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Jefferson, Thomas,1743–1826, 3d President of the United States (1801–9), author of the Declaration of Independence, and apostle of agrarian democracy.
Jefferson was born on Apr. 13, 1743, at "Shadwell," in Goochland (now in Albemarle) co., Va. The vicinity, at that time considered a western outpost, was to remain his lifelong home, and from boyhood he absorbed the democratic views of his Western countrymen. After graduating from the College of William and Mary (1762), he studied law under George WytheWythe, George
, 1726–1806, American lawyer, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Elizabeth City co., Va. Admitted to the bar in 1746, Wythe was a member (1754–55, 1758–68) and clerk (1769–75) of the house of burgesses.
..... Click the link for more information. .
In the colonial house of burgesses Jefferson was (1769–75) a leader of the patriot faction. He was a founding member of the Virginia Committee of Correspondence, and in A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774), prepared for the First Virginia Convention, he brilliantly expounded the view that Parliament had no authority in the colonies and that the only bond with England was voluntary allegiance to the king. Although never an effective public speaker, he won a reputation as a draftsman of resolutions and addresses.
A delegate to the Second Continental CongressContinental Congress,
1774–89, federal legislature of the Thirteen Colonies and later of the United States in the American Revolution and under the Articles of Confederation (see Confederation, Articles of).
..... Click the link for more information. (1775–76), he served as a member of the committee to draft the Declaration of IndependenceDeclaration of Independence,
full and formal declaration adopted July 4, 1776, by representatives of the Thirteen Colonies in North America announcing the separation of those colonies from Great Britain and making them into the United States.
..... Click the link for more information. . That document, except for minor alterations by John Adams and Benjamin FranklinFranklin, Benjamin,
1706–90, American statesman, printer, scientist, and writer, b. Boston. The only American of the colonial period to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher, he is best remembered in the United States as a patriot and diplomat.
..... Click the link for more information. and some others made on the floor of Congress, was wholly the work of Jefferson. In spirit it reflects his debt to English political theorists, particularly John LockeLocke, John
, 1632–1704, English philosopher, founder of British empiricism. Locke summed up the Enlightenment in his belief in the middle class and its right to freedom of conscience and right to property, in his faith in science, and in his confidence in the goodness of
..... Click the link for more information. , and to French and other continental philosophers.
Jefferson returned to the Virginia legislature in the hope of being able to translate his ideals into reality in the establishment of a new state government. He urged the abolition of entailentail,
in law, restriction of inheritance to a limited class of descendants for at least several generations. The object of entail is to preserve large estates in land from the disintegration that is caused by equal inheritance by all the heirs and by the ordinary right of free
..... Click the link for more information. and primogenitureprimogeniture,
in law, the rule of inheritance whereby land descends to the oldest son. Under the feudal system of medieval Europe, primogeniture generally governed the inheritance of land held in military tenure (see feudalism; knight).
..... Click the link for more information. to prevent the continuance of an aristocracy; both practices were abolished, although primogeniture existed until 1785. His bill for establishing religious freedom, grounded in the belief that a person's opinions cannot be coerced, was not successful until 1786, when James MadisonMadison, James,
1751–1836, 4th President of the United States (1809–17), b. Port Conway, Va. Early Career
A member of the Virginia planter class, he attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1771.
..... Click the link for more information. was able to carry part of the Jeffersonian program to completion.
In 1779, Jefferson succeeded Patrick HenryHenry, Patrick,
1736–99, political leader in the American Revolution, b. Hanover co., Va. Largely self-educated, he became a prominent trial lawyer. Henry bitterly denounced (1765) the Stamp Act and in the years that followed helped fan the fires of revolt in the South.
..... Click the link for more information. as governor of Virginia. He served through the trying last years of the American Revolution when Virginia was invaded by the British, and, hampered by lack of financial and military resources, experienced great difficulty. His conduct as governor was investigated in 1781, but he was completely vindicated.
Postwar Republican Leader
In 1783–84 he was again in the Continental CongressContinental Congress,
1774–89, federal legislature of the Thirteen Colonies and later of the United States in the American Revolution and under the Articles of Confederation (see Confederation, Articles of).
