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Participation In The Gospel from Disciples Church Springfield on Vimeo.


The Charge Of The Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Memorializing Events in the Battle of Balaclava, October 25, 1854
Written 1854

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter’d & sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

– See more at: http://www.nationalcenter.org/ChargeoftheLightBrigade.html#sthash.nWN1xqiO.dpuf

Lee Resolution

The Lee Resolution, also known as the Resolution of Independence, was a three–part resolve by the Second Continental Congress on June 7, 1776, to declare theUnited Colonies rightfully independent of the British Empire, to establish a plan for ensuing American foreign relations, and to establish a plan of a confederation to unite them officially. The resolution is named for Richard Henry Lee of Virginiawho proposed it to Congress, after receiving instructions from the Virginia Convention and its President, Edmund Pendleton. Some sources indicate Lee used, almost verbatim, the language from the instructions in his resolution. Voting on the first part of the resolution was delayed for several weeks while state support and legislative instruction for independence were consolidated, but the press of events indicated the other less-discussed parts should immediately proceed. On June 11 Congress decided to establish three committees to develop the resolution’s parts, and appointed a Committee of Five (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston) to prepare a document to explain the reasons for independence. The following day, another committee of five (John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Benjamin Harrison V, and Robert Morris) was appointed to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers, and the third committee of thirteen members was appointed from each colony to prepare a draft of a constitution for confederation of the states.

The independence portion of the resolution was the first approved by Congress, on July 2, 1776. News of its adoption was published that evening in thePennsylvania Evening Post and the next day in the Pennsylvania Gazette. The text of the document formally announcing this action, the United States Declaration of Independence, was approved on July 4th, 1776 which is celebrated as Independence Day. However, the document wasn’t signed by all delegates of the United States until August 2nd.

The committee drafting a plan of confederation, chaired by John Dickinson, presented their initial results to Congress on July 12, 1776. Long debates would follow on such issues as sovereignty, the exact powers to be given the confederate government, whether to have a judiciary, and voting procedures.[1]The final draft of the Articles of Confederation were prepared during the summer of 1777 and approved by Congress for ratification by the individual states on November 15, 1777, after a year of debate.[2] Although in use from that time, it would be almost four years before final ratification by all states, on March 1, 1781.

The committee appointed to prepare a plan of treaties made its first report on July 18, largely in the writing of John Adams; while prompt action was planned, it was delayed, and a limited printing of the document was authorized. Over the next five weeks it would be reviewed and amended by Congress. On August 27, the amended plan of treaties was referred back to the committee to develop instructions pursuant to the amendments, and two additional members (Richard Henry Lee and James Wilson) were added to the committee; two days later the committee was empowered to prepare further instructions as deemed proper, and report back to Congress. The formal version of the plan of treaties was adopted on September 17. On September 24, Congress approved negotiating instructions for commissioners to obtain a treaty with France, based on the template provided in the plan of treaties; the next day Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Thomas Jefferson were elected commissioners to the court of France.[3]Alliance with France was considered vital if the war with England was to be won and the newly declared country was to survive.


Towards independence

When the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, few colonists in British North America openly advocated independence from Great Britain. Support for independence grew steadily in 1776, especially after the publication of Thomas Paine‘s pamphlet Common Sense in January of that year. In the Second Continental Congress, the movement towards independence was guided principally by an informal alliance of delegates eventually known as the “Adams-Lee Junto”, after Samuel Adams and John Adams of Massachusetts and Richard Henry Lee ofVirginia.

On May 15, 1776, the revolutionary Virginia Convention, then meeting in Williamsburg, passed a resolution instructing Virginia’s delegates in the Continental Congress “to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent States, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the Crown or Parliament of Great Britain”.[4] In accordance with those instructions, on June 7, Richard Henry Lee proposed the resolution to Congress and it was seconded by John Adams.

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of 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.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

Congress as a whole was not yet ready to declare independence at that moment, because the delegates from some of the colonies, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, had not yet been authorized to vote for independence.[5] Voting on the first clause of Lee’s resolution was therefore postponed for three weeks while advocates of independence worked to build support in the colonial governments for the resolution.[6] Meanwhile, a Committee of Five was appointed to prepare a formal declaration so that it would be ready when independence, which almost everyone recognized was now inevitable, was approved. The committee prepared a declaration of independence, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, and presented it to Congress on June 28, 1776.


Approval and declaration

The declaration was set aside while the resolution of independence was debated for several days. The vote on the independence section of the Lee resolution had been postponed until Monday, July 1st, when it was taken up by the Committee of the Whole. At the request of South Carolina, the resolution was not acted upon until the following day in the hope of securing unanimity. A trial vote had been tested on the 1st where it was found that South Carolina and Pennsylvania were in the negative, with Delaware split in a tie between its two delegates. The vote was held on July 2nd, with critical changes happening between Monday and Tuesday. Edward Rutledge was able to persuade South Carolina delegates to vote yea, two Pennsylvania delegates were persuaded to be absent, and Caesar Rodney had been sent for through the night to break Delaware’s tie.[7] So Lee’s resolution of independence was approved by twelve of the thirteen colonies. Delegates from New York still lacked instructions to vote for independence, and so they abstained on this vote, although on July 9 the New York Provincial Congress would vote to “join with the other colonies in supporting” independence.[8]

Although it would shortly be outshone by the much more famous declaration, the Lee Resolution’s passage was contemporaneously reported as the colonies’ definitive declaration of independence from Great Britain. The evening of July 2, the Pennsylvania Evening Post reported:


The Pennsylvania Gazette followed suit the next day with its own brief report:

Yesterday, the



After passing the resolution of independence on July 2, Congress turned its attention to the text of the declaration. Over several days of debate, Congress made a number of alterations to the text, including adding the wording of Lee’s resolution of independence to the conclusion. The final text of the declaration was approved by Congress on July 4 and sent off to be printed.

John Adams wrote his wife Abigail on July 3 about the resolution of independence:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.[11]

Adams’s prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated Independence Day on July 4, the date the much-publicized Declaration of Independence was approved, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was adopted.

As noted above, the two latter parts of the Lee Resolution were not passed until months later. The second part regarding the formation of foreign alliances was approved in September 1776, and the third part regarding a plan of confederation was approved in November 1777, but finally ratified in 1781.

Congressional journal entries[edit]

The following are entries relating to the resolution of independence and the Declaration of Independence in theJournals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, from American Memory, published by the Library of Congress:

  • Friday, June 7, “certain resolutions respecting independency” are moved and seconded; discussion set for Saturday
  • Saturday, June 8, Congress considers the resolutions but postpones a decision
  • Monday, June 10, Congress postpones the first part of Lee’s resolution for three weeks, but appoints “a committee to prepare a declaration to the effect of the said first resolution”.
  • Tuesday, June 11, Congress establishes three committees to pursue the three part resolution, and names five members of the first “to prepare the declaration”.
  • Wednesday, June 12, Congress appointments members of the other two committees. One of 13 members to “prepare and digest the form of a confederation”, and the other of five members to “prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers”.
  • Friday, June 28, the committee reports its draft of the declaration, which is ordered “To lie on the table.”
  • Monday, July 1, Congress begins “to take into consideration the resolution respecting independency”
  • Tuesday, July 2, Congress agrees to the resolution, begins to consider the declaration
  • Wednesday, July 3, further consideration of the declaration
  • Thursday, July 4, the Declaration of Independence is approved. The text of the Declaration on this day’s entry of the published Journal, as well as the list of signatures, is copied from the engrossed version of the Declaration.
  • Friday, July 12, The committee appointed to prepare articles of confederation delivered their draft, which was read.
  • Monday, July 15, Congress learns that New York now supports independence
  • Thursday, July 18, The committee appointed to prepare a plan of treaties to be entered into with foreign states or kingdoms delivered their draft, which was read.
  • Friday, July 19, Congress orders that the Declaration “be fairly engrossed on parchment”
  • Friday, August 2, the Declaration of Independence is signed by members of Congress
  • Tuesday, August 27, The amended plan of treaties was referred back to the committee to develop instructions regarding the amendments made by Congress. The committee size was increased by two members.
  • Thursday, August 29, the committee for the plan of treaties was empowered to prepare further appropriate instructions, and report back to Congress.
  • Tuesday, September 17, Congress discussed the amended plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign nations, and [secretly] passed the plan of a treaty be proposed to His Most Christian Majesty.
  • Tuesday, September 24, Congress resumed consideration of the instructions to the agent [commissioner] regarding the pursuit of the plan of treaty with France, debated it by paragraph, amended it, and approved it.
  • Thursday, September 26, 1776 Congress elects three commissioners to the court of France, Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Thomas Jefferson. They also resolve “That secresy shall be observed until the farther Order of Congress; and that until permission be obtained from Congress to disclose the particulars of this business, no member be permitted to say any thing more upon this subject, than that Congress have taken such steps as they judged necessary for the purpose of obtaining foreign Alliance.”
  • Saturday, November 15, 1777, Congress approves the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union for ratification by the individual States.


  1. Jensen, Merrill (1959). The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774–1781. University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 127–84. ISBN 978-0-299-00204-6.
  2. Jump up^ Schwarz, Frederic D. (February–March 2006). “225 Years Ago”. American Heritage.
  3. Jump up^ Milestones: 1776-1783: The Model Treaty, 1776, Department of State, Office of the Historian. from archive.org
  4. Jump up^ Boyd, Evolution of the Text, 18; Maier, American Scripture, 63. For text of the May 15 Virginia resolution, seeYale.edu.
  5. Jump up^ Maier, American Scripture, 42.
  6. Jump up^ Maier, American Scripture, 43.
  7. Jump up^ History of Delaware : 1609-1888: General history, by John Thomas Scharf
  8. Jump up^ Burnett, Continental Congress, 191.
  9. Jump up^ Pennsylvania Evening Post, July 2, 1776
  10. Jump up^ Pennsylvania Gazette, July 3, 1776
  11. Jump up^ Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, “Had a Declaration…” [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. Masshist.org, Butterfield, L.H., ed. Adams Family Correspondence. Vol. 2. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1963.


