Thomas Jefferson

April 13, 1743, (Shadwell, Colony of Virginia, British America)-July 4, 1826 (Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.)

 

Thomas Jefferson is counted among the Founding Fathers . He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he served as vice-president under John Adams from 1797 to 1801.

Jefferson was a prolific writer. John Adams, who also made major contributions to the Declaration of Independence, asked Jefferson to edit the document because  he felt Jefferson had “A peculiar felicity for expression.”

Jefferson is regarded as one of the most intelligent of U.S. presidents. President Kennedy is reported to have said to a gathering of scientists in the White House, that “I’d like to welcome you all to the greatest gathering of minds to assemble here since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

He was a genius by any standard but was just one among other geniuses of the day including, Washington, Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.

De mortuis nil nisi bene dicendum

(Speak not ill of the dead)

It has recently become fashionable among a self-righteous and arguably self-centered portion of the population to condemn many of the Founders of the Republic because they did not write or speak about the evils of slavery. Indeed Jefferson owned slaves. He also lived beyond his means, made bad investments, and may have had some personal relationships that used to be illegal in Utah.

Five of the  Founders, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, and  Madison are on record for opposing slavery. They condemned it eloquently. Some are on record for wondering why their colleague Jefferson did not use his eloquence to denounce slavery.

Their legacy as founders, and indeed their very lives, depended on uniting a nation and winning the Revolution.

Their revolution was to be free from England. Ending slavery would have required another revolution and would have been the death of the union, as it almost was in 1861-1965.

Wise people know that they cannot always achieve their objectives as quickly as they may want. The ability to delay gratification has been show to be a characteristic of successful individuals.

Jefferson, like all of us when we die, should be remembered for the incalculable good things that he accomplished. He may have wanted to do more. Perhaps he knew he could not live long enough to see it all happen.


Thomas Jefferson’s Grave Stone

Jefferson instructed that his grave stone be made of “coarse stone … that no one might be tempted hereafter to destroy it for the value of the materials.”

Nevertheless people chipped off pieces for souvenirs rendering the monument in such poor repair that it was replaced by a new one in the family cemetery at Monticello and the old one was donated by the family to University of Missouri on July 4, 1885.

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