue if their parents paid an additional sum. The brightest students would be selected from each school and sent on for higher education free of charge. It was a farsighted plan, one that provided educational opportunities for the best students regardless of their ability to pay. It also required that the citizens of the


VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATOR county pay a tax to support this public education system, with the wealthiest inhabitants paying a greater share of the cost. It was never put “Difference of opinion is advantageous into full practice. in religion. . . . Let us reflect that it Jefferson also fought [the earth] is inhabited by a thousand hard to ensure religious millions of people. That these profess freedom in Virginia. probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that Many critics later labeled thousand. That if there be but one right, him an atheist for his and ours that one, we should wish to efforts to ensure that see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such there was no official statea majority we cannot effect this by sponsored church or force. Reason and persuasion are the religion in Virginia, but only practicable instruments. To make he believed that religion way for these, free enquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others was a private matter. to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves.” Jefferson’s position was — Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781 that the government of Virginia should neither support nor oppose any kind of church or religion but instead leave them all alone. GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA Jefferson’s responsibilities extended beyond his work as a legislator. He was the head of Albemarle County’s militia— although he played little direct role in military action—and also served as a justice of the peace. He continued to oversee planning and planting at Monticello. Family matters also occupied Jefferson. On May 28, 1777, Jefferson was at Monticello when his only son was


THOMAS JEFFERSON born. Sadly, the infant lived for only three weeks. A little more than a year later, on August 1, 1778, a daughter was born. She was given the name Mary and eventually the nickname Polly. On June 1, 1779, 36-year-old Jefferson was elected to serve as the governor of Virginia. Jefferson accepted the appointment with some hesitation. His experience had been in the legislative branch, not the executive, and in any event, the powers of Virginia’s governor had been created with real limitations. The governor was elected by the Assembly to serve a one-year term. He could serve no more than three years, or three terms. The real power lay with the Assembly; the governor could really only make recommendations, reports, and discussions. Governor Jefferson came into office at a time of crisis. Virginia’s military lacked vital equipment and supplies, and the commonwealth lacked the money to pay for them. Virginia was also under attack. One month before Jefferson became governor, British forces had attacked at Hampton Roads. Almost 2,000 British soldiers poured into the Portsmouth region, burning towns and destroying tobacco crops and supplies. The Virginia militia was little match for the well-trained British forces. Jefferson struggled to obtain supplies for Virginia’s militia, writing frequently to General George Washington to keep him posted on the results of battles and the progress of the invading force. He also persuaded the Assembly to relocate Virginia’s capital from Williamsburg to Richmond — a location that would be closer to the



British General Lord Cornwallis surrendered in October, 1781, unofficially ending the Revolutionary War. In January 1781, during Jefferson’s term as governor of Virginia, British forces attacked Richmond. He asked not to be reappointed when his term ended, believing that he was not the right man to lead Virginia through the war.

geographic and population center of Virginia. In April 1780, the capital was officially relocated to the small town of 1,800 people. By the time the capital was moved, both Virginia and the revolutionary effort were in trouble. British forces were threatening Virginia from land and sea, and the Continental Army had suffered many defeats. A hoped-for alliance with the French had failed to happen. In January 1781, British forces attacked Richmond, burning large sections of the new capital. Jefferson was almost captured, but he escaped on horseback,


THOMAS JEFFERSON setting up a temporary capital in Charlottesville, close to Monticello. Because Virginia threatened to fall into British hands, Jefferson asked the legislature not to reappoint him as governor. He believed that he was not the man to lead at this critical moment—he felt that he did not have the necessary talents to plan military responses to the invasion. He faced intense criticism for his handling of the invasion and would later be labeled a coward for leaving office at a time when Virginia was in danger. The Virginia legislature would later launch an investigation into charges against him. His term as governor ended on June 1, 1781. Only a few months later, British forces at Yorktown, Virginia, would be defeated by the combined efforts of American troops led by the Marquis de Lafayette and Baron von Steuben, a French naval fleet, and Washington’s troops marching from the north. The British commander, Lord Cornwallis, was forced to surrender in October 1781. Virginia was saved, but Jefferson was home in Monticello. The stress of his time as governor would soon be followed by personal sorrow. A daughter born to Jefferson and his wife, named Lucy Elizabeth, in November 1780 died on April 15, 1781. In May 1781, Martha gave birth to another daughter named Lucy Elizabeth, but the difficult childbirths proved to be too much for Martha. She was ill for several months, and Jefferson remained by her side, helping care for her and writing in a room close to her sickbed. She died on September 6, 1782.


VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATOR Jefferson’s grief was intense. Monticello had become a place full of sad memories, and the father of three young girls was left to cope with professional and personal tragedy alone. American forces were finally finding victory, but for the man whose words had helped launch the revolution, these triumphs seemed distant and remote. As he shared with a friend, “A single event wiped away all my plans and left me a blank which I had not the spirits to fill up.”


5 A LEADER AT HOME AND ABROAD IN NOVEMBER OF 1782, Congress again asked Jefferson to travel to Paris to negotiate a peace treaty with the British. Jefferson felt ready to leave the sad memories Monticello held, and he agreed to join Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, who were already in Europe. In December, Jefferson left for Philadelphia, where he was scheduled to board a ship for France. The boat, however, was trapped in ice outside Baltimore. Jefferson waited for several weeks for the boat to be freed before learning that his trip was no longer necessary. A peace treaty between the British and Americans was signed in Paris on February 3, 1783, officially ending the Revolutionary War.



Jefferson, captured here in this 1786 portrait, was asked again to travel to France to negotiate a treaty with Britain in 1782. He agreed to meet John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, who were already there, but his boat was delayed by ice in Baltimore. A peace treaty was signed between the British and Americans on February 3, 1783, officially ending the Revolutionary War.