  • Boyd, Julian P. The Declaration of Independence: The Evolution of the Text. Originally published 1945. Revised edition edited by Gerard W. Gawalt. University Press of New England, 1999. ISBN 0-8444-0980-4.
  • Burnett, Edward Cody. The Continental Congress. New York: Norton, 1941.
  • Hogeland, William. Declaration: The Nine Tumultuous Weeks When America Became Independent, May 1-July 4, 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. ISBN 1-4165-8409-9; ISBN 978-1-4165-8409-4.
  • Maier, Pauline. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Knopf, 1997. ISBN 0-679-45492-6.

External links



Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (April 13 [O.S. April 2] 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American Founding Father who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third President of the United Statesfrom 1801 to 1809. Previously, he was elected the second Vice President of the United States, serving under John Adams from 1797 to 1801. A proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights motivating American colonists to break from Great Britain and form a new nation, he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.

Jefferson was primarily of English ancestry, born and educated in colonial Virginia. He graduated from the College of William & Mary and briefly practiced law, at times defending slaves seeking their freedom. During theAmerican Revolution, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congressthat adopted the Declaration, drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, and served as a wartime governor (1779–1781). He became the United States Minister to France in May 1785, and subsequently the nation’s first Secretary of State in 1790–1793 under President George Washington. Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of theFirst Party System. With Madison, he anonymously wrote the controversialKentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798–1799, which sought to emboldenstates’ rights in opposition to the national government by nullifying the Alien and Sedition Acts.

As President, Jefferson pursued the nation’s shipping and trade interests against Barbary pirates and aggressive British trade policies. He also organized the Louisiana Purchase, almost doubling the country’s territory. As a result of peace negotiations with France, his administration reduced military forces. He was reelected in 1804. Jefferson’s second term was beset with difficulties at home, including the trial of former Vice PresidentAaron Burr. American foreign trade was diminished when Jefferson implemented the Embargo Act of 1807, responding to British threats to U.S. shipping. In 1803, Jefferson began a controversial process of Indian tribe removal to the newly organized Louisiana Territory, and he signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves in 1807.

Jefferson mastered many disciplines, which ranged from surveying and mathematics to horticulture and mechanics. He was a proven architect in the classical tradition. Jefferson’s keen interest in religion and philosophy earned him the presidency of the American Philosophical Society. He shunned organized religion, but was influenced by both Christianity and deism. He was well versed in linguistics and spoke several languages. He founded the University of Virginia after retiring from public office. He was a prolific letter writer and corresponded with many prominent and important people throughout his adult life. His only full-length book is Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), considered the most important American book published before 1800.

Jefferson owned several plantations which were worked by hundreds of slaves. Most historians now believe that, after the death of his wife in 1782, he had a relationship with his slave Sally Hemings and fathered at least one of her children. Historians have lauded Jefferson’s public life, noting his primary authorship of the Declaration of Independence during theRevolutionary War, his advocacy of religious freedom and tolerance in Virginia, and the Louisiana Purchase while he was president. Various modern scholars are more critical of Jefferson’s private life, pointing out the discrepancy between his ownership of slaves and his liberal political principles, for example. Presidential scholars, however, consistently rank Jefferson among the greatest presidents.

Early life and career

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 (April 2, 1743 Old Style, Julian calendar), at the family home inShadwell in the Colony of Virginia, the third of ten children.[1] He was of English and possibly Welsh descent and was born a British subject.[2] His father Peter Jefferson was a planter and surveyor who died when Jefferson was fourteen; his mother was Jane Randolph.[a] Peter Jefferson moved his family to Tuckahoe Plantation in 1745 upon the death of a friend who had named him guardian of his children. The Jeffersons returned to Shadwell in 1752, where Peter died in 1757; his estate was divided between his sons Thomas and Randolph.[4] Thomas inherited approximately 5,000 acres (2,000 ha; 7.8 sq mi) of land, including Monticello. He assumed full authority over his property at age 21.[5]


A university building

Wren Building (rear), College of William & Mary where Jefferson studied

Jefferson began his childhood education beside the Randolph children with tutors at Tuckahoe.[6] In 1752, he began attending a local school run by a Scottish Presbyterian minister. At age nine, he started studying the natural world as well as three languages: Latin, Greek, and French. By this time he also learned to ride horses. He was taught from 1758 to 1760 by Reverend James Maury nearGordonsville, Virginia, where he studied history, science, and the classics while boarding with Maury’s family.[7]

Jefferson entered the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, at age 16 and studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under ProfessorWilliam Small. Small introduced him to the British Empiricists including John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton. Jefferson improved his French and Greek and his skill at the violin. He graduated two years after starting in 1762. He read the law under Professor George Wythe‘s tutelage to obtain his law license, while working as a law clerkin Wythe’s office.[8] He also read a wide variety of English classics and political works.[9]

Jefferson treasured his books. In 1770, his Shadwell home was destroyed by fire, including a library of 200 volumes inherited from his father.[10] Nevertheless, he had replenished his library with 1,250 titles by 1773, and his collection grew to almost 6,500 volumes in 1814.[11] The British burned the Library of Congress that year, and he sold more than 6,000 books to the Library for $23,950. He had intended to pay off some of his large debt, but he resumed collecting for his personal library, writing to John Adams, “I cannot live without books”.[12]

Lawyer and House of Burgesses

Chamber of House of Burgesses

House of Burgesses in Williamsburg, Virginia, where Jefferson served 1769–1775

Jefferson was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767 and then lived with his mother at Shadwell.[13] In addition to practicing law, Jefferson represented Albemarle County as a delegate in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1769 until 1775.[14]He pursued reforms to slavery. He introduced legislation in 1769 allowing masters to take control over the emancipation of slaves, taking discretion away from the royal Governor and General Court. He persuaded his cousin Richard Bland to spearhead the legislation’s passage, but reaction was strongly negative.[15]

Jefferson took seven cases for freedom-seeking slaves[16] and waived his fee for one client, who claimed that he should be freed before the statutory age of thirty-one required for emancipation in cases with inter-racial grandparents.[17] He invoked Natural Law to argue, “everyone comes into the world with a right to his own person and using it at his own will … This is what is called personal liberty, and is given him by the author of nature, because it is necessary for his own sustenance.” The judge cut him off and ruled against his client. As a consolation, Jefferson gave his client some money, conceivably used to aid his escape shortly thereafter.[17] He later incorporated this sentiment into the Declaration of Independence.[18] He also took on 68 cases for the General Court of Virginia in 1767, in addition to three notable cases: Howell v. Netherland (1770), Bolling v. Bolling(1771), and Blair v. Blair (1772).[19]

The British Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts in 1774, and Jefferson wrote a resolution calling for a “Day of Fasting and Prayer” in protest, as well as a boycott of all British goods. His resolution was later expanded into A Summary View of the Rights of British America, in which he argued that people have the right to govern themselves.[20]

Monticello, marriage and family

Monticello plantation house

Jefferson’s home Monticello

In 1768, Jefferson began constructing his primary residence Monticello (Italian for “Little Mountain”) on a hilltop overlooking his 5,000-acre plantation.[b]Construction was done mostly by local masons and carpenters, assisted by Jefferson’s slaves.[22]

He moved into the South Pavilion in 1770. Turning Monticello into a neoclassical masterpiece in the Palladian style was his perennial project.[23]

On January 1, 1772, Jefferson married his third cousin Martha Wayles Skelton, the 23-year-old widow of Bathurst Skelton, and she moved into the South Pavilion.[24][25] She was a frequent hostess for Jefferson and managed the large household. Biographer Dumas Malone described the marriage as the happiest period of Jefferson’s life.[26] Martha read widely, did fine needlework, and was a skilled pianist; Jefferson often accompanied her on the violin or cello.[27] During their ten years of marriage, Martha bore six children: Martha “Patsy” (1772–1836); Jane (1774–1775); a son who lived for only a few weeks in 1777; Mary Wayles “Polly” (1778–1804); Lucy Elizabeth (1780–1781); and another Lucy Elizabeth (1782–1785). Only Martha and Mary survived more than a few years.[28]

Martha’s father John Wayles died in 1773, and the couple inherited 135 slaves, 11,000 acres (4,500 ha; 17 sq mi), and the estate’s debts. The debts took Jefferson years to satisfy, contributing to his financial problems.[24]

Martha later suffered from ill health, including diabetes, and frequent childbirth further weakened her. Her mother had died young, and Martha lived with two stepmothers as a girl. A few months after the birth of her last child, she died on September 6, 1782, at the age of 33 with Jefferson at her bedside. Shortly before her death, Martha made Jefferson promise never to marry again, telling him that she could not bear to have another mother raise her children.[29] Jefferson was grief-stricken by her death, relentlessly pacing back and forth, nearly to the point of exhaustion. He emerged after three weeks, taking long rambling rides on secluded roads with his daughter Martha, by her description “a solitary witness to many a violent burst of grief”.[28][30]

After working as Secretary of State (1790–93), he returned to Monticello and initiated a remodeling based on the architectural concepts which he had acquired in Europe. The work continued throughout most of his presidency, being finished in 1809.[31][32]

Political career 1775–1800

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

U.S. Declaration of Independence – 1823 facsimile of the engrossed copy

Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. At age 33, he was one of the youngest delegates to the Second Continental Congressbeginning in 1775 at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, where a formal declaration of independence from Britain was overwhelmingly favored.[33]Jefferson chose his words for the Declaration in June 1775, shortly after the war had begun, where the idea of Independence from Britain had long since become popular among the colonies. He was inspired by the Enlightenment ideals of the sanctity of the individual, as well as by the writings of Locke and Montesquieu.[34]

He sought out John Adams, an emerging leader of the Congress.[35] They became close friends and Adams supported Jefferson’s appointment to the Committee of Five formed to draft a declaration of independence in furtherance of the Lee Resolution passed by the Congress, which declared the United Colonies independent. The committee initially thought that Adams should write the document, but Adams persuaded the committee to choose Jefferson.[c]