..... Click the link for more information. , where he drafted a plan for a decimal system of coinage and drew up a proposed ordinance for the government of the Northwest TerritoryNorthwest Territory,
first possession of the United States, comprising the region known as the Old Northwest, S and W of the Great Lakes, NW of the Ohio River, and E of the Mississippi River, including the present states of Ohio, Ind., Ill., Mich., Wis., and part of Minn.
..... Click the link for more information. , which, although not then adopted, was the basis for the Ordinance of 1787Ordinance of 1787,
adopted by the Congress of Confederation for the government of the Western territories ceded to the United States by the states. It created the Northwest Territory and is frequently called the Northwest Ordinance.
..... Click the link for more information. . In 1785 he succeeded Franklin as minister to France, and witnessed the beginning (1789) of the French RevolutionFrench Revolution,
political upheaval of world importance in France that began in 1789. Origins of the Revolution
Historians disagree in evaluating the factors that brought about the Revolution.
..... Click the link for more information. , to which he was sympathetic. His unsuccessful attempt, with John Adams, to negotiate a trade treaty with England left him convinced of that country's essential selfishness. On his return he became (1790) Secretary of State.
Though absent when the Constitution was drafted and adopted, Jefferson gave his support to a stronger central government and to the Constitution, particularly with the addition of the Bill of Rights. He failed to realize the power that conservatives had attained in his absence, and he did not seem aware at first of the threat to agrarian interests posed by measures advocated by Alexander HamiltonHamilton, Alexander,
1755–1804, American statesman, b. Nevis, in the West Indies. Early Career
He was the illegitimate son of James Hamilton (of a prominent Scottish family) and Rachel Faucett Lavien (daughter of a doctor-planter on Nevis and the estranged
..... Click the link for more information. . He would call himself neither a Federalist nor an Anti-Federalist, and was anxious to secure unity and cooperation in the new government.
Jefferson did not begin to differ with Hamilton until they clashed as to the way to persuade England to release the Northwest Territory forts, still held in violation of the 1783 Treaty of Paris. Jefferson favored the application of economic pressure by forbidding imports from England, but Hamilton objected, fearing that the resulting loss of revenue would endanger his plans for the nation's financial structure. Jefferson next opposed Hamilton by declaring against his Bank of the United States scheme on the ground that the Constitution did not specifically authorize it, rejecting the doctrine of "implied powers," invoked by Hamilton's supporters. In both these encounters Hamilton, to Jefferson's chagrin, emerged the victor.
Fearing a return to monarchist ideals, if not to actual monarchy, Jefferson became virtual leader of the Anti-Federalist forces. He drew to himself a group of like-minded men who began to call themselves Republicans—a group to which the present Democratic partyDemocratic party,
American political party; the oldest continuous political party in the United States. Origins in Jeffersonian Democracy
When political alignments first emerged in George Washington's administration, opposing factions were led by Alexander Hamilton
..... Click the link for more information. traces its origin. An organization was developed, and the National Gazette, edited by Philip FreneauFreneau, Philip
, 1752–1832, American poet and journalist, b. New York City, grad. Princeton, 1771. During the American Revolution he served as soldier and privateer. His experiences as a prisoner of war were recorded in his poem The British Prison Ship (1781).
..... Click the link for more information. , was established (1791) to disseminate Republican sentiments.
Jefferson and Hamilton, from being suspicious of each other, became openly antagonistic, and President George Washington was unable to reconcile them. In 1793, Jefferson left the cabinet. Later he bitterly criticized Jay's TreatyJay's Treaty,
concluded in 1794 between the United States and Great Britain to settle difficulties arising mainly out of violations of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 and to regulate commerce and navigation.
..... Click the link for more information. , which compromised the issues with Great Britain in ways outlined by Hamilton.