While waiting to cross the Atlantic, Jefferson had spent time in Philadelphia meeting with members of Congress, many of them old friends. He returned to Monticello in May, but the time spent discussing the


THOMAS JEFFERSON shaping of the new nation had inspired him to once more consider playing a part in the government being formed. In June 1783, he was again elected to serve as Virginia’s delegate to the Congress, which he joined when it convened in November. With the war over, Congress governed the “confederation of states” loosely. Most delegates still felt that their primary loyalty was to their home states. Discussions about a national system of money and a standardized system of weights and measures — among others — frequently broke down into quarrels or lengthy debates. It was Jefferson who proposed that the new nation’s currency should be the dollar and that the monetary system should be divided by tens and hundreds, a proposal that ultimately passed. Jefferson also influenced the shaping of America’s west. He believed that provisions should be made for the settling of western territories and that plans should be made to eventually add these territories to the union as new states. He ultimately outlined the possible boundaries for 14 new states, even naming 10 of them. Only two of these names were used: Michigania and Illinoia, which would become the states of Michigan and Illinois. Congress soon shifted its attention from national to international matters, determining that for the union of states to succeed, it was vital to quickly establish commercial treaties with as many countries as possible. In May of 1784, Congress voted to send an additional minister—Jefferson—


A LEADER AT HOME AND ABROAD to assist John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in their efforts to negotiate these treaties. Jefferson traveled to Boston with his oldest daughter, Patsy, and then caught a ship across the Atlantic. The culture and architecture of Paris thrilled Jefferson when he arrived in early August. He would spend the next five years there, negotiating trade treaties and, when both Franklin and Jefferson left France, serving as the new nation’s minister to France. He sent for his two younger daughters, hoping to have his family reunited in France, but tragically he learned that Lucy Elizabeth had died while he was away. Seven-year-old Polly eventually joined him after traveling first to London, where she was the guest of John Adams and his wife, Abigail. Jefferson had kept in close contact with Adams, who was serving as America’s minister to Britain. It was Adams who sent Jefferson a copy of the new U.S. Constitution that had been drafted during a four-monthlong convention in Philadelphia. Jefferson was disturbed by the document, worrying that the presidency the Constitution called for made the executive branch far too powerful. He even wrote to George Washington, the man who was expected to become the first president, expressing his concern that the Constitution allowed the president unlimited terms and that this might lead to a kind of monarchy in America. While in Paris, Jefferson was struck by the contrast between the elegant lifestyle of the French royalty and


THOMAS JEFFERSON aristocrats and the stark poverty of a large section of the French population. By July 1789, the discontent of the poor would burst forth in revolution. As a diplomat, Jefferson was unable to publicly speak out in support of one side or the other, but he continued to stress the importance of a government that was a true representative of its people and that preserved individual rights and liberties. Jefferson believed that the French people were not ready for a republican form of government similar to that being created in America, but he did feel that the revolution in France would gradually lead to a shift away from the monarchy and toward a more representative form of government. He believed that this would take place in a fairly orderly way and was shocked when the protests turned violent. He wrote to Congress and requested six months’ leave to return to Virginia and take care of personal business. He also wanted to bring his daughters back to the United States. His oldest daughter, Patsy, was talking about becoming a nun, so Jefferson hoped to take her home to Virginia and introduce her to some young men. He also wanted to enroll Polly in an American school. He set sail from England in October 1789, believing that he would be returning to France in a few months’ time. When he arrived at the port of Norfolk, Virginia, on November 23, however, he read in the newspapers that George Washington had appointed him to be the nation’s first secretary of state.


A LEADER AT HOME AND ABROAD SECRETARY OF STATE Jefferson traveled home, where Washington’s letter formally asking him to accept the position waited. Jefferson was astonished by how Virginia had changed during his years away and equally surprised at the enthusiastic crowds that greeted him as he traveled toward Monticello. Some urged him to accept the national position; others urged him to consider serving in Virginia’s assembly again. Jefferson considered his options for two months, waiting until only a few weeks before Washington’s inauguration before finally agreeing to become a part of the first president’s cabinet. On March 1, 1790, he traveled to the national capital, New York City, to take his new position. He had delayed his trip until after Patsy’s wedding — the plan to guide her away from a life in the convent had worked quite well! Jefferson was familiar with the other members of Washington’s government. Alexander Hamilton was the new secretary of treasury, Henry Knox was the secretary of war, Edmund Randolph (Jefferson’s cousin) was the attorney general, and John Adams had been elected vice president. Jefferson had worked with all of them before and thought that they would work well together to help shape the new nation. Washington, though, was not one to delegate. He expected all issues of importance to be brought to him for final approval, running the nation as he had his army. The cabinet functioned more like Washington’s assistants,



George Washington was the unanimous choice for the first president of the United States. He asked Thomas Jefferson to join his cabinet as the first secretary of state. Jefferson considered turning down the position to serve in the Virginia legislature again, but ultimately decided to accept Washington’s offer. Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789, but Jefferson did not take his position until March of 1790.


A LEADER AT HOME AND ABROAD bringing urgent matters to his attention and then carrying out his instructions. Jefferson soon found himself in disagreement with Alexander Hamilton over several critical matters. Postwar America was in debt, both to Americans and to the foreign nations that had helped with the revolution. Hamilton’s position was that the new national government should assume the responsibility for paying all war debts, both those of the nation and those of the individual states. He proposed to pay off these debts by taxing imports and placing taxes on certain American-manufactured items, such as whiskey. Hamilton also supported a national bank, one that would oversee the banks of the individual states. Jefferson strongly opposed these economic policies. He was already concerned about creating a national government that might quickly become as oppressive as England had been to its colonies. Hamilton’s taxation plans seemed to justify his concerns. The two also disagreed on the position America should take as war threatened to break out in Europe. In May 1790, news reached America that Spanish naval vessels had taken command of British ships off Vancouver Island. Jefferson believed that if war came, America should assume a position of neutrality, continuing to do business with as many nations as possible. Hamilton, stepping into the area of foreign policy, met with an agent of the British government in Canada and indicated that America might support Britain in the event of war.


THOMAS JEFFERSON The differences between Hamilton and Jefferson would cause other political leaders to take sides—a split that would ultimately lead to the formation of two political parties. Those allied with Jefferson and his fellow Virginian James Madison—those who believed that any powers not specifically granted in the Constitution to the national government should remain under the control of the individual states — were known as DemocraticRepublicans, often referred to at that time as Republicans (although they were not necessarily what today would be called Republicans). Those who supported Alexander Hamilton—people who believed that the national government should take whatever steps were necessary for the common good, unless those steps specifically contradicted the Constitution—were known as Federalists. The issue of war debt soon caused an even deeper conflict among political leaders. Many of the southern states had already paid off their war debt and deeply resented any new taxes that would force them to assume responsibility for the debts of northern states. Jefferson feared that the feelings were so strong that they might lead to civil war. He finally agreed to work out a compromise with Hamilton. In the deal, it was agreed that Hamilton’s economic plan for debt repayment would be passed in exchange for a commitment to relocate the national capital farther south, along the Potomac River on a stretch of territory between Maryland and Virginia. While the new city was being constructed, the capital would be temporarily moved from New York to Philadelphia.