Jefferson consulted with other committee members over the next seventeen days, and drew on his own proposed draft of the Virginia Constitution, George Mason‘s draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and other sources.[37]The other committee members made some changes, and a final draft was presented to the Congress on June 28, 1776.[38]

The declaration was introduced on Friday, June 28, and congress began debate over its contents on Monday, July 1,[38] resulting in the omission of a fourth of the text, including a passage critical of King George III and the slave trade.[39] Jefferson resented the changes, but he did not speak publicly about the revisions.[d] On July 4, 1776, the Congress ratified the Declaration, and delegates signed it on August 2; in doing so, they were committing an act of treason against the Crown.[41] Jefferson’s preamble is regarded as an enduring statement of human rights, and the phrase “all men are created equal” has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language” containing “the most potent and consequential words in American history”.[39][42]

Virginia state legislator and governor

Governor's Palace

Governor’s Palace, Governor Jefferson’s residence in Williamsburg

At the start of the Revolution, Jefferson was a Colonel and was named commander of the Albemarle County Militia on September 26, 1775.[43]He was then elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for Albemarle County in September 1776, when finalizing a state constitution was a priority.[44][45] For nearly three years, he assisted with the constitution and was especially proud of his Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, which forbade state support of religious institutions or enforcement of religious doctrine.[46] The bill failed to pass, as did his legislation to disestablish the Anglican church, but both were later revived by James Madison.[47]

In 1778, Jefferson was given the task of revising the state’s laws. He drafted 126 bills in three years, including laws to streamline the judicial system. Jefferson’s proposed statutes provided for general education, which he considered the basis of “republican government”.[44] He had become alarmed that Virginia’s powerful landed gentry were becoming a hereditary aristocracy. He took the lead in abolishing what he called “feudal and unnatural distinctions.” He targeted laws such as entail and primogeniture by which the oldest son inherited all the land. The entail laws made it perpetual: the one who inherited the land could not sell it, but had to bequeath it to his oldest son. As a result, increasingly large plantations, worked by white tenant farmers and by black slaves, gained in size and wealth and political power in the eastern (“Tidewater”) tobacco areas.[48] During the Revolutionary era, all such laws were repealed by the states that had them.[49]

Jefferson was elected governor for one-year terms in 1779 and 1780.[50] He transferred the state capital from Williamsburg to Richmond, and introduced measures for public education, religious freedom, and revision of inheritance laws.[51]

During General Benedict Arnold‘s 1781 invasion of Virginia, Jefferson escaped Richmond just ahead of the British forces, and the city was burned to the ground.[52][53] General Charles Cornwallis that spring dispatched a cavalry force led by Banastre Tarleton to capture Jefferson and members of the Assembly at Monticello, but Jack Jouettof the Virginia militia thwarted the British plan. Jefferson escaped to Poplar Forest, his plantation to the west.[54]When the General Assembly reconvened in June 1781, it conducted an inquiry into Jefferson’s actions which eventually concluded that Jefferson had acted with honor—but he was not re-elected.[55]

In April of the same year, his daughter Lucy died at age one. A second daughter of that name was born the following year, but she died at age three.[56]

Notes on the State of Virginia

Jefferson received a letter of inquiry in 1780 about the geography, history, and government of Virginia from French diplomat François Barbé-Marbois, who was gathering data on the United States. Jefferson included his written responses in a book, Notes on the State of Virginia (1785).[57] He compiled the book over five years, including reviews of scientific knowledge, Virginia’s history, politics, laws, culture, and geography.[58] The book explores what constitutes a good society, using Virginia as an exemplar. Jefferson included extensive data about the state’s natural resources and economy, and wrote at length about slavery, miscegenation, and his belief that blacks and whites could not live together as free people in one society because of justified resentments of the enslaved.[59] He also wrote of his views on the American Indian and considered them as equals in body and mind to European settlers.[60][61]

Notes was first published in 1785 in French and appeared in English in 1787.[62] Biographer George Tuckerconsidered the work “surprising in the extent of the information which a single individual had been thus able to acquire, as to the physical features of the state”,[63] and Merrill D. Peterson described it as an accomplishment for which all Americans should be grateful.[64]

Member of Congress

Legislative chamber

Independence Hall Assembly Room where Jefferson served in Congress

The United States formed a Congress of the Confederation following victory in the Revolutionary War and a peace treaty with Great Britain in 1783, to which Jefferson was appointed as a Virginia delegate. He was a member of the committee setting foreign exchange rates and recommended an American currency based on the decimal system which was adopted.[65] He advised formation of the Committee of the States to fill the power vacuum when Congress was in recess.[66] The Committee met when Congress adjourned, but disagreements rendered it dysfunctional.[67]

In the Congress’s 1783–84 session, Jefferson acted as chairman of committees to establish a viable system of government for the new Republic and to propose a policy for the settlement of the western territories. Jefferson was the principal author of the Land Ordinance of 1784, whereby Virginia ceded to the national government the vast area that it claimed northwest of the Ohio River. He insisted that this territory should not be used as colonial territory by any of the thirteen states, but that it should be divided into sections which could become states. He plotted borders for nine new states in their initial stages and wrote an ordinance banning slavery in all the nation’s territories. Congress made extensive revisions, including rejection of the ban on slavery.[68][69] The provisions banning slavery were known later as the “Jefferson Proviso;” they were modified and implemented three years later in theNorthwest Ordinance of 1787 and became the law for the entire Northwest.[68]

Minister to France

Young Thomas Jefferson

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson while in London in 1786 byMather Brown

Jefferson was sent by the Congress of the Confederation[e] to join Benjamin Franklin and John Adams as ministers in Europe for negotiation of trade agreements with England, Spain, and France. Some believed that the recently widowed Jefferson was depressed and that the assignment would distract him from his wife’s death.[70] With his young daughter Patsy and two servants, he departed in July 1784, arriving in Paris the next month.[71][72] French foreign minister Count de Vergennes commented, “You replace Monsieur Franklin, I hear.” Jefferson replied, “I succeed. No man can replace him.”[73] Franklin resigned as minister in March 1785 and departed in July.[74]

Jefferson had Patsy educated at the Pentemont Abbey. In 1786, he met and fell in love with Maria Cosway, an accomplished—and married—Italian-English musician of 27. They saw each other frequently over a period of six weeks. She returned to Great Britain, but they maintained a lifelong correspondence.[75]

Jefferson sent for his youngest surviving child, nine-year-old Polly, in June 1787. He brought some of his slaves, including James Hemings whom he had trained in French cuisine and his younger sister Sally Hemings.[76] She lived in the Jefferson household in Paris for about two years. According to her son Madison Hemings, Sally and Jefferson began a sexual relationship in Paris and she became pregnant.[77] She was about 16 at the time. According to this story, she agreed to return to the United States as his concubine after he promised to free her children when they came of age.[77]

While in France, he became a regular companion of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French hero of the American Revolutionary War, and Jefferson used his influence to procure trade agreements with France.[78][79] As theFrench Revolution began, Jefferson allowed his Paris residence, the Hôtel de Langeac, to be used for meetings by Lafayette and other republicans. He was in Paris during the storming of the Bastille[80] and consulted with Lafayette while the latter drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.[81] Jefferson often found his mail opened by postmasters, so he invented his own enciphering device, the “Wheel Cipher“; he wrote important communications in code for the rest of his career.[82][f] Jefferson left Paris in September 1789, intending to return soon; however, President George Washington appointed him the country’s first Secretary of State, forcing him to remain.[83] Jefferson remained a firm supporter of the French Revolution, while opposing its more violent elements.[84]

Secretary of State

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson in 1791 at 49 by Charles Willson Peale

Soon after returning from France, Jefferson accepted Washington’s invitation to serve as Secretary of State.[85] Jefferson had initially expected to return to France, but Washington insisted that he be on his new Cabinet.[86] Pressing issues at this time were the national debt and the permanent location of the capital. Jefferson opposed a national debt, preferring that each state retire its own, in contrast toSecretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who desired consolidation of various states’ debts by the federal government.[87] Hamilton also had bold plans to establish the national credit and a national bank, but Jefferson strenuously opposed this and attempted to undermine his agenda, which nearly led Washington to dismiss him from his cabinet. Jefferson later left the cabinet voluntarily; Washington never forgave him, and never spoke to him again.[88]

The second major issue was the capital’s permanent location. Hamilton favored a capital close to the major commercial centers of the Northeast, while Washington, Jefferson, and other agrarians wanted it located to the south.[89] After lengthy deadlock, the Compromise of 1790 was struck, permanently locating the capital on the Potomac River, and the federal government assumed the war debts of all thirteen states.[89]

In the Spring of 1791, Jefferson and Congressman James Madison took a vacation to Vermont. Jefferson had been suffering from migraines and he was tired of Hamilton in-fighting.[86] In May 1792, Jefferson was alarmed at the political rivalries taking shape; he wrote to Washington, urging him to run for re-election that year as a unifying influence.[90] He urged the president to rally the citizenry to a party that would defend democracy against the corrupting influence of banks and monied interests, as espoused by the Federalists. Historians recognize this letter as the earliest delineation of Democratic-Republican Party principles.[91] Jefferson, Madison, and other Democratic-Republican organizers favored states’ rights and local control and opposed federal concentration of power, whereas Hamilton sought more power for the federal government.[92]

Jefferson supported France against Britain when the two nations fought in 1793, though his arguments in the Cabinet were undercut by French Revolutionary envoy Edmond-Charles Genêt‘s open scorn for President Washington.[93] In his discussions with British Minister George Hammond, Jefferson tried unsuccessfully to persuade the British to acknowledge their violation of the Treaty of Paris, to vacate their posts in the Northwest, and to compensate the U.S. for slaves whom the British had freed at the end of the war. Seeking a return to private life, Jefferson resigned the cabinet position in December 1793, perhaps to bolster his political influence from outside the administration.[94]

