Thomas Jefferson: Great American

November 2, 2003

A.P. U.S. History

5th Hour

As the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson\'s accomplishments and leadership ability virtually changed the course of history. While Jefferson is best known for his political career, his talents didn’t end there. His interests were boundless, he was a philosopher, educator, naturalist, scientist, inventor, pioneer in scientific farming, musician, and writer, and he was the a one of the leading spokesmen for democracy of his day. Thomas Jefferson is considered a true renaissance man because of his wide range of talents and interests. He had changed the lives of people all around the world for generations after his death. His most significant contributions to the world have been through his architecture, his writing, and his political aspirations.

Thomas Jefferson was one of the most influential architects in American History. Among some of his greatest designs was his private plantation in Virginia, Monticello. He based the design of the house on drawings by 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio but constantly modified the house as he learned more about architecture. Another building Jefferson is credited for designing was the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. He based his design upon an ancient Roman building in southern France, the Maison Carrée in Nîmes. Thomas Jefferson also drew the architectural plans for the University of Virginia, including the Rotunda, which is based upon the Pantheon in Rome. Jefferson\'s neoclassical style influenced the architecture of other public buildings in the United States. However, architecture was not Jefferson’s only talent, he was also a very influential writer.

A slave owner until the day he died, Thomas Jefferson expressed his views on slavery in his only book, Notes on the State of Virginia, (1785). The book began as a response to questions put to the distinguished statesman by a French diplomat concerning a wide range of issues about America. Thomas Jefferson also wrote most of the text of the Declaration of Independence. Many of the ideas in the document reflected Jefferson\'s interest in the political philosophy of John Locke as well as other Enlightenment thinkers. Along with the Declaration of Independence Jefferson secretly drafted what were to be called the Kentucky Resolutions, in which he declared that the federal government was not "the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself." It, and the Virginia Resolution, were the first documents of the principle of nullification. Jefferson was also the principal founder of the Library of Congress. His personal library provided the core of the library’s early collection. Jefferson’s vast range of interests also determined the universal and diverse scope of the library’s collections and activities.

While Thomas Jefferson was very skilled in the arts of writing and architecture we must not forget his very esteemed political career. During the revolution Jefferson served as a delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses, served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence. After the end of the Revolutionary war he became a delegate to the Virginia General Assembly, was elected Governor of Virginia, and acted as American minister to France. He also Served as secretary of state under George Washington, and vice president under John Adams. However, Jefferson’s most political influence was serving as President of the United States. During his reign in office, Jefferson doubled the size of the United States, funded the exploration of the new territory, won a war in North Africa, and repealed the much hated whiskey tariff.

Thomas Jefferson is one of only a few men who can have their immense defeats and hypocritical view points almost completely overlooked. Jefferson has changed the lives of so many people through his political career and his writings. He is also considered one of the most skilled architects the United States has ever produced. Thomas Jefferson was a true renaissance man and a great American.