A LEADER AT HOME AND ABROAD Foreign policy soon sparked new conflict between the Federalists and Republicans. War broke out between France and Britain in 1792, and debate soon followed about which side America should support. Hamilton, John Adams, and other Federalists believed that America should side with England, its leading trading partner. They were horrified at the violence that had marked the French Revolution. Jefferson and the Republicans felt that Americans owed greater loyalty to France, which had so recently helped them overthrow Britain during their own revolution. Washington soon settled the debate. He announced that America would be neutral. Jefferson’s own enthusiastic support for the French cause began to diminish with the arrival of the French ambassador Edmond Genet in early 1793. Genet was warmly greeted by Jefferson and mistook the secretary of state’s welcome for a willingness to override Washington’s stated policy of neutrality. He became outspoken in his criticism of the president and then traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, where he tried to recruit Americans to help launch land and sea attacks against the Spanish territory of Florida. He encouraged French boats to attack British vessels and then have them towed to Charleston where their goods could be sold. Jefferson protested on several occasions to Genet, who ignored him. Jefferson finally was forced to ask the French government to recall their ambassador, but by that time the French government had been overthrown and the new



Thomas Jefferson generally supported the ideals of the French Revolution and thought that the United States should, as well. However, his enthusiasm for the French cause began to wane when the French ambassador, Edmond Genet (right), tried to influence Washington (center) and Jefferson to abandon America’s position of neutrality in the French conflict with England.


A LEADER AT HOME AND ABROAD authorities were busy executing their political opponents. Genet pleaded for his life and was allowed to remain in the United States, although no longer as France’s ambassador. The messy dealings with Genet, the conflict with Hamilton, and his own disappointment about the direction in which the new nation was heading had all exhausted Jefferson. He announced to Washington in July 1793 that he would be stepping down at the end of the year. Washington begged him to stay on, but Jefferson refused. TEMPORARY RETIREMENT Jefferson remained at Monticello for the next three years, focusing on his home while keeping informed about political developments from a distance. He created a system of crop rotation to restore some of the fertility to his farmlands, and he planted peach trees. He was interested in making his farm more modern and economical and devised new farm tools, including an improved plow and a new, compact, horse-powered threshing machine. He also focused on improving his house, taking apart much of Monticello and then rebuilding it in a way that would double its size. He designed a new rotunda for the top of the mansion and added small private staircases. Despite his claims to be enjoying his retirement and his comment to George Washington in 1794, “I cherish tranquility too much to suffer political things to enter my mind at all,” Jefferson remained very much involved in political discussions. A friend and fellow Republican,


THOMAS JEFFERSON Congressman James Madison, kept him informed about events in the capital, and it was Madison who, in 1796, began mentioning Jefferson’s name as a candidate for the presidency when it became clear that George Washington would not serve a third term. The presidential election of 1796 seems quite unusual to modern eyes. The two leading candidates, Thomas Jefferson and Vice President John Adams, did not campaign for office. Adams spent much of the time leading up to the election at his home in Massachusetts and Jefferson remained at Monticello. A large portion of the campaigning was done by Federalist and Republican newspaper editors, who published vicious attacks on the opposing side that were frequently based on little more than gossip and rumor. Jefferson was criticized for being a coward, a quitter, and an atheist; Adams was labeled as a monarchist (someone who hoped to shape America into a kingdom). Under the terms then spelled out in the Constitution, the president was elected based on the votes of the electoral college, with each electoral college member being required to cast two votes for two different candidates for president. The man who received the most votes would become president; the runner-up would be elected vice president. When the votes were counted, John Adams had been elected president and his political opponent, Thomas Jefferson, had been elected vice president. Thomas Jefferson returned to Philadelphia on March 2, 1797. His retirement of three years was over.



John Adams became the second president of the United States, and Jefferson, as the runner-up in the election, became vice president. The two men had been close friends for years, but they fell out over their political ideals (Adams was a Federalist, Jefferson was a Republican).

THE VICE PRESIDENCY It can be imagined how difficult it might be to have two candidates with very different political views trying to work together as president and vice president. Adams and Jefferson did have a history of friendship dating back to


THOMAS JEFFERSON their experiences drafting the Declaration of Independence and then representing American interests in Europe after the war. Adams’ inaugural speech supported the idea of a more unified government. The good feeling did not last long after the inauguration. A private letter Jefferson had written while at Monticello—a letter highly critical of the “aristocratical party [the Federalist party]” and its efforts to link American interests with that of Britain — was published in a Federalist newspaper, embarrassing Jefferson and angering Adams. Support for France also continued to be a divisive issue. French ships had begun to interfere with American ships as they passed through trade routes. The crisis deepened when French agents attempted to extract a bribe from American representatives sent by President Adams to negotiate a treaty with France. It seemed to many that war with France was inevitable, and the government took steps to prepare for a coming conflict. In one controversial action in 1798, the Federalistcontrolled Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Alien Act gave the president new powers to expel any foreigners that he felt might threaten national security and extended the period of time foreigners must live in America before they could apply for citizenship. The Sedition Act stated that anyone publishing false or malicious statements against the president, his government, or Congress could be fined or put in prison. Jefferson was outraged at these acts, viewing them as a


A LEADER AT HOME AND ABROAD clear attempt to silence any political opposition — the majority of those fined and imprisoned under the Sedition Act were Republican editors — and a violation of the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. He decided to take action. Although as vice president he was a member of the government in power, he began to focus on strengthening his own party and planning for his own run for the presidency. By 1798, Jefferson had mapped out his strategy — a letter-writing campaign that would spread his thoughts around the country via influential Republican supporters and newspapers. In these letters, Jefferson outlined “I am for preserving to the States the his belief that the powers powers not yielded by them to the Union, & to the legislature of the Union of individual states must its constitutional share in the division of be preserved. He argued powers; and I am not for transferring all against what he described the powers of the States to the general as attempts to transfer all government, & all those of that government to the Executive branch. I am for a of the powers of the states government rigorously frugal & simple, to the federal government applying all the possible savings of the and the powers of the public revenues to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplicafederal government to its tion of officers & salaries merely to executive branch. He called make partisans, & for increasing by for a smaller, more costevery device, the public debt, on the effective government, using principle of its being a public blessing.” — Jefferson, in a letter to influential any leftover tax revenue Massachusetts Republican Elbridge Gerry, to pay off the national debt. in which Jefferson outlined his platform to become president of the United States He opposed a standing in the 1800 election army in peacetime and


THOMAS JEFFERSON felt that the states’ militias were sufficient for defense unless the country were invaded. Jefferson also restated his commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of religion. He avoided personal attacks against Adams — but many of his supporters did not. THE ELECTION OF 1800 The Election of 1800 marked a new era in American politics — the era of dirty campaigning. The candidates, Adams, Jefferson, and another Republican named Aaron Burr, did not campaign directly: The contest was principally waged in the newspapers and pamphlets. Both men were victimized by rumors and gossip, and their reputations and records were criticized. Adams was further crippled by attacks from within his own Federalist party as Alexander Hamilton worked to unseat the president and advance a candidate he thought he could control more easily. When the electoral college votes were counted, the result was a tie: Both Thomas Jefferson and fellow Republican Aaron Burr had received 73 electoral votes; John Adams had received 65. Under the existing Constitution, a tie would be decided in the House of Representatives, which was still dominated by Federalists (although the election had shifted the balance of power, the new representatives had not yet taken office). The House of Representatives, meeting on February 11, 1801, in the new and unfinished Capitol building in Washington, D.C., opened the state electoral votes and