After the Washington administration negotiated the Jay Treaty with Great Britain (1794), Jefferson saw a cause around which to rally his party and organized a national opposition from Monticello.[95] The treaty, designed by Hamilton, aimed to reduce tensions and increase trade. Jefferson warned that it would increase British influence and subvert republicanism, calling it “the boldest act [Hamilton and Jay] ever ventured on to undermine the government”.[96] The Treaty passed, but it expired in 1805 during Jefferson’s administration and was not renewed. Jefferson continued his pro-French stance; during the violence of the Reign of Terror, he declined to disavow the revolution: “To back away from France would be to undermine the cause of republicanism in America.”[97]

Election of 1796 and Vice Presidency

Electoral College map

1796 Electoral College vote

In the presidential campaign of 1796, Jefferson lost the electoral college vote to Federalist John Adams by 71–68 and was elected vice president because of a mistake in voting for Adams’ running mate. As presiding officer of the Senate, he assumed a more passive role than his predecessor John Adams. He allowed the Senate to freely conduct debates and confined his participation to procedural issues, which he called an “honorable and easy” role.[98] Jefferson had previously studied parliamentary law and procedure for forty years, making him unusually well qualified to serve as presiding officer. In 1800, he published his assembled notes on Senate procedure as A Manual of Parliamentary Practice.[99]

Jefferson held four confidential talks with French consul Joseph Létombe in the spring of 1797 where he attacked Adams, predicting that his rival would serve only one term. He also encouraged France to invade England, and advised Létombe to stall any American envoys sent to Paris by instructing him to “listen to them and then drag out the negotiations at length and mollify them by the urbanity of the proceedings.”[100] This toughened the tone that the French government adopted toward the Adams administration. After Adams’ initial peace envoys were rebuffed, Jefferson and his supporters lobbied for the release of papers related to the incident, called the XYZ Affair after the letters used to disguise the identities of the French officials involved.[101] However, the tactic backfired when it was revealed that French officials had demanded bribes, rallying public support against France. The U.S. began an undeclared naval war with France known as the Quasi-War.[102]

During the Adams presidency, the Federalists rebuilt the military, levied new taxes, and enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts. Jefferson believed that these laws were intended to suppress Democratic-Republicans, rather than prosecute enemy aliens, and considered them unconstitutional.[103] To rally opposition, he and James Madison anonymously wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, declaring that the federal government had no right to exercise powers not specifically delegated to it by the states.[104] The resolutions followed the “interposition” approach of Madison, in which states may shield their citizens from federal laws that they deem unconstitutional. Jefferson advocated nullification, allowing states to invalidate federal laws altogether.[105][g] Jefferson warned that, “unless arrested at the threshold”, the Alien and Sedition Acts would “necessarily drive these states into revolution and blood”.[107]

Historian Ron Chernow claims that “the theoretical damage of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions was deep and lasting, and was a recipe for disunion”, contributing to the American Civil War as well as later events.[108]Washington was so appalled by the resolutions that he told Patrick Henry that, if “systematically and pertinaciously pursued”, the resolutions would “dissolve the union or produce coercion.”[109]

Jefferson and Madison moved to Philadelphia and founded the National Gazette in 1791, along with poet and writer Phillip Freneau, in an effort to counter Hamilton’s Federalist policies, which Hamilton was promoting through the influential Federalist newspaper the Gazette of the United States. The National Gazette made particular criticism of the policies promoted by Alexander Hamilton, often through anonymous essays signed by the pen name Brutus at Jefferson’s urging, which were actually written by Madison.[110]

Jefferson had always admired Washington’s leadership skills but felt that his Federalist party was leading the country in the wrong direction. Jefferson thought it wise not to attend his funeral in 1799 because of acute differences with Washington while serving as Secretary of State, and remained at Monticello.[111]

Election of 1800

Electoral College map

1800 Electoral College vote

In the 1800 presidential election, Jefferson contended once more against Federalist John Adams. Adams’ campaign was weakened by unpopular taxes and vicious Federalist infighting over his actions in the Quasi-War.[112] Republicans pointed to the Alien and Sedition Acts and accused the Federalists of being secret monarchists, while Federalists charged that Jefferson was a godless libertine in thrall to the French.[113] Historian Joyce Appleby said the election was “one of the most acrimonious in the annals of American history”.[114]

Republicans ultimately won more electoral college votes, but Jefferson and his vice presidential candidate Aaron Burr unexpectedly received an equal total. Due to the tie, the election was decided by the Federalist-dominated House of Representatives.[115][h] Hamilton lobbied Federalist representatives on Jefferson’s behalf, believing him a lesser political evil than Burr. On February 17, 1801, after thirty-six ballots, the House elected Jefferson president and Burr vice president.[116]

The win was marked by Republican celebrations throughout the country.[117] Some of Jefferson’s opponents argued that he owed his victory over Adams to the South’s inflated number of electors, due to counting slaves as partial population under the Three-Fifths Compromise.”[118] Others alleged that Jefferson secured James Asheton Bayard‘s tie-breaking electoral vote by guaranteeing the retention of various Federalist posts in the government.[116] Jefferson disputed the allegation, and the historical record is inconclusive.[119]

The transition proceeded smoothly, marking a watershed in American history. As historian Gordon S. Wood writes, “it was one of the first popular elections in modern history that resulted in the peaceful transfer of power from one ‘party’ to another.”[116]

Presidency (1801–1809)

The Jefferson Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Thomas Jefferson 1801–1809
Vice President Aaron Burr 1801–1805
George Clinton 1805–1809
Secretary of State James Madison 1801–1809
Secretary of Treasury Samuel Dexter 1801
Albert Gallatin 1801–1809
Secretary of War Henry Dearborn 1801–1809
Attorney General Levi Lincoln Sr. 1801–1804
John Breckinridge 1805–1806
Caesar A. Rodney 1807–1809
Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert 1801
Robert Smith 1801–1809

Jefferson was sworn in by Chief Justice John Marshall at the new Capitol in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1801. In contrast to his predecessors, Jefferson exhibited a dislike of formal etiquette; he arrived alone on horseback without escort, dressed plainly[120] and, after dismounting, retired his own horse to the nearby stable.[121] His inaugural address struck a note of reconciliation, declaring, “We have been called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”[122] Ideologically, Jefferson stressed “equal and exact justice to all men”, minority rights, and freedom of speech, religion, and press.[123] He said that a free and democratic government was “the strongest government on earth.”[123] He nominated moderate Republicans to his cabinet: James Madison as Secretary of State, Henry Dearborn as Secretary of War, Levi Lincoln as Attorney General, and Robert Smith as Secretary of the Navy.[124]

Upon assuming office, he first confronted an $83 million national debt.[125] He began dismantling Hamilton’s Federalist fiscal system with help from Secretary of Treasury Albert Gallatin.[124] Jefferson’s administration eliminated the whiskey excise and other taxes after closing “unnecessary offices” and cutting “useless establishments and expenses”.[126][127] They attempted to disassemble the national bank and its effect of increasing national debt, but were dissuaded by Gallatin.[128] Jefferson shrank the Navy, deeming it unnecessary in peacetime.[129] Instead, he incorporated a fleet of inexpensive gunboats used only for defense with the idea that they would not provoke foreign hostilities.[126] After two terms, he had lowered the national debt from $83 million to $57 million.[125]

Jefferson pardoned several of those imprisoned under the Alien and Sedition Acts.[130] Congressional Republicans repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801, which removed nearly all of Adams’ “midnight judges” from office. A subsequent appointment battle led to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Marbury v. Madison, asserting judicial review over executive branch actions.[131] Jefferson appointed three Supreme Court justices: William Johnson (1804), Henry Brockholst Livingston (1807), and Thomas Todd (1807).[132]

Jefferson strongly felt the need for a national military university, producing an officer engineering corps for a national defense based on the advancement of the sciences, rather than having to rely on foreign sources for top grade engineers with questionable loyalty.[133] He signed the Military Peace Establishment Act on March 16, 1802, thus founding the United States Military Academy at West Point. The Act documented in 29 sections a new set of laws and limits for the military. Jefferson was also hoping to bring reform to the Executive branch, replacing Federalists and active opponents throughout the officer corps to promote Republican values.[134]

First Barbary War

Main article: First Barbary War

Map. Barbary Coast of North Africa 1806

Barbary Coast of North Africa 1806. Left is Morocco at Gibraltar, center is Tunis, and right is Tripoli.

American merchant ships had been protected from Barbary Coast pirates by the Royal Navy when the states were British colonies.[135] After independence, however, pirates often captured U.S. merchant ships, pillaged cargoes, and enslaved or held crew members for ransom. Jefferson had opposed paying tribute to the Barbary States since 1785.[136] In March 1786, he and John Adams went to London to negotiate with Tripoli’s envoy, ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman (or Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja).[137] In 1801, he authorized a U.S. Navy fleet under Commodore Richard Dale to make a show of force in the Mediterranean, the first American naval squadron to cross the Atlantic.[138] Following the fleet’s first engagement, he successfully asked Congress for a declaration of war.[138] The subsequent “First Barbary War” was the first foreign war fought by the U.S.[139]

Pasha of Tripoli Yusuf Karamanli captured the USS Philadelphia, so Jefferson authorized William Eaton, the U.S. Consul to Tunis, to lead a force to restore the pasha’s older brother to the throne.[140] The American navy forced Tunis and Algiers into breaking their alliance with Tripoli. Jefferson ordered five separate naval bombardments of Tripoli, leading the pasha to sign a treaty that restored peace in the Mediterranean.[141] This victory proved only temporary, but according to Wood, “many Americans celebrated it as a vindication of their policy of spreading free trade around the world and as a great victory for liberty over tyranny.”[142]

Louisiana Purchase

Main article: Louisiana Purchase

The 1803 Louisiana Purchase totaled 827,987square miles (2,144,480 square kilometres), doubling the size of the United States

Spain ceded ownership of the Louisiana territory in 1800 to the more predominant France. Jefferson was greatly concerned that Napoleon‘s broad interests in the vast territory would threaten the security of the continent and Mississippi River shipping. He wrote that the cession “works most sorely on the U.S. It completely reverses all the political relations of the U.S.” [143] In 1802, he instructed James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston to negotiate with Napoleon to purchase New Orleans and adjacent coastal areas from France.[144] In early 1803, Jefferson offered Napoleon nearly $10 million for 40,000 square miles (100,000 square kilometres) of tropical territory.[145]