Jefferson's party was able to elect him Vice President in 1796, when that office was still filled by the person who ran second in the presidential race. He took little part in the administration but presided over the Senate and wrote A Manual of Parliamentary Practice (1801). His followers kept up their agitation and under Jefferson's direction extended the party's following both territorially and numerically, while the Federalists drifted into dissension. The passage of the Alien and Sedition ActsAlien and Sedition Acts,
1798, four laws enacted by the Federalist-controlled U.S. Congress, allegedly in response to the hostile actions of the French Revolutionary government on the seas and in the councils of diplomacy (see XYZ Affair), but actually designed to destroy Thomas
..... Click the link for more information. immensely stimulated newspaper discussion, and Jefferson drafted, in protest against these laws, the Kentucky Resolutions (see Kentucky and Virginia ResolutionsKentucky and Virginia Resolutions,
in U.S. history, resolutions passed in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were enacted by the Federalists in 1798. The Jeffersonian Republicans first replied in the Kentucky Resolutions, adopted by the Kentucky legislature in Nov.
..... Click the link for more information. ), the first statement of the states' rightsstates' rights,
in U.S. history, doctrine based on the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
..... Click the link for more information. interpretation of the Constitution.
The Republicans triumphed easily at the polls in what is sometimes called "the Revolution of 1800," but in the Electoral Collegeelectoral college,
in U.S. government, the body of electors that chooses the president and vice president. The Constitution, in Article 2, Section 1, provides: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the
..... Click the link for more information. vote, Aaron BurrBurr, Aaron,
1756–1836, American political leader, b. Newark, N.J., grad. College of New Jersey (now Princeton). Political Career
A brilliant law student, Burr interrupted his study to serve in the American Revolution and proved himself a valiant soldier in
..... Click the link for more information. (who had been slated for the office of Vice President) was found to have tied Jefferson for President. The choice was automatically left to the House of Representatives, where Jefferson was elected after a long deadlock, largely because Hamilton advised the Federalists to support Jefferson as less dangerous than Burr.
Jefferson was the first President inaugurated in Washington, D.C., a city he had helped to plan. He instituted a republican simplicity in the new capital, cut expenditures in all branches of government, replaced Federalist appointees with Republicans, and sought to curb the powers of the judiciary, where he felt that the Federalists were attempting to entrench their philosophy. He believed that the federal government should be concerned mostly with foreign affairs, leaving the states and local governments free to administer local matters.
Despite his contention that the Constitution must be interpreted strictly, he pushed through the Louisiana PurchaseLouisiana Purchase,
1803, American acquisition from France of the formerly Spanish region of Louisiana. Reasons for the Purchase
The revelation in 1801 of the secret agreement of 1800, whereby Spain retroceded Louisiana to France, aroused uneasiness in the United
..... Click the link for more information. , even though such an action was nowhere expressly authorized. His eager interest in the West and in exploration had already led him to plan and organize the Lewis and Clark expeditionLewis and Clark expedition,
1803–6, U.S. expedition that explored the territory of the Louisiana Purchase and the country beyond as far as the Pacific Ocean. Purpose
..... Click the link for more information. . He held that West Florida was included in the Louisiana Purchase, but his attempts to secure Spanish agreement caused rifts in the party and made him the butt of sarcastic attacks by John RandolphRandolph, John,
1773–1833, American legislator, known as John Randolph of Roanoke, b. Prince George co., Va. He briefly studied law under his cousin Edmund Randolph. He served in the U.S.
..... Click the link for more information. in Congress.
During his second administration, however, the chief difficulties resulted from attacks on neutral American shipping by warring Britain and Napoleonic France. Jefferson placed his faith in diplomacy backed by economic pressure as represented first by the Nonimportation Act (1806) and then by the Embargo Act of 1807Embargo Act of 1807,
passed Dec. 22, 1807, by the U.S. Congress in answer to the British orders in council restricting neutral shipping and to Napoleon's restrictive Continental System. The U.S.
..... Click the link for more information. . To enforce them, unfortunately, meant the impoverishment of classes that had supported him and the infringement of the individual liberty he cherished. Shortly before he left office a rebellious people forced him to yield in his aims, although he maintained that the embargo had not been in effect long enough to achieve its objective.
After 1809, Jefferson lived in retirement at his beloved MonticelloMonticello
[Ital.,=little mountain], estate, 640 acres (259 hectares), central Va., near Charlottesville; home of Thomas Jefferson for 56 years. The mansion, which he designed, was begun in 1770 on property inherited from his father.