A LEADER AT HOME AND ABROAD discovered that a tie still existed. In the afternoon, balloting began with no state changing its electoral votes. The House had committed to keep voting on the question until a president was chosen, and so every hour on the hour another vote was taken, and the vote still remained tied. The voting continued all night for 27 ballots before the House finally voted to stop voting until the next day. For four days, the House met and voted without being able to choose a president. They agreed to adjourn for Sunday before resuming the balloting on Monday, still without success. Finally, Alexander Hamilton, working behind the scenes, pressured a Delaware congressman named James A. Bayard to change his vote from Burr to Jefferson. Hamilton was no friend to Thomas Jefferson, but he liked Burr even less. Bayard refused to vote for Jefferson, but he finally agreed to cast a blank ballot. He was joined by a few Federalist delegates from Vermont and Maryland, who also cast blank ballots. Thomas Jefferson was finally elected president on the 36th ballot. The election of 1800 symbolized the end of the Federalist party, the party of George Washington and so many who had helped shape the nation. It was a kind of second revolution, a peaceful transition of government from one group to another.


6 PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES SHORTLY BEFORE NOON on March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson left his boardinghouse and began walking toward the Capitol. Congressmen escorted him as he made his way through the muddy streets. Jefferson wanted to underline the difference between his inauguration and those of Washington and Adams. He wore a simple suit and walked rather than riding in a fancy horse-drawn carriage. He was the first president to be inaugurated in the stillunfinished Capitol, and he wanted his inauguration to celebrate a new era in American politics. The Capitol was an appropriate site for Jefferson’s inauguration. It was Jefferson who had insisted that the building be built on a



Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated as president on March 4, 1801, and was the first president inaugurated at the Capitol building, which was unfinished at the time. Jefferson preferred simplicity, opting to wear a plain suit and walk to the Capitol. His inauguration speech stressed the idea of unity, particularly between Republicans and Federalists.

hill, placing it higher than the President’s House (as the White House was then known) to show that the will of the American people (through their representatives) should be more important than the will of a single president. John Adams was not there to witness his successor sworn in. He had slipped out of the city only a few hours earlier.


THOMAS JEFFERSON Jefferson’s inaugural address restated many of the principles that he had expressed throughout the campaign. He expressed a desire for unity with Federalists and noted his commitment to protect the equal rights of the minority as well as the majority. Jefferson formed his cabinet carefully. His friend James Madison was appointed secretary of state. Jefferson moved into the still-unfinished President’s House on Pennsylvania Avenue, struggling to fill the vast space with his small staff while devising plans to landscape the still muddy and barren grounds around the building. John Adams had left a political problem for “All will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in Jefferson. Just before his common efforts for the common good. term ended, Adams had All, too, will bear in mind this sacred appointed more than principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that 40 Federalists to serve will to be rightful must be reasonable; as judges. Because judges that the minority possess their equal served for unlimited rights, which equal law must protect, terms and because the and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite judiciar y provided a with one heart and one mind.” checks-and-balances role — Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801 to the government, it was Adams’ last attempt to ensure that Federalist ideas still continued to shape the government. Adams’ letters of appointment to the judges had been signed but not delivered; Jefferson was furious at Adams’ action and refused to allow the letters to be delivered by Secretary of State Madison.


PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES The nominees, however, had learned of their appointments, and four of them, led by William Marbury, took their case to the Supreme Court, where another Federalist judge, John Marshall, was serving as chief justice. In the case, which became known as Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court ruled that although Marbury and the others should not have been denied their appointments, the law Marbury used to bring the case to the Supreme Court was not constitutional. The judges did not take office. This case would establish the right of the Supreme Court to declare a congressional law unconstitutional, a practice known as “judicial review.” Jefferson’s presidency set a new standard for many subsequent presidencies. Jefferson was popular and used his personal influence to help shape policy. He formed strong working relationships both with his cabinet and with Republican leaders in the House and Senate. He worked long days, rising at 5:00 A.M. and doing paperwork until 9:00 A.M., when he would meet with important visitors or members of his cabinet. He held meetings in the morning and then had cabinet meetings or wrote letters until 1:00 P.M., when he would go for a horseback ride. He had dinner at 3:30 P.M., throwing elegant dinner parties for 12 invited guests three times a week. At these parties, his French chef would offer creative dishes, including the brand-new dessert ice cream. Jefferson paid the costs of this entertaining out of his own salary. Dinner ended by 6:00 P.M. and Jefferson would spend a few more hours reading and writing letters.



Jefferson was concerned that French possession of the Louisiana Territory would block trade along the Mississippi River. He decided to offer to purchase the land from France. He sent James Monroe, pictured here, to meet with the French. Monroe was successful: He was able to buy all of the territory for $15 million, doubling the size of the country. Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore the land.

THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE Shortly after he became president, Jefferson learned that France and Spain had signed a secret treaty in which the huge Spanish territory of Louisiana would be turned over to France. Jefferson quickly moved to stop the treaty. When this proved unsuccessful, he attempted to purchase the territory of Florida from Spain. Jefferson was concerned that if France took over the territory, it might block American trade along the Mississippi and that a Frenchoccupied New Orleans might be a convenient spot for launching an attack against America.


PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES Jefferson sent an envoy—James Monroe—to negotiate with the French, authorizing him to offer up to $9 million for New Orleans and Florida. To Jefferson’s amazement, the French asked if he might be interested in buying all of Louisiana — an 800,000-square-mile territory stretching from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains. They quickly agreed on the price of $15 million, and thus the United States more than doubled in size. Next, Jefferson persuaded Congress to fund an expedition to explore this new American land, appointing


The Louisiana Purchase Shortly after becoming president in 1800, Thomas Jefferson learned that France and Spain had signed a secret treaty that would give the Spanish territory of Louisiana to France. Spain was too weak to pose a threat to America, but Jefferson worried that a French-held New Orleans might block American access to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River—a key trade route for American meat and grain—and that France might launch attacks on American territory from the west. Jefferson sent an envoy to the French to offer a deal: $9 million for New Orleans and a portion of Florida. What he did not know was that France, led by its emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, would soon be involved in war with Britain. Napoleon worried about a possible attack on Louisiana from Britishheld Canadian territory and he needed money to help finance his war. Jefferson’s envoy offered his sum for New Orleans and was shocked when the French asked if he might be interested in buying the rest of Louisiana at the same time. A price was agreed on: $15 million, slightly more than Jefferson had been willing to pay for New Orleans alone. With it, Jefferson effectively doubled the size of the nation, adding more than 800,000 square miles of land stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.