Napoleon realized that French military control was impractical over such a vast remote territory, and he was in dire need of funds for his wars on the home front. In early April 1803, he unexpectedly made negotiators a counter-offer to sell 827,987 square miles (2,144,480 square kilometres) of French territory for $15 million, doubling the size of the United States.[145] U.S. negotiators seized this unique opportunity and accepted the offer and signed the treaty on April 30, 1803.[125] Word of the unexpected purchase didn’t reach Jefferson until July 3, 1803.[125] He unknowingly acquired the most fertile tract of land of its size on Earth, making the new country self-sufficient in food and other resources. The sale also significantly curtailed British and French imperial ambitions in North America, removing obstacles to U.S. westward expansion.[146]

Most thought that this was an exceptional opportunity, despite Republican reservations about the Constitutional authority of the federal government to acquire land.[147] Jefferson initially thought that a Constitutionalamendment was necessary to purchase and govern the new territory; but he later changed his mind, fearing that this would give cause to oppose the purchase, and he therefore urged a speedy debate and ratification.[148] On October 20, 1803, the Senate ratified the purchase treaty by a vote of 24–7.[149]

After the purchase, Jefferson preserved the region’s Spanish legal code and instituted a gradual approach for integrating settlers into American democracy. He believed that a period of federal rule would be necessary while Louisianians adjusted to their new nation.[150][i] Historians have differed in their assessments regarding the constitutional implications of the sale,[152] but they typically hail the Louisiana acquisition as a major accomplishment. Frederick Jackson Turner called the purchase the most formative event in American history.[146]

Lewis and Clark expedition

Corps of Discover on river boat October 1805

Corps of Discovery
October 1805

Jefferson anticipated further westward settlements due to the Louisiana Purchase and arranged for the exploration and mapping of the uncharted territory. He sought to establish a U.S. claim ahead of competing European interests and to find the rumored Northwest Passage.[153] Jefferson and others were influenced by exploration accounts of Le Page du Pratz in Louisiana (1763) and Captain James Cook in the Pacific (1784),[154] and they persuaded Congress in 1804 to fund an expedition to explore and map the newly acquired territory to the Pacific Ocean.[155]

Jefferson appointed Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to be leaders of the Corps of Discovery (1803–1806).[156] In the months leading up to the expedition, Jefferson tutored Lewis in the sciences of mapping, botany, natural history, mineralogy, and astronomy and navigation, giving him unlimited access to his library at Monticello, which included the largest collection of books in the world on the subject of the geography and natural history of the North American continent, along with an impressive collection of maps.[157]

The expedition lasted from May 1804 to September 1806 (see Timeline) and obtained a wealth of scientific and geographic knowledge, including knowledge of many Indian tribes.[158]

Other expeditions

In addition to the Corps of Discovery, Jefferson organized three other western expeditions: the William Dunbarand George Hunter expedition on the Ouachita River (1804–1805), the Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis expedition (1806) on the Red River, and the Zebulon Pike expedition (1806–1807) into the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest. All three produced valuable information about the American frontier.[159]

American Indian policies

Black Hoof, leader of the Shawnee, accepted Jefferson’s Indian assimilation policies.

Jefferson’s experiences with the American Indians began during his boyhood in Virginia and extended through his political career and into his retirement. He refuted the contemporary notion that Indians were an inferior people and maintained that they were equal in body and mind to people of European descent.[160]

As governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War, Jefferson recommended moving the Cherokee and Shawnee tribes, who had allied with the British, to west of the Mississippi River. But when he took office as President, he quickly took measures to avert another major conflict, as American and Indian societies were in collision and the British were inciting Indian tribes from Canada.[161][162] In Georgia, he stipulated that the state would release its legal claims for lands to its west in exchange for military support in expelling the Cherokee from Georgia. This facilitated his policy of western expansion, to “advance compactly as we multiply”.[163]

In keeping with his Enlightenment thinking, President Jefferson adopted an assimilation policy towards American Indians known as his “civilization program” which included securing peaceful U.S. Indian treaty alliances and encouraging agriculture. Jefferson advocated that Indian tribes should make federal purchases by credit holding their lands as collateral for repayment. Various tribes accepted Jefferson’s policies, including the Shawnees led by Black Hoof, the Creek, and the Cherokees. However, some Shawnees broke off from Black Hoof, led by Tecumseh, and opposed Jefferson’s assimilation policies.[164]

Historian Bernard Sheehan argues that Jefferson believed that assimilation was best for American Indians; second best was removal to the west. He felt that the worst outcome of the cultural and resources conflict between American citizens and American Indians would be their attacking the whites.[162] Jefferson told Secretary of War General Henry Dearborn (Indian affairs were then under the War Department), “If we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down until that tribe is exterminated or driven beyond the Mississippi.” [165] Miller agrees that Jefferson believed that Indians should assimilate to American customs and agriculture. Historians such as Peter S. Onuf and Merrill D. Peterson argue that Jefferson’s actual Indian policies did little to promote assimilation and were a pretext to seize lands.[166]

Re-election in 1804 and second term

Electoral College map

1804 Electoral College vote

Jefferson’s successful first term occasioned his re-nomination for president by the Republican party, with George Clinton replacing Burr as his running mate.[167]The Federalist party ran Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina, John Adams’ vice presidential candidate in the 1800 election. The Jefferson-Clinton ticket won overwhelmingly in the electoral college vote, by 162 to 14, promoting their achievement of a strong economy, lower taxes, and the Louisiana Purchase.[167]

In March 1806, a split developed in the Republican party, led by fellow Virginian and former Republican ally John Randolph who viciously accused President Jefferson on the floor of the House of moving too far in the Federalist direction. In so doing, Randolph permanently set himself apart politically from Jefferson. Jefferson and Madison had backed resolutions to limit or ban British imports in retaliation for British actions against American shipping. Also, in 1808, Jefferson was the first president to propose a broad Federal plan to build roads and canals across several states, asking for $20 million, further alarming Randolph and believers of limited government.[168]

Jefferson’s popularity further suffered in his second term due to his response to wars in Europe. Positive relations with Great Britain had diminished, due partly to the antipathy between Jefferson and British diplomat Anthony Merry. After Napoleon’s decisive victory at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, Napoleon became more aggressive in his negotiations over trading rights, which American efforts failed to counter. Jefferson then led the enactment of the Embargo Act of 1807, directed at both France and Great Britain. This triggered economic chaos in the U.S. and was strongly criticized at the time, resulting in Jefferson having to abandon the policy a year later.[169]

During the revolutionary era, the states abolished the international slave trade, but South Carolina reopened it. In his annual message of December 1806, Jefferson denounced the “violations of human rights” attending the international slave trade, calling on the newly elected Congress to criminalize it immediately. In 1807, Congress passed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, which Jefferson signed.[170][171] The act established severe punishment against the international slave trade, although it did not address the issue domestically.[172]

In the wake of the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson sought to annex Florida from Spain, as brokered by Napoleon.[173] Congress agreed to the President’s request to secretly appropriate purchase money in the “$2,000,000 Bill”.[173] The Congressional funding drew criticism from Randolph, who believed that the money would wind up in the coffers of Napoleon. The bill was signed into law; however, negotiations for the project failed. Jefferson lost clout among fellow Republicans, and his use of unofficial Congressional channels was sharply criticized.[173] In Haiti, Jefferson’s neutrality had allowed arms to enable the slave independence movement during its Revolution, and blocked attempts to assist Napoleon, who was defeated there in 1803.[174]But he refused official recognition of the country during his second term, in deference to southern complaints about the racial violence against slave-holders; it was eventually extended to Haiti in 1862.[175] Domestically, Jefferson’s grandson James Madison Randolph became the first child born in the White House in 1806.[176]

Burr conspiracy and trial

Further information: Burr–Hamilton duel and Burr conspiracy

Aaron Burr
Vanderlyn 1802

Following the 1801 electoral deadlock, Jefferson’s relationship rapidly eroded with his Vice President, former New York Senator Aaron Burr. Jefferson suspected Burr of seeking the presidency for himself, while Burr was angered by Jefferson’s refusal to appoint some of his supporters to federal office. Burr was dropped from the Republican ticket in 1804.

The same year, Burr was soundly defeated in his bid to be elected New York governor. During the campaign, Alexander Hamilton publicly made callous remarks regarding Burr’s moral character.[177] Subsequently, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel, mortally wounding and killing Hamilton on July 11, 1804. Burr was indicted for Hamilton’s murder in New York and New Jersey, causing him to flee to Georgia, although he remained President of the Senate during Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase‘s impeachment trial.[178] Both indictments quietly died and Burr was not prosecuted.[179]Also during the election, certain New England separatists approached Burr, desiring a New England federation and intimating that he would be their leader.[180] However, nothing came of the plot, since Burr had lost the election and his reputation was ruined after killing Hamilton.[180]In August 1804, Burr contacted British Minister Anthony Merry offering to capture U.S. western territory in return for money and British ships.[181]

After leaving office in April 1805, Burr traveled west and conspired with Louisiana Territory governor James Wilkinson, beginning a large-scale recruitment for a military expedition.[182] Other plotters included Ohio SenatorJohn Smith and an Irishman named Harmon Blennerhassett.[182] Burr discussed a number of plots—seizing control of Mexico or Spanish Florida, or forming a secessionist state in New Orleans or the Western U.S. Historians remain unclear as to his true goal.[183][j]

In the fall of 1806, Burr launched a military flotilla carrying about 60 men down the Ohio River. Wilkinson renounced the plot, apparently from self-interested motives; he reported Burr’s expedition to Jefferson, who immediately ordered Burr’s arrest.[182][185][186] On February 13, 1807, Burr was captured in Louisiana’s Bayou Pierre wilderness and sent to Virginia to be tried for treason.[181]