..... Click the link for more information. , although he often advised his successors, Madison and James MonroeMonroe, James,
1758–1831, 5th President of the United States (1817–25), b. Westmoreland co., Va. Early Life
Leaving the College of William and Mary in 1776 to fight in the American Revolution, he served in several campaigns and was wounded (Dec.
..... Click the link for more information. . One of his cherished ambitions was attained when he was able to bring about the founding of the Univ. of Virginia (see Virginia, Univ. ofVirginia, University of,
mainly at Charlottesville; state supported; coeducational; chartered 1819, opened 1825 with Thomas Jefferson as its rector. Jefferson also planned the organization and curriculum and designed its first buildings.
..... Click the link for more information. ). President of the American Philosophical Society (1797–1815), Jefferson was a scientist, an architect, and a philosopher-statesman, vitally interested in literature, the arts, and every phase of human activity. He passionately believed that a people enlightened by education, which must be kept free, could govern themselves better under democratic-republican institutions than under any other system.
After the death (1784) of his wife Martha Wayles Skelton, Jefferson did not remarry. During his White House years, Dolley MadisonMadison, Dolley,
1768–1849, wife of President James Madison, b. Guilford co., N.C. Born Dolley Payne of Quaker parents, she was brought up in simplicity and was married (1790) to a Quaker, John Todd, who died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1793.
..... Click the link for more information. served as his First Lady. In the 1990s long-repeated rumors that he had fathered a child or children by the slave Sally Hemings, his wife's half-sister, appeared to be supported by DNA research. Although the subject remained controversial, in 2000 the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation concluded after an exhaustive study that Jefferson was almost certainly the father of one and quite probably of all six of Hemings's children. Some admirers of Jefferson hold that his younger brother, Randolph, is the more likely father of Hemings's descendants.
A definitive chronological edition of Jefferson's complete papers (ed. by J. P. Boyd et al., 1950–) is being published by Princeton Univ. Press; the project includes his separately edited postpresidential papers, or Retirement Series, and topically arranged papers, or Second Series. See also Jefferson's Autobiography (new ed. 1959), and a selection of his writings in Jefferson Himself, ed. by B. Mayo (1942). The multivolume Jefferson and His Time (6 vol., 1948–82) by D. Malone is the definitive biography; see also biographies by G. Chinard (1929, repr. 1957), N. Schachner (1951), A. J. Nock (1956, repr. 1960), F. M. Brodie (1974), N. E. Cunningham. Jr. (1988), J. Appleby (2003), R. B. Bernstein (2003), C. Hitchens (2005), J. Meacham (2012), and A. Gordon-Reed and P. S. Onuf (2016).
See also C. G. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton (1925, repr. 1966), Jefferson in Power (1936, repr. 1967), and The Young Jefferson 1743–1789 (1945); K. Lehmann, Thomas Jefferson, American Humanist (1947); M. Kimball, Jefferson (3 vol., 1943–50); L. W. Levy, Jefferson and Civil Liberties (1963, repr. 1974); L. S. Kaplan, Jefferson and France (1967); M. Peterson, The Jeffersonian Image in the American Mind (1960), Thomas Jefferson: A Profile (1967), and Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation (1970, repr. 1986); G. G. Shackelford, Thomas Jefferson's Travels in Europe, 1784–1789 (1995); J. J. Ellis, American Sphinx (1997); A. Gordon-Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (1997) and The Hemingses of Monticello (2008); J. E. Lewis and P. S. Onuf, ed., Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson (1999); R. G. Kennedy, Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character (1999); J. F. Simon, What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States (2002); G. Wills, Mr. Jefferson's University (2002); M. K. Beran, Jefferson's Demons (2003); G. Vidal, Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson (2003); G. Wills, "Negro President": Jefferson and the Slave Power (2003); J. P. Kaminski, The Great Virginia Triumvirate: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in the Eyes of Their Contemporaries (2010); M. Kranish, Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War (2010); J. Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation (2013); G. S. Wood, Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (2017).
Born Apr. 13, 1743, in Albemarle County, Va.; died July 4, 1826, at Monticello. American statesman and public figure.