THOMAS JEFFERSON Meriwether Lewis, his cousin, to lead the expedition and explore the soil, the plant and animal life, and the potential for fur trade. William Clark, who had served with Lewis in the army, was appointed as co-leader. The expedition set out in May 1804, attempting to do what had never before been done—travel the Mississippi River to its source and attempt to find a passage to the Pacific Ocean. For the next two years, Lewis and Clark and their team would combat harsh weather and terrain, attacks from Indians and wild animals, and disease before returning with valuable details of the newest part of America. THE ELECTION OF 1804 Jefferson’s achievement in adding this vast new territory to America contributed to his landslide reelection in 1804. Sadly, the news of his reelection was overshadowed by the death of his 24-year-old daughter, Polly, in childbirth. For his inauguration, Jefferson—mourning his daughter’s death—was dressed completely in black and rode soberly in a carriage to the ceremony. Despite his strong victory, Jefferson was criticized by Federalist newspapers, many of which suggested that he had become involved with one of his own slaves, Sally Hemings. These attacks prompted Jefferson to suggest in his Second Inaugural Address that publications that published lies and slander should be prosecuted — a marked change from his fervent support for freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the election of 1800. Jefferson’s second term was marked by conflict in


PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES Europe. Jefferson had stated that America’s position in the seemingly endless war between Britain and France would be neutral, but both countries were soon attacking American trading vessels. British forces even began practicing impressement, kidnapping American sailors and forcing them to join the British navy. Jefferson resisted the demands for war but instituted a boycott of French and British goods known as the Embargo Act of 1807. The act proved to be damaging for American merchants, who were dependent on goods from America’s leading trade partners. It brought on an economic depression, and a smuggling trade grew up along the Canadian border, essentially making the embargo pointless. As the presidential election of 1808 approached, many of Jefferson’s supporters urged him to remain in office, but Jefferson had long supported a peaceful transition of government, and he felt that the presidency should not be a lifetime appointment. He was annoyed with the Americans who were ignoring the trade embargo and was ready to return to Monticello. Jefferson announced his decision to retire and expressed his support for his friend James Madison as the Republican candidate. Madison easily won election over the Federalist candidate Thomas Pinckney. Jefferson’s 40 years of public service were finally at an end. HOME AT LAST Thomas Jefferson returned to Monticello at age 65. His daughter Patsy lived only a few miles from Monticello, and


THOMAS JEFFERSON she and her eight children were there to welcome him when he returned. Jefferson focused on his ongoing improvements to Monticello, a project that he never finished—nor did he seem to ever want to bring it to completion. When he returned home, he brought souvenirs from the Lewis and Clark expedition, as well as his own inventions: a calendar clock run by weights, a revolving chair and revolving tabletop, and a polygraph—a device designed to make duplicate copies. Jefferson traveled only as far as Poplar Forest, a retreat that he had built on his property in the shape of an octagon, with an octagonal exterior and octagonal rooms placed around a square dining room. He continued to focus on his flower and vegetable gardens, experimenting with different plants and making careful notes about the successes and failures. Jefferson kept up detailed correspondences with his many friends. As time passed, he put aside his anger at John Adams’s last-minute judicial appointments and, giving in to the pleading of a mutual friend, he began to exchange letters with Adams. The correspondence would last for the rest of their lives and provide a rich legacy of the thoughts and memories of these two great minds. Jefferson continued to follow political events as conflict with the British led the country into the War of 1812. When invading British forces burned much of Washington, including the congressional library, Jefferson offered to sell his own personal library to Congress; these 6,700 books would become the beginning of the new Library of Congress.



The British captured Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812 and burned much of the city, including the Congressional library. Jefferson, who also founded the University of Virginia, believed strongly in the importance of education and offered to sell his personal library of about 6,700 books to the government, thus beginning the Library of Congress.

One of Jefferson’s last projects was part of his continuing emphasis on education as a way to ensure the development of new generations of leaders. He decided to create a university for Virginia, “an institution on which the fortunes of our country may depend.” Jefferson purchased land in nearby Charlottesville, Virginia, and then drew up plans for the courses, the faculty to be hired, and, of course, the design of the buildings and the campus. He created the university library, a building with a large rotunda whose ceiling would be sky blue and covered with


THOMAS JEFFERSON stars designed to replicate the stars in the galaxy, forming a planetarium. In November 1824, the University of Virginia held its inaugural ceremonies, where Jefferson was hailed as its founder. In 1826, Jefferson was invited to attend ceremonies to mark the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, but his health was failing and he was not strong enough to travel. On July 1, the 83-year-old patriot became seriously ill. He drifted in and out of consciousness, waking


The University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson always placed a great deal of importance on education. Not only did he sell his large library to Congress, thereby starting the Library of Congress that we know today, but he also founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, near his home Monticello. Jefferson imagined an “academic village” with ten pavilions. Each pavilion would be dedicated to a particular subject; a professor would live in the upstairs and teach in the classrooms that occupied the pavilion’s downstairs. The campus would also include student housing and temporary living quarters for visitors. Crowning the campus would be a library, emphasizing learning and the development of the human intellect. Jefferson contacted the best minds of Europe and America and invited them to become faculty members at the university. The University of Virginia opened in March 1825 to its first 123 students. Jefferson lived to see the first year of the new university’s operation, often inviting students to dine with him on Sundays at Monticello. When he died on July 4, 1826, many of the university’s students came and paid their respects to the man who had founded their university and helped found their nation.


PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES on July 3 to ask his doctor,“Is it the Fourth?” He died shortly after noon on July 4. John Adams, the only other surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, died only a few hours later. Before his death, Jefferson had written out the words to be placed on the headstone of his grave: Here was buried Thomas Jefferson Author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom and Father of the University of Virginia. The message shows that a great man lies buried in the simple graveyard on the hillside of Monticello. It does not mention that he also happened to be a president of the United States.