Burr’s 1807 conspiracy trial became a national issue.[187] Jefferson attempted to preemptively influence the verdict by telling Congress that Burr’s guilt was “beyond question”, but the case came before his longtime political foe John Marshall, who dismissed the treason charge. Burr’s legal team at one stage subpoenaed Jefferson, but Jefferson refused to testify, making the first argument for executive privilege. Instead, Jefferson provided relevant legal documents.[188] After a three-month trial, the jury found Burr not guilty, while Jefferson denounced his acquittal.[189][190][k][191] Jefferson subsequently removed Wilkinson as territorial governor but retained him in the U.S. military. Historian James N. Banner criticized Jefferson for continuing to trust Wilkinson, a “faithless plotter”.[186]

Chesapeake–Leopard Affair and Embargo Act

HMS Leopard (right) firing upon USSChesapeake

The British conducted raids on American shipping and kidnapped seamen in 1806–07; thousands of Americans were thus impressed into the British naval service. In 1806, Jefferson issued a call for a boycott of British goods; on April 18, Congress passed the Non-Importation Acts, but they were never enforced. Later that year, Jefferson asked James Monroe and William Pinkney to negotiate with Great Britain to end the harassment of American shipping, though Britain showed no signs of improving relations. The Monroe–Pinkney Treaty was finalized but lacked any provisions to end impressment, and Jefferson refused to submit it to the Senate for ratification.[192]

The British ship HMS Leopard fired upon the USS Chesapeake off the Virginia coast in June 1807, and Jefferson prepared for war.[193] He issued a proclamation banning armed British ships from U.S. waters. He presumed unilateral authority to call on the states to prepare 100,000 militia and ordered the purchase of arms, ammunition, and supplies, writing, “The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation [than strict observance of written laws]”. The USSRevenge was dispatched to demand an explanation from the British government; it also was fired upon. Jefferson called for a special session of Congress in October to enact an embargo or alternatively to consider war.[194]

In December, news arrived that Napoleon had extended the Berlin Decree, globally banning British imports. In Britain, King George III ordered redoubling efforts at impressment, including American sailors. But the war fever of the summer faded; Congress had no appetite to prepare the U.S. for war. Jefferson asked for and received the Embargo Act, an alternative that allowed the U.S. more time to build up defensive works, militias, and naval forces. Later historians have seen irony in Jefferson’s assertion of such federal power. Meacham claims that the Embargo Act was a projection of power which surpassed the Alien and Sedition Acts, and R.B. Bernstein writes that Jefferson “was pursuing policies resembling those he had cited in 1776 as grounds for independence and revolution”.[195]

A turtle biting a man carrying a barrel to a waiting ship

A political cartoon showing merchants dodging the “Ograbme”, which is “Embargo” spelled backwards (1807).

Secretary of State James Madison supported the embargo with equal vigor to Jefferson,[196] while Treasury Secretary Gallatin opposed it, due to its indefinite time frame and the risk that it posed to the policy of American neutrality.[197] The U.S. economy suffered, criticism grew, and opponents began evading the embargo. Instead of retreating, Jefferson sent federal agents to secretly track down smugglers and violators.[198] Three acts were passed in Congress during 1807 and 1808, called the Supplementary, the Additional, and the Enforcementacts.[193] The government could not prevent American vessels from trading with the European belligerents once they had left American ports, although the embargo triggered a devastating decline in exports.[193]

Most historians consider Jefferson’s embargo to have been ineffective and harmful to American interests.[199] Appleby describes the strategy as Jefferson’s “least effective policy”, and Joseph Ellis calls it “an unadulterated calamity”.[200]Others, however, portray it as an innovative, nonviolent measure which aided France in its war with Britain while preserving American neutrality.[201] Jefferson believed that the failure of the embargo was due to selfish traders and merchants showing a lack of “republican virtue.” He maintained that, had the embargo been widely observed, it would have avoided war in 1812.[202]

In December 1807, Jefferson announced his intention not to seek a third term. He turned his attention increasingly to Monticello during the last year of his presidency, giving Madison and Gallatin almost total control of affairs.[203] Shortly before leaving office in March 1809, Jefferson signed the repeal of the Embargo. In its place, the Non-Intercourse Act was passed, but it proved no more effective.[193] The day before Madison was inaugurated as his successor, Jefferson said that he felt like “a prisoner, released from his chains”.[204]

Retirement and later years

Further information: Thomas Jefferson and education

Following his retirement from the presidency, Jefferson continued his pursuit of educational interests; he sold his vast collection of books to the Library of Congress, and founded and built the University of Virginia.[205] Jefferson continued to correspond with many of the country’s leaders, and the Monroe Doctrine bears a strong resemblance to solicited advice that Jefferson gave to Monroe in 1823.[206] As he settled into private life at Monticello, Jefferson developed a daily routine of rising early. He would spend several hours writing letters, with which he was often deluged. In the midday, he would often inspect the plantation on horseback. In the evenings, his family enjoyed leisure time in the gardens; late at night, Jefferson would retire to bed with a book.[207] However, his routine was often interrupted by uninvited visitors and tourists eager to see the icon in his final days, turning Monticello into “a virtual hotel”.[208]

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia, Jefferson’s “Academical Village”

Jefferson envisioned a university free of church influences where students could specialize in many new areas not offered at other colleges. He believed that education engendered a stable society, which should provide publicly funded schools accessible to students from all social strata, based solely on ability.[209] He initially proposed his University in a letter to Joseph Priestley in 1800[210] and, in 1819, the 76-year-old Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He organized the state legislative campaign for its charter and, with the assistance of Edmund Bacon, purchased the location. He was the principal designer of the buildings, planned the university’s curriculum, and served as the first rector upon its opening in 1825.[211]

Jefferson was a strong disciple of Greek and Roman architectural styles, which he believed to be most representative of American democracy. Each academic unit, called a pavilion, was designed with a two-story temple front, while the library “Rotunda” was modeled on the Roman Pantheon. Jefferson referred to the university’s grounds as the “Academical Village,” and he reflected his educational ideas in its layout. The ten pavilions included classrooms and faculty residences; they formed a quadrangle and were connected by colonnades, behind which stood the students’ rows of rooms. Gardens and vegetable plots were placed behind the pavilions and were surrounded byserpentine walls, affirming the importance of the agrarian lifestyle.[212] The university had a library rather than a church at its center, emphasizing its secular nature—a controversial aspect at the time.[213]

When Jefferson died in 1826, James Madison replaced him as rector.[214] Jefferson bequeathed most of his library to the university.[215]

Reconciliation with Adams

In 1804, Abigail Adams attempted to reconcile Jefferson and Adams.

Jefferson and John Adams had been good friends in the first decades of their political careers, serving together in the Continental Congress in the 1770s and in Europe in the 1780s. The Federalist/Republican split of the 1790s divided them, however, and Adams felt betrayed by Jefferson’s sponsorship of partisan attacks, such as those of James Callender. Jefferson, on the other hand, was angered at Adams for his appointment of “midnight judges”.[216] The two men did not communicate directly for more than a decade after Jefferson succeeded Adams as president.[217] A brief correspondence took place between Abigail Adams and Jefferson after Jefferson’s daughter “Polly” died in 1804, in an attempt at reconciliation unknown to Adams. However, an exchange of letters resumed open hostilities between Adams and Jefferson.[216]

As early as 1809, Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, desired that Jefferson and Adams reconcile and began to prod the two through correspondence to re-establish contact.[216] In 1812, Adams wrote a short New Year’s greeting to Jefferson, prompted earlier by Rush, to which Jefferson warmly responded. Thus began what historian David McCulloughcalls “one of the most extraordinary correspondences in American history”.[218] Over the next fourteen years, the former presidents exchanged 158 letters discussing their political differences, justifying their respective roles in events, and debating the revolution’s import to the world.[219] When Adams died, his last words included an acknowledgement of his longtime friend and rival: “Thomas Jefferson survives”, unaware that Jefferson had died several hours before.[220][221]


In 1821, at the age of 77 Jefferson began writing his autobiography, in order to “state some recollections of dates and facts concerning myself.”[222] He focused on the struggles and achievements he experienced until July 29, 1790, where the narrative stopped short.*[223] He excluded his youth, emphasizing the revolutionary era. He related that his ancestors came from Wales to America in the early 17th century and settled in the western frontier of the Virginia colony, which influenced his zeal for individual and state rights. Jefferson described his father as uneducated, but with a “strong mind and sound judgement.” His enrollment in the College of William and Mary and election to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1775 were included.[222]

He also expressed opposition to the idea of a privileged aristocracy made up of large land owning families partial to the King, and instead promoted “the aristocracy of virtue and talent, which nature has wisely provided for the direction of the interests of society, & scattered with equal hand through all it’s conditions, was deemed essential to a well ordered republic.” [222]

Jefferson gave his insight about people, politics, and events.[222] The work is primarily concerned with the Declaration and reforming the government of Virginia. He used notes, letters, and documents to tell many of the stories within the autobiography. He suggested that this history was so rich that his personal affairs were better overlooked, but he incorporated a self-analysis using the Declaration and other patriotism.[224]

Lafayette in 1824portrait by Scheffer, hanging in U.S. House of Representatives

Lafayette’s visit

In the summer of 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette accepted an invitation from President James Monroe to visit the country. Jefferson and Lafayette had not seen each other since 1789. After visits to New York, New England, and Washington, Lafayette arrived at Monticello on November 4.[211]

Jefferson’s grandson Randolph was present and recorded the reunion: “As they approached each other, their uncertain gait quickened itself into a shuffling run, and exclaiming, ‘Ah Jefferson!’ ‘Ah Lafayette!’, they burst into tears as they fell into each other’s arms.” Jefferson and Lafayette then retired to the house to reminisce.[225] The next morning Jefferson, Lafayette, and James Madison attended a tour and banquet at the University of Virginia. Jefferson had someone else read a speech he had prepared for Lafayette, as his voice was weak and could not carry. This was his last public presentation. After an 11-day visit, Lafayette bid Jefferson goodbye and departed Monticello.[226]