On his mother’s side Jefferson was descended from a family of rich Virginia landowners. He received a broad education. From 1769 to 1774 he was a deputy to the Virginia legislature. He helped organize a revolutionary group in Virginia—the Committee of Correspondence, which was modeled after similar committees in other colonies. In 1775, Jefferson was elected a deputy to the Continental Congress, which had decided on the separation of the North American colonies from Great Britain. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence, which Congress accepted during the War for Independence in North America (1775-83). Jefferson intended to extend the rights enunciated in the declaration to Negro slaves, but the slaveowners were opposed. He played an active role in the democratization of the social structure of Virginia.
As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates between 1776 and 1779, Jefferson took part in a review of extant legislation. The feudal order in landownership—primogeniture, semifeudal rent, and prohibition of the sale of lots of land— was abolished. He was the author of the Statute on Religious Freedom, and he worked hard for its adoption, influencing the constitutions of other states and the constitutional provision for the separation of church and state in the USA. In 1784, Jefferson urged Congress to nationalize the lands of the West and prohibit slavery in all newly admitted states. However, the latter suggestion was accepted only in connection with the Northwest Territory. From 1779 to 1781, Jefferson was governor of Virginia, from 1785 to 1789, US minister in Paris, and from 1790 to 1793, secretary of state in G. Washington’s first administration. He welcomed the Great French Revolution, but he considered it expedient for the USA not to participate in the military struggles in Europe.
Jefferson was an outstanding representative of the left revolutionary wing of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Expressing the interests of farmers and the petite bourgeoisie, he criticized the American Revolution for its incompleteness and pointed to the necessity for a democratic solution of the agrarian question, the abolition of slavery, and the granting of political rights to all the people. He considered the Constitution of 1787 insufficiently democratic and argued that it required a supplementary bill of rights. Jefferson carried on a long polemic with the leader of the Federalist Party, A. Hamilton, who represented the interests of the powerful bourgeoisie of the Northeast. Jefferson considered private property a natural right of man and saw in it the basis of the harmony of interests of society, influenced by the Physiocrats, he exaggerated the role of agriculture, considering it the main source of social wealth. Later, he recognized the necessity for the development of American industry and supported a strict equilibrium between agriculture, industry, trade, and banks. He advocated a democratic solution of the agrarian question.
Jefferson’s disagreement with the policies of Washington’s administration forced him to retire from office. He led the opposition Democratic-Republicans, and his democratic slogans were supported by the people. In 1796, Jefferson was elected vice-president, and from 1801 to 1809 he was presi-dent of the USA. As president, Jefferson pursued a moderate policy of compromise among the various strata of society. During his presidency many reactionary laws that had been adopted during the presidency of his predecessor, J. Adams, were abolished, and the army, navy, and government bureaucracy were reduced. In foreign affairs, Jefferson’s presidency was distinguished by the acquisition of French Louisiana in 1803 and the establishment of diplomatic relations with Russia in 1808-09. In 1807 he declared an embargo that prohibited the export of all goods from the USA, in the hope that this would cause difficulties for Great Britain and France, which had been seizing American merchant vessels. However, the embargo hurt primarily the economy of the USA, and it was lifted in 1809.
After he left the presidency, Jefferson retired from political life. Progressive forces in the USA draw on the best Jeffersonian traditions in the struggle for peace and democracy.
WORKSPapers, vols. 1-17. Edited by J. P. Boyd. Princeton, N.J., 1950-65. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vols. 1-20. Washington, D. C., 1903-04.
REFERENCESMarx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 16, p. 17.
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Ocherki novoi i noveishei istorii SShA, vol. 1. Moscow, 1960.
Zakharova, M. N. “O genezise idei T. Dzheffersona.” Voprosi istorii, 1948, no. 3.
Al’ter, L. B. Burzhuaznaia politicheskaia ekonomiia SShA. Moscow, 1971. Pages 64-70.
Parrington, V. Osnovnye techeniia amerikanskoi mysli, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English.)
Kimball, M. Jefferson. [Series 1-3.] New York [1943-50].
Cunningham, N. E. Jeffersonian Republicans.… Oxford, 1958.
Peterson, M. D. The Jefferson Image in the American Mind. New York, 1960.
Malone, V.Jefferson and His Time, vols. 1-3. Boston, 1948-62.
A. A. FURSENKO