George Washington 1789–1797

John Adams 1797–1801

Thomas Jefferson 1801–1809

James Madison 1809–1817

James Monroe 1817–1825

John Quincy Adams 1825–1829

Andrew Jackson 1829–1837

Martin Van Buren 1837–1841

William Henry Harrison 1841

John Tyler 1841–1845

James Polk 1845–1849

Zachary Taylor 1849–1850

Millard Filmore 1850–1853

Franklin Pierce 1853–1857

James Buchanan 1857–1861

Abraham Lincoln 1861–1865

Andrew Johnson 1865–1869

Ulysses S. Grant 1869–1877

Rutherford B. Hayes 1877–1881

James Garfield 1881


Chester Arthur 1881–1885

Grover Cleveland 1885–1889

Benjamin Harrison 1889–1893

Grover Cleveland 1893-1897

William McKinley 1897–1901

Theodore Roosevelt 1901–1909

William H. Taft 1909–1913

Woodrow Wilson 1913–1921

Warren Harding 1921–1923

Calvin Coolidge 1923–1929

Herbert Hoover 1929–1933

Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933–1945

Harry S. Truman 1945–1953

Dwight Eisenhower 1953–1961

John F. Kennedy 1961–1963

Lyndon Johnson 1963–1969

Richard Nixon 1969–1974

Gerald Ford 1974–1977

Jimmy Carter 1977–1981

Ronald Reagan 1981–1989

Note: Dates indicate years of presidential service. Source: George H.W. Bush 1989–1993

William J. Clinton 1993–2001

George W. Bush 2001–



Article II of the Constitution of the United States outlines several requirements for the president of the United States, including: W Age: The president must be at least 35 years old. W Citizenship: The president must be a U.S. citizen. W Residency: The president must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. W Oath of Office: On his inauguration, the president takes this oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” W Term: A presidential term lasts four years. PRESIDENTIAL POWERS

The president has many distinct powers as outlined in and interpreted from the Constitution. The president: W Submits many proposals to Congress for regulatory, social, and economic reforms. W Appoints federal judges with the Senate’s approval. W Prepares treaties with foreign nations to be approved by the Senate. W Can veto laws passed by Congress. W Acts as commander in chief of the military to oversee military strategy and actions. W Appoints members of the cabinet and many other agencies and administrations with the Senate’s approval. W Can declare martial law (control of local governments within the country) in times of national crisis.



Many parts of the presidency developed out of tradition. The traditions listed below are but a few that are associated with the U.S. presidency. W After taking his oath of office, George Washington added, “So help me God.” Numerous presidents since Washington have also added this phrase to their oath. W Originally, the Constitution limited the term of the presidency to four years, but did not limit the number of terms a president could serve. Presidents, following the precedent set by George Washington, traditionally served only two terms. After Franklin Roosevelt was elected to four terms, however, Congress amended the Constitution to restrict presidents to only two. W James Monroe was the first president to have his inauguration outside the Capitol. From his inauguration in 1817 to Jimmy Carter’s inauguration in 1977, it was held on the Capitol’s east portico. Ronald Reagan broke from this tradition in 1981 when he was inaugurated on the west portico to face his home state, California. Since 1981, all presidential inaugurations have been held on the west portico of the Capitol. W Not all presidential traditions are serious, however. One of the more fun activities connected with the presidency began when President William Howard Taft ceremoniously threw out the first pitch of the new baseball season in 1910. Presidents since Taft have carried on this tradition, including Woodrow Wilson, who is pictured here as he throws the first pitch of the 1916 season. In more recent years, the president has also opened the All-Star and World Series games.



Although George Washington was involved with the planning of the White House, he never lived there. It has been, however, the official residence of every president beginning with John Adams, the second U.S. president. The building was completed approximately in 1800, although it has undergone several renovations since then. It was the first public building constructed in Washington, D.C. The White House has 132 rooms, several of which are open to the public. Private rooms include those for administration and the president’s personal residence. For an online tour of the White House and other interesting facts, visit the official White House website, THE PRESIDENTIAL SEAL

A committee began planning the presidential seal in 1777. It was completed in 1782. The seal appears as an official stamp on medals, stationery, and documents, among other items. Originally, the eagle faced right toward the arrows (a symbol of war) that it held in its talons. In 1945, President Truman had the seal altered so that the eagle’s head instead faced left toward the olive branch (a symbol of peace), because he believed the president should be prepared for war but always look toward peace.


PRESIDENT JEFFERSON IN PROFILE PERSONAL Name: Thomas Jefferson Birth date: April 13, 1743 Birth place: Shadwell, Virginia Father: Peter Jefferson Mother: Jane Randolph Jefferson Wife: Martha Wayles Skelton Children: Martha Washington Jefferson, Jane Randolph Jefferson, son

(died as an infant), Mary Jefferson, Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson, and Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson. Death date: July 4, 1826 Death place: Monticello, his home near Charlottesville, Virginia POLITICAL Years in office: 1801–1809 Vice president: Aaron Burr (1801–1805); George Clinton

(1805–1809) Occupations before presidency: Lawyer, planter, delegate, foreign

minister, governor, secretary of state, vice president Political party: Democratic-Republican Major achievements of presidency: Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark

expedition Nickname: Sage of Monticello, Man of the People Tributes:

Thomas Jefferson Memorial (Washington, D.C.;; Monticello: The Home of Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville, Va.;


CHRONOLOGY 1743 Thomas Jefferson is born at Shadwell in Virginia. 1757 Jefferson’s father, Peter Jefferson, dies. 1760 Jefferson travels to Williamsburg to attend the College of William and Mary. 1762 Jefferson begins studying law with George Wythe. 1768 Jefferson is elected to Virginia’s House of Burgesses and begins plans for Monticello. 1772 Jefferson marries Martha Wayles Skelton. 1775 Jefferson is elected to the Continental Congress. 1776 Jefferson drafts the Declaration of Independence. 1777 Jefferson drafts the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. 1779 Jefferson becomes governor of Virginia. 1783 Jefferson is elected to serve as a delegate to Congress. 1784 Jefferson travels to France to negotiate peace treaties. 1790 Jefferson becomes the first secretary of state for the United States. 1796 Jefferson is elected vice president 1800 Jefferson is elected president. 1803 The Louisiana Purchase is concluded and the Lewis and Clark expedition begins. 1809 Jefferson retires to Monticello. 1825 The University of Virginia opens. 1826 Jefferson dies on July 4.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Bowers, Claude G. The Young Jefferson, 1743–1789. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1945. Boyd, Julian P., ed. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Vol. 1: 1760 –1776. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1950. Brodie, Fawn M. Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974. Bruns, Roger. Thomas Jefferson. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Cunningham, Noble E., Jr. In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1987. Gawalt, Gerard W. “Drafting the Declaration.” The Declaration of Independence: Origins and Impact. Ed. Scott Douglas Gerber. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2002. Hawke, David. A Transaction of Free Men. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964. Jefferson, Thomas. Writings. New York: The Library of America, 1984. Malone, Dumas. Jefferson the Virginian. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1948. McCullough, David. John Adams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Peterson, Merrill D. Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. Randall, Willard Sterne. Thomas Jefferson: A Life. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1993. Wills, Garry. Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1978.