Final days, death, and burial

Obelisk at Thomas Jefferson's gravesite

Jefferson’s gravesite

Jefferson’s approximately $100,000 of debt weighed heavily on his mind in his final months, as it became increasingly clear that he would have little to leave to his heirs. In February 1826, he successfully applied to the General Assembly to hold a public lottery as a fund raiser.[227] His health began to deteriorate in July 1825, due to a combination of rheumatism from arm and wrist injuries, as well as intestinal and urinary disorders[211] and, by June 1826, he was confined to bed.[227] On July 3, Jefferson was overcome by fever and declined an invitation to Washington to attend an anniversary celebration of the Declaration.[228]

During the last hours of his life, he was accompanied by family members and friends. On July 4 at 12:50 p.m., Jefferson died at age 83 on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and just a few hours before the death of John Adams.[229][230] The sitting president was Adams’ son John Quincy, and he called the coincidence of their deaths on the nation’s anniversary “visible and palpable remarks of Divine Favor”.[231]

Shortly after Jefferson had died, attendants found a gold locket on a chain around his neck, where it had rested for more than forty years, containing a small faded blue ribbon which tied a lock of his wife Martha’s brown hair.[232]

Jefferson’s remains were buried at Monticello, under a self-written epitaph:


Jefferson died deeply in debt, unable to pass on his estate freely to his heirs.[234] He gave instructions in his will for disposal of his assets,[235] including the freeing of Sally Hemings’ children;[236] but his estate, possessions, and slaves were sold at public auctions starting in 1827.[237] In 1831, Monticello was sold by Martha Jefferson Randolph and the other heirs.[238]

Political, social, and religious views

Jefferson subscribed to the political ideals expounded by John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton, whom he considered the three greatest men that ever lived.[239][240] He was also influenced by the writings of Gibbon,Hume, Robertson, Bolingbroke, Montesquieu, and Voltaire.[241] Jefferson thought that the independent yeomanand agrarian life were ideals of republican virtues. He distrusted cities and financiers, favored decentralized government power, and believed that the tyranny that had plagued the common man in Europe was due to corrupt political establishments and monarchies. He supported efforts to disestablish the Church of England[242] wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and he pressed for a wall of separation between church and state.[243]The Republicans under Jefferson were strongly influenced by the 18th-century British Whig Party, who believed inlimited government.[244] His Democratic-Republican Party became dominant in early American politics, and his views became known as Jeffersonian democracy.[245][246]

Society and government

According to Jefferson’s philosophy, citizens have “certain inalienable rights” and “rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”[247] A staunch advocate of the jury system to protect people’s liberties, he proclaimed in 1801, “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” [248] Jeffersonian government not only prohibited individuals in society from infringing on the liberty of others, but also restrained itself from diminishing individual liberty as a protection against tyranny from the majority.[249] Initially, Jefferson favored restricted voting to those who could actually have free exercise of their reason by escaping any corrupting dependence on others. He advocated enfranchising a majority of Virginians, seeking to expand suffrage to include “yeoman farmers” who owned their own land while excluding tenant farmers, city day laborers, vagrants, most Amerindians, and women.[250]

He was convinced that individual liberties were the fruit of political equality, which were threatened by arbitrary government.[251] Excesses of democracy in his view were caused by institutional corruptions rather than human nature. He was less suspicious of a working democracy than many contemporaries.[250] As president, Jefferson feared that the Federalist system enacted by Washington and Adams had encouraged corrupting patronage and dependence. He tried to restore a balance between the state and federal governments more nearly reflecting theArticles of Confederation, seeking to reinforce state prerogatives where his party was in a majority.[250]

Jefferson was steeped in the British Whig tradition of the oppressed majority set against a repeatedly unresponsive court party in the Parliament. He justified small outbreaks of rebellion as necessary to get monarchial regimes to amend oppressive measures compromising popular liberties. In a republican regime ruled by the majority, he acknowledged “it will often be exercised when wrong”.[252] But “the remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them.” [253] As Jefferson saw his party triumph in two terms of his presidency and launch into a third term under James Madison, his view of the U.S. as a continental republic and an “empire of liberty” grew more upbeat. On departing the presidency in 1809, he described America as “trusted with the destines of this solitary republic of the world, the only monument of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government”.[254]


Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson at age 78Portrait by Thomas Sullyhanging at West Point, commissioned by Faculty and Cadets, 1821

Jefferson considered democracy to be the expression of society, and promoted national self-determination, cultural uniformity, and education of all males of the commonwealth.[255] He supported public education and a free press as essential components of a democratic nation.[256]

After resigning as secretary of state in 1795, Jefferson focused on the electoral bases of the Republicans and Federalists. The “Republican” classification for which he advocated included “the entire body of landholders” everywhere and “the body of laborers” without land.[257] Republicans united behind Jefferson as vice president, with the election of 1796 expanding democracy nationwide at grassroots levels.[258] Jefferson promoted Republican candidates for local offices.[259]

Beginning with Jefferson’s electioneering for the “revolution of 1800”, his political efforts were based on egalitarian appeals.[260] In his later years, he referred to the 1800 election “as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of ’76 was in its form”, one “not effected indeed by the sword … but by the … suffrage of the people.”[261] Voter participation grew during Jefferson’s presidency, increasing to “unimaginable levels” compared to the Federalist Era, with turnout of about 67,000 in 1800 rising to about 143,000 in1804.[262]

At the onset of the Revolution, Jefferson accepted William Blackstone‘s argument that property ownership would sufficiently empower voters’ independent judgement, but he sought to further expand suffrage by land distribution to the poor.[263] In the heat of the Revolutionary Era and afterward, several states expanded voter eligibility from landed gentry to all propertied male, tax-paying citizens with Jefferson’s support.[264] In retirement, he gradually became critical of his home state for violating “the principle of equal political rights”—the social right of universal male suffrage.[265] He sought a “general suffrage” of all taxpayers and militia-men, and equal representation by population in the General Assembly to correct preferential treatment of the slave-holding regions.[266]


A leather-bound Bible

Jefferson’s Bible featuring only the words of Jesus from the evangelists, in parallel Greek, Latin, French and English

Baptized in his youth, Jefferson became a governing member of his localEpiscopal Church in Charlottesville, which he later attended with his daughters.[267] Influenced by Deist authors during his college years Jefferson abandoned “orthodox” Christianity after his review of New Testamentteachings.[268][269] In 1803 he asserted, “I am Christian, in the only sense in which [Jesus] wished any one to be.”[171] Jefferson later defined being aChristian as one who followed the simple teachings of Jesus. Jefferson compiled Jesus’ biblical teachings, omitting miraculous or supernatural references. He titled the work The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, known today as the Jefferson Bible.[270] Peterson states Jefferson was a theist“whose God was the Creator of the universe … all the evidences of nature testified to His perfection; and man could rely on the harmony and beneficence of His work.”[271]

Jefferson was firmly anticlerical, writing in “every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty … they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon.”[272] The full letter to Horatio Spatford can be read at the National Archives.[273] Jefferson once supported banning clergy from public office but later relented.[274] In 1777, he drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Ratified in 1786, it made compelling attendance or contributions to any state-sanctioned religious establishment illegal and declared that men “shall be free to profess … their opinions in matters of religion.”[275] The Statute is one of only three accomplishments he chose to have inscribed in the epitaph on his gravestone.[276][277] Early in 1802, Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Connecticut Baptist Association, “that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God.” He interpreted the First Amendment as having built “a wall of separation between Church and State.”[278] The phrase ‘Separation of Church and State’ has been cited several times by the Supreme Court in its interpretation of the Establishment Clause.

Jefferson donated to the American Bible Society, saying the Four Evangelists delivered a “pure and sublime system of morality” to humanity. He thought Americans would rationally create “Apiarian” religion, extracting the best traditions of every denomination.[279] And he contributed generously to several local denominations nearby Monticello.[280] Acknowledging organized religion would always be factored into political life for good or ill, he encouraged reason over supernatural revelation to make inquiries into religion. He believed in a creator god, anafterlife, and the sum of religion as loving God and neighbors. But he also controversially renounced the conventional Christian Trinity, denying Jesus’ divinity as the Son of God.[281][282]

Jefferson’s unorthodox religious beliefs became an important issue in the 1800 presidential election.[283]Federalists attacked him as an atheist. As president, Jefferson countered the accusations by praising religion in his inaugural address and attending services at the Capitol.[283]


Alexander Hamilton, national bank proponent and Jefferson’s adversary

Jefferson distrusted government banks and opposed public borrowing, which he thought created long-term debt, bred monopolies, and invited dangerous speculation as opposed to productive labor.[284] In one letter to Madison, he argued each generation should curtail all debt within 19 years, and not impose a long-term debt on subsequent generations.[285]

In 1791, President Washington asked Jefferson, then Secretary of State, and Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, if the Congress had the authority to create a national bank. While Hamilton believed Congress had the authority, Jefferson and Madison thought a national bank would ignore the needs of individuals and farmers, and would violate theTenth Amendment by assuming powers not granted to the federal government by the states.[286]

Jefferson used agrarian resistance to banks and speculators as the first defining principle of an opposition party, recruiting candidates for Congress on the issue as early as 1792.[287] As president, Jefferson was persuaded by Secretary of Treasury Albert Gallatin to leave the bank intact, but sought to restrain its influence.[288][l]


Farm Book page

Jefferson’s 1795 Farm Book, page 30, lists 163 slaves at Monticello.

