THOMAS JEFFERSON

1743-1826, intellectual, statesman, and third president of the United
States. Although Jefferson served as governor of Virginia, minister to
France, secretary of state, vice president, and president, he is
remembered in history less for the offices he held than for what he
stood for: his belief in the natural rights of man as he expressed them in
the Declaration of Independence and his faith in the people\'s ability to
govern themselves. He left an impact on his times equaled by few
others in American history. Introduced to the ideas of the
Enlightenment as a student at the College of William and Mary,
Jefferson displayed throughout his life an optimistic faith in the power
of reason to regulate human affairs.

As a young member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, Jefferson
questioned British colonial policies and was an early advocate of
American rights. His forceful pamphlet A Summary View of the
Rights of British America (1774) gained him the reputation that
placed him on the committee of the Continental Congress charged with
drafting the Declaration of Independence. As its principal author,
Jefferson gave eloquent expression to the principles of the natural rights
of man, among which, he affirmed, was self-government.

Jefferson\'s intellectual prowess led some political opponents to dismiss
him as a visionary, but he was remarkably successful in politics. As
leader of the opposition to the Federalist policies of Alexander
Hamilton and John Adams, Jefferson was put forward by his
supporters to run against Adams in the election of 1796 to succeed
George Washington as president. He lost that contest but four years
later defeated Adams to preside over the first transfer of political
power from one party to another in the history of the young Republic.
In his inaugural address in 1801, he set the ship of state on a
republican course based on faith in majority rule, simplicity and
frugality in government, limited central authority, and protection of civil
liberties and minority rights. Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting America five
years after Jefferson\'s death, declared Jefferson to be "the greatest
democrat whom the democracy of America has as yet produced."

On the eve of his inauguration as vice president in 1797, Jefferson had
been elected president of the American Philosophical Society, a post
he retained until 1815. In many ways he found more pleasure in
holding that office than in being president of the United States. A
boundless intellectual curiosity fueled his interests in science and natural
history, the classics, music, and the arts. He once reflected: "Nature
intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my
supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in which I have lived
have forced me to take a part in resisting them, and to commit myself
on the boisterous ocean of political passions."

Jefferson translated his intellectual pursuits into action. His study of
natural law and political thought informed his commitment to republican
government. His devotion to science inspired numerous agricultural
pursuits. His interest in architecture and the arts was manifest in the
design of his home at Monticello. His concern about education led to
proposals for public education in his state and to the founding of the
University of Virginia, for which he was champion, architect, and
academic planner.

The most versatile intellectual to occupy the presidential office,
Jefferson was a complex man. He opposed an aristocracy and slavery,
yet he enjoyed a life of privilege and owned slaves, optimistically
hoping that the next generation would end that violation of natural law.

Jefferson\'s sense of priorities was strikingly revealed when he
instructed that his tombstone be inscribed only with the words that he
was the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of
Virginia for Religious Freedom, and the father of the University of
Virginia.

Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., In Pursuit of Reason: The
Life of Thomas Jefferson (1987); Merrill D.
Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation: A
Biography (1970).



Jefferson Memorial

Monument in Washington, D.C., honoring Thomas Jefferson.
Dedicated in 1943, the domed white marble structure was designed by
the American neoclassical architect John Russell Pope; it houses a
19-ft (5.8-m) statue of Jefferson by Rudulph Evans.

Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., In Pursuit of Reason: The
Life of Thomas Jefferson (1987); Merrill D.
Peterson,