Miller Center for Public Affairs Monticello: The Home of Thomas Jefferson University of Virginia The White House: The Presidents of the United States history/presidents/


FURTHER READING American Heritage. Thomas Jefferson and His World. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960. Blumberg, Rhoda, ed. What’s the Deal? Jefferson, Napoleon, and the Louisiana Purchase. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 1998. Bruns, Roger. Thomas Jefferson. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Jefferson, Thomas. Writings. New York: The Library of America, 1984. Weber, Michael. Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. Vero Beach, Fla.: Rourke Corporation, 1997. WEBSITES

The College of William and Mary: Thomas Jefferson Grolier Online: The American Presidency Miller Center for Public Affairs Museum of Westward Expansion: Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): The Declaration of Independence. declaration/declaration.html University of Virginia The White House: The Presidents of the United States


INDEX Adams, Abigail, 59 Adams, John, 65, 82 criticism of, 68 death of, 85 and the Declaration of Independence, 17 –18, 20, 70, 85 as foreign minister, 56 – 58 on Jefferson, 13 –14 and peace treaty, 56 – 57 and the presidential election of 1796, 68 and the presidential election of 1800, 72 – 73 and the revolution against the British, 7, 11 as U.S. president, 69 – 70, 74 – 76, 90 as vice president, 61, 68 Adams, Samuel and the revolution against the British, 11 Alien and Sedition Acts, 70 – 71 American colonies and British taxes, 10, 13, 35 – 39, 41 independence movement of, 11 –16, 22 – 23, 33 – 38, 41, 43, 46 and peace treaties, 56 – 57 American Revolution, 7, 23, 43, 46, 52 – 57 leaders of, 11 Bayard, James A., 73

Bonaparte, Napoleon, emperor of France, 79 Boston, Massachusetts, 14, 59 closing the harbor of, 40 – 42 protests in, 40 – 41, 43 Boston Tea Party, 41 Botetourt, Baron de death of, 39 as royal governor of Virginia, 37 – 39, 42 Britain. See England Burr, Aaron as Jefferson’s vice president, 91 and the presidential election of 1800, 72 – 73 Burwell, Rebecca and Jefferson, 30 – 31 Bush, George W. as war president, 8 Carter, Jimmy as U.S. president, 89 Clark, William and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 78 – 80 Clinton, George as Jefferson’s vice president, 91 Concord, Massachusetts battle at, 12 College of William and Mary Jefferson student at, 27 – 28, 92 Native American school at, 28 Constitutional Convention, 59


Continental Army creation of, 12 –13 defeats of, 14 –15, 52 – 53 victories of, 54 – 55 Continental Congress, 56 – 58, 92, see also United States Congress first, 11 –13, 43 representatives in, 20, 46 second, 10 –17 vote on the Declaration of Independence, 21 Cornwallis, British General Lord surrender of, 53 – 54 Cronkite, Walter foreword, 6 – 9 Deane, Silas travels to France, 47 – 48 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms, A, 19 America’s refusal to accept England’s policies, 14 Declaration of Independence, 84 drafting of, 17 – 21, 70 goals of, 19 – 20 and Jefferson, 17 – 20, 23, 45 – 46, 85, 92 new system of government in, 20 vote on, 21 – 23 Democratic-Republican Political Party, 68 – 69, 71, 81 Jefferson’s party, 64 – 65, 75, 91 support of France, 65 – 66, 70

INDEX England, 60 and the American Revolution, 7, 13 –16, 33 – 34, 36 – 38, 43, 45 – 46, 53, 56 debts of, 34 – 36 and the French and Indian War, 34 military of, 10, 14, 52 – 54, 82 – 83 parliament of, 12, 15, 36 – 38, 40 – 41 and peace treaty, 56 – 57 surrender of, 54 and taxing of the colonies, 10, 13, 35 – 39, 41 at war, 63, 65 – 66, 79, 81 – 83 Embargo Act of 1807, 81 Fauquier, Francis royal governor of Virginia, 29 Federalists Political Party, 68 – 69, 75 – 77, 80 – 81 Hamilton’s party, 64 – 65, 72 – 73 support of England, 65, 70 France, 56 and the French and Indian War, 34 government of, 60, 65 and the Louisiana Purchase, 78 – 79 peace treaties with, 47 – 48, 70, 92 revolution in, 60, 65 and treaty with Spain, 78 – 79 at war, 65 – 66, 79, 81

Franklin, Benjamin and the Declaration of Independence, 17 –18, 20 as foreign minister, 59 and peace treaty, 56 – 57 and the revolution against the British, 11 travels to France, 47 – 48 French and Indian War, 34 Genet, Edmund criticism of Washington, 65 – 66 French ambassador, 65 – 67 George III, King of England, 14 abuse of, 13, 20 – 21 and taxing of the colonies, 10 –13 Hamilton, Alexander disagreements with Jefferson, 63 – 65, 67 and the presidential election of 1800, 72 – 73 as secretary of treasury, 61 Hemings, Sally Jefferson’s slave, 80 Henry, Patrick and the Continental Congress, 43 – 44 and the revolution against the British, 11, 36 Jefferson, Jane Randolph (mother), 24, 31, 91


Jefferson, Jane Randolph (daughter), 91 birth of, 40 death of, 40 Jefferson, Lucy Elizabeth (second daughter), birth of, 54 death of, 54 Jefferson, Lucy Elizabeth (third daughter), birth of, 54 death of, 59 Jefferson, Martha “Patsy” Washington (daughter), 59 – 60, 81 – 82, 91 birth of, 40 wedding of, 61 Jefferson, Martha Wayles Skelton (wife), 91 death of, 54 illness of, 47 – 48, 54 marriage of, 39, 92 Jefferson, Mary “Polly” (daughter), 59 – 60, 91 death of, 80 birth of, 52 Jefferson, Peter (father), 24, 91 death of, 26, 92 as surveyor, 25 Jefferson, Thomas birth of, 24 – 25, 91 – 92 cabinet of, 76 – 77 as chief commander of the Virginia militia, 39 childhood of, 25 – 26 criticism of, 54, 68, 80 and currency, 58 death of, 49, 84 – 85, 91 – 92

INDEX and the Declaration of Independence, 17 – 21, 23, 45 – 46, 70, 84 – 85, 92 as delegate to Congress, 12 –15, 58, 91 – 92 disagreements with Hamilton, 63 – 65, 67 education of, 25 – 30, 92 on education, 50 – 51, 83 – 84 as foreign minister, 58 – 60, 91 as governor of Virginia, 51 – 55, 91 – 92 and human rights, 48 – 49 inauguration speech of, 74 – 76, 80 influences on, 28 – 30 inventions of, 82 as lawyer, 31, 91 – 92 and the Louisiana Purchase, 7 – 8, 78 – 80, 91 – 92 “man of the people,” 91 marriage of, 39, 92 as planter, 51, 82, 91 as president, 73, 91 – 92, 74 – 81, 85 and the presidential election of 1796, 68 and the presidential election of 1800, 71 – 73 and the presidential election of 1804, 80 on religious freedom, 51 and the revolution against the British, 7

and romance, 29 – 31, 80 “sage of Monticello,” 91 as secretary of state, 60 – 67, 91 – 92 and shaping of the west, 58 and slavery, 13, 21, 49 travels of, 59 – 60, 92 and the University of Virginia, 83 – 84 as vice president, 68 – 72, 91 – 92 and the Virginia House of Burgesses, 32 – 38, 42 and the Virginia’s House of Delegates, 47 – 50 writings of, 12 –14, 43 – 45 Knox, Henry as secretary of war, 61 Lafayette, Marquis de, 54 Lee, Richard Henry and the Continental Congress, 17 Lewis and Clark Expedition, 78 – 80, 82, 91 – 92 Lewis, Meriwether and the Lewis and Clark expedition, 78 – 80 Lexington, Massachusetts battle at, 12 Library of Congress, 82 – 83 Lincoln, Abraham as wartime president, 7


Livingston, Robert and the Declaration of Independence, 17 –18 Louisiana Purchase, 7 – 8, 78 – 80, 91 – 92 Madison, James, 64, 68 and the revolution against the British, 7 as secretary of state, 76 as U.S. president, 81 Marbury v. Madison, 77 Marbury, William, 77 Marshall, John, 77 Mason, George and the declaration of rights for Virginia, 19 – 20, 38 Massachusetts protests in, 37, 40 – 42 Monroe, James and the Louisiana Purchase, 78 – 79 as U.S. president, 89 Monticello construction of, 39 – 40 Jefferson’s home, 25, 32, 48, 51, 54 – 57, 61, 67 – 68, 70, 81 – 82, 84 – 85, 91 – 92 Murray, John royal governor of Virginia, 42 Native Americans assistance to British, 14 school at the College of William and Mary, 28

INDEX New York City, New York nation’s capital, 61, 64 Nicholas, Robert Carter, 42

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano as wartime president, 7, 89

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 47, 56 – 57 constitutional convention in, 59 and the Continental Congress, 10 –15, 43 – 46 nation’s temporary capital, 64, 68 Pickney, Thomas, 81 Presidential election of 1796, 68 Presidential election of 1800, 71 – 73 Presidential election of 1804, 80 Presidential election of 1808, 81 Presidents of the United States, 86 – 90 and the constitution, 88 fact file of, 88 – 90 powers of, 8, 88 and the Presidential Seal, 90 and tradition, 89 and the White House, 75 – 76, 90

Seven Years’ War, 34, see also French and Indian War Shadwell, Virginia, 31 – 32, 39 Jefferson’s birthplace, 24, 91 – 92 Sherman, Roger and the Declaration of Independence, 17 –18 Small, William Dr. influence on Jefferson, 28 Spain and treaty with France, 78 – 79 at war, 63 Stamp Act (1765), 35 – 36 Steuben, Baron von, 54 Summary View of the Rights of British America, A abuse of King George III in, 13 proposal to end slavery in, 13 written by Jefferson, 13, 19, 45

Randolph, Edmund as attorney general, 61 Randolph, Peyton, 12 and the Continental Congress, 43 – 44 Richmond, Virginia British attack on, 53 new capital of Virginia, 53

Taft, William Howard as wartime president, 89 Thomas Jefferson Memorial, 91 Townshend Acts, 36 – 38, 41 Truman, Harry S. as U.S. president, 8, 90


Tuckahoe Estate Jefferson family on, 25 – 26 United States of America government branches of, 9, 64, 71 war debts of, 64 and wartime, 8, 82 – 83 United States Congress, 8, 70, 77, 79, 82, 88 – 89, see also Continental Congress formation of, 58, 60 United States Constitution, 8 – 9 drafting of, 59 and freedom of speech, 71 and presidency requirements, 7, 59, 64, 68, 88 – 89 United States Supreme Court and Marbury v. Madison, 77 University of Virginia Jefferson as founder of, 83 – 84 opening of, 92 Vinson, Fred, 8 Virginia, 25, 29, 31, 34, 60 constitution of, 16, 17, 19 declaration rights for, 19 – 20 delegation from, 12 –14 economy of, 49 – 50 Jefferson as governor of, 51 – 55, 92 laws of, 27 militia of, 39, 51 – 52

INDEX role in the American revolution, 37, 42 – 44 Virginia’s House of Burgesses, 92 Jefferson in, 32 – 38, 42 Virginia’s House of Delegates Jefferson in, 47 – 48 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom Jefferson’s drafting of, 85, 92 War of 1812, 82 – 83

Washington, D.C., 91 British attack of, 82–83 as U.S. capital, 72, 90 Washington, George appointments of, 60 – 62 as commander in chief of the Continental Army, 13, 16, 52, 54 and the Continental Congress, 43 and the Declaration of Independence, 22 as president of the U.S., 59 – 67, 74, 89 – 90


and the revolution against the British, 7, 11, 38 Williamsburg, Virginia capital of Virginia, 15, 17, 27, 29 – 30, 36, 39, 42 – 43, 45 – 46, 48, 92 Wilson, Woodrow as wartime president, 7, 89 Wythe, George, 48 Jefferson’s apprenticeship with, 28 – 30, 92 Yorktown, Virginia British surrender at, 54

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Thank you to Celebrity Speakers Intl. for coordinating Mr. Cronkite’s contribution to this book.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS Heather Lehr Wagner is a writer and editor. She earned an M.A. in government from the College of William and Mary and a B.A. in political science from Duke University. She has written several books for teens on social and political issues and is also the author of George Washington, John Adams, and Ronald Reagan in the GREAT AMERICAN PRESIDENTS series. Walter Cronkite has covered virtually every major news event during his more than 60 years in journalism, during which he earned a reputation for being “the most trusted man in America.” He began his career as a reporter for the United Press during World War II, taking part in the beachhead assaults of Normandy and covering the Nuremberg trials. He then joined CBS News in Washington, D.C., where he was the news anchor for political convention and election coverage from 1952 to 1980. CBS debuted its first half-hour weeknight news program with Mr. Cronkite’s interview of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Mr. Cronkite was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1985 and has written several books. He lives in New York City with his wife of 59 years.