Jefferson lived in a planter economy largely dependent upon slavery, and as a wealthy landholder, used slave labor for his household, plantation, and workshops. He first recorded his slaveholding in 1774, when he counted 41.[290]Over his lifetime he owned about 600 slaves; he inherited about 175 while most of the remainder were born on his plantations.[291] Jefferson purchased slaves in order to unite their families, and he sold about 110 for economic reasons, primarily slaves from his outlying farms.[291][292] Many historians have described Jefferson as a benevolent slaveowner[293] who didn’t overwork his slaves by the conventions of his time, and provided them log cabins with fireplaces, food, clothing and some household provisions, though slaves often had to make many of their own provisions. Additionally Jefferson gave his slaves financial and other incentives while also allowing them to grow gardens and raise their own chickens. The use of the whip was employed only in rare and extreme cases of fighting and stealing.[291][294]

Jefferson once said, “My first wish is that the labourers may be well treated”.[291]Jefferson did not work his slaves on Sundays and Christmas and he allowed them more personal time during the winter months.[295] Some scholars doubt Jefferson’s benevolence,[296] however, noting cases of excessive slave whippings in his absence. His nail factory was also only staffed by child slaves, many of those boys became tradesmen. Burwell Colbert, who started his working life as a child in Monticello’s Nailery, was later promoted to the supervisory position of butler.[297]

Jefferson felt slavery was harmful to both slave and master, but had reservations about releasing unprepared slaves into freedom and advocated gradual emancipation.[298][299][300] In 1779, he proposed gradual voluntary training and resettlement to the Virginia legislature, and three years later drafted legislation allowing owners to free their own slaves.[301] In his draft of the Declaration of Independence, he included a section, stricken by other Southern delegates, criticizing King George III’s role in promoting slavery in the colonies.[302] In 1784, Jefferson proposed the abolition of slavery in all western U.S. territories, limiting slave importation to 15 years.[303]Congress, however, failed to pass his proposal by one vote.[303] In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, a partial victory for Jefferson that terminated slavery in the Northwest Territory. Jefferson freed his slave Robert Hemings in 1794 and he freed his cook slave James Hemings in 1796.[304] During his presidency Jefferson allowed the diffusion of slavery into the Louisiana Territory hoping to prevent slave uprisings in Virginia and to prevent South Carolina secession.[305] In 1804, in a compromise on the slavery issue, Jefferson and Congress banned domestic slave trafficking for one year into the Louisiana Territory.[306] In 1806 he officially called for anti-slavery legislation terminating the import or export of slaves. Congress passed the law in 1807, taking effect in 1818.[298][307][308] In 1819, he strongly opposed a Missouri statehood application amendment that banned domestic slave importation and freed slaves at the age of 25 on grounds it would destroy the union.[309]Jefferson freed his runaway slave Harriet Hemings in 1822.[310] Upon his death in 1826, Jefferson freed five male Hemings slaves in his will.[311]

Jefferson shared the common belief of his day that blacks were mentally and physically inferior, but argued they nonetheless had innate human rights.[298][312] In Notes on the State of Virginia, he created controversy by calling slavery a moral evil for which the nation would ultimately have to account to God.[313] He therefore supported colonization plans that would transport freed slaves to another country, such as Liberia or Sierra Leone, though he recognized the impracticability of such proposals.[314]

During his presidency Jefferson was for the most part publicly silent on the issue of slavery and emancipation,[315] as the Congressional debate over slavery and its extension caused a dangerous north-south rift among the states, with talk of a northern confederacy in New England.[316] [m] The violent attacks on white slave owners during the Haitian Revolution due to injustices under slavery supported Jefferson’s fears of a race war, increasing his reservations about promoting emancipation at that time.[298][317] After numerous attempts and failures to bring about emancipation,[318] Jefferson wrote privately in an 1805 letter to William A. Burwell, “I have long since given up the expectation of any early provision for the extinguishment of slavery among us.” That same year he also related this idea to George Logan, writing, “I have most carefully avoided every public act or manifestation on that subject.” [319]

Historical assessment

Scholars remain divided on whether Jefferson truly condemned slavery and how he changed.[310][320] Francis D. Cogliano traces the development of competing emancipationist then revisionist and finally contextualist interpretations from the 1960s to the present. The emancipationist view, held by the various scholars at theThomas Jefferson Foundation, Douglas L. Wilson, and others maintains Jefferson was an opponent of slavery all his life, noting that he did what he could within the limited range of options available to him to undermine it, his many attempts at abolition legislation, the manner in which he provided for slaves, and his advocacy of their more humane treatment.[294][321][322][n] The revisionist view, advanced by Paul Finkelman and others criticizes Jefferson for racism, for holding slaves, and for acting contrary to his words, as Jefferson never freed most of his slaves, and he remained silent on the issue while he was President.[315][323] Contextualists such as Joseph J. Ellisemphasize a change in Jefferson’s thinking from emancipationist before 1783, noting a shift toward public passivity and procrastination on policy issues related to slavery. Jefferson seemed to yield to public opinion by 1794 as he laid the groundwork for his first presidential campaign against Adams in 1796.[324]

Jefferson–Hemings controversy

Claims that Jefferson fathered Sally Hemings’ children have been debated since 1802. That year James T. Callender, after being denied a position as postmaster, alleged Jefferson had taken Hemings as a concubine and fathered several children with her.[325] In 1998, a panel of researchers conducted a Y-DNA study of living descendants of Jefferson’s uncle, Field, and of a descendant of Hemings’ son, Eston Hemings. The results, published in the journal Nature, showed a match with the male Jefferson line.[326] According to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, since the results of the DNA tests were made public, most historians believe Jefferson had a relationship with Hemings.[327] In 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) assembled a team of historians whose report concluded that “the DNA study … indicates a high probability that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings.”[328][o] Other scholars maintain the evidence is insufficient to prove Jefferson’s paternity conclusively. They note the possibility that additional Jefferson males, including his brother Randolph Jefferson and Randolph’s five sons, could have fathered Eston Hemings or Sally Hemings’ other children.[330] After Thomas Jefferson’s death, although not formally manumitted, Sally Hemings was allowed by Jefferson’s daughter Martha to live inCharlottesville as a free woman until her death in 1835.[331][p]

Interests and activities

Jefferson was a farmer, obsessed with new crops, soil conditions, garden designs, and scientific agricultural techniques. His main cash crop was tobacco, but its price was usually low and it was rarely profitable. He tried to achieve self-sufficiency with wheat, vegetables, flax, corn, hogs, sheep, poultry, and cattle to supply his family, slaves, and employees, but he had cash flow problems and was always in debt.[333]

In the field of architecture, Jefferson helped popularize the Neo-Palladian style in the United States utilizing designs for the Virginia State Capitol, the University of Virginia, Monticello, and others.[334] Jefferson mastered architecture throughself-study, using various books and classical architectural designs of the day. His primary authority was Andrea Palladio‘s The Four Books of Architecture, which outlines the principles of classical design.[335]

He was interested in birds and wine, and was a noted gourmet; he was also a prolific writer and linguist, and spoke several languages.[336] As a naturalist, he was fascinated by the Natural Bridge geological formation, and in 1774 successfully acquired the Bridge by grant from George III.[337]

American Philosophical Society

Jefferson was a member of the American Philosophical Society for 35 years, beginning in 1780. Through the Society he advanced the sciences and Enlightenment ideals, emphasizing that knowledge of science reinforced and extended freedom.[338] His Notes on the State of Virginia was written in part as a contribution to the Society.[339] He became the Society’s third president on March 3, 1797, a few months after he was elected Vice President of the United States.[339][340] In accepting, Jefferson stated: “I feel no qualification for this distinguished post but a sincere zeal for all the objects of our institution and an ardent desire to see knowledge so disseminated through the mass of mankind that it may at length reach even the extremes of society, beggars and kings.”[338]

Jefferson served as APS President for the next eighteen years, including through both terms of his presidency.[339] He introduced Meriwether Lewis to the Society, where various scientists tutored him in preparation for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.[339][341] He resigned on January 20, 1815, but remained active through correspondence.[342]


Jefferson had a lifelong interest in linguistics, could speak, read and write in a number of languages, including French, Greek, Italian, and German. In his early years he excelled in classical language while at boarding school[343] where he received a classical education in Greek and Latin.[344] Jefferson later came to regard the Greek language as the “perfect language” as expressed in its laws and philosophy.[345] While attending the College of William & Mary, he taught himself Italian.[346] Here Jefferson first became familiar with the Anglo-Saxon language, especially as it was associated with English Common law and system of government and studied the language in a linguistic and philosophical capacity. He owned 17 volumes of Anglo-Saxon texts and grammar and later wrote an essay on the Anglo-Saxon language.[343]

Jefferson claimed to have taught himself Spanish during his nineteen-day journey to France, using only a grammar guide and a copy of Don Quixote.[347] Linguistics played a significant role in how Jefferson modeled and expressed political and philosophical ideas. He believed that the study of ancient languages was essential in understanding the roots of modern language.[348] He collected and understood a number of American Indian vocabularies and instructed Lewis and Clark to record and collect various Indian languages during their Expedition.[349] When Jefferson removed from Washington after his presidency, he packed 50 Native American vocabulary lists in a chest and transported them on a river boat back to Monticello along with the rest of his possessions. Somewhere along the journey, a thief stole the heavy chest, thinking it was full of valuables, but its contents were dumped into the James River when the thief discovered it was only filled with papers. Subsequently, 30 years of collecting were lost, with only a few fragments rescued from the muddy banks of the river.[350]

Jefferson was not an outstanding orator and preferred to communicate through writing or remain silent if possible. Instead of delivering his State of the Union addresses himself, Jefferson wrote the annual messages and sent a representative to read them aloud in Congress. This started a tradition which continued until 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921) chose to deliver his own State of the Union address.[351]


Jefferson invented many small practical devices and improved contemporary inventions, including a revolving book-stand and a “Great Clock” powered by the gravitational pull on cannonballs. He improved the pedometer, thepolygraph (a device for duplicating writing),[352] and the moldboard plow, an idea he never patented and gave to posterity.[353] Jefferson can also be credited as the creator of the swivel chair, the first of which he created and used to write much of the Declaration of Independence.[354]

As Minister to France, Jefferson was impressed by the military standardization program known as the Système Gribeauval, and initiated a program as president to develop interchangeable parts for firearms. For his inventiveness and ingenuity, he received several honorary Doctor of Law degrees.[355]


Historical reputation

Jefferson Memorial building and reflecting pool

Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Jefferson is an icon of individual liberty, democracy, and republicanism, hailed as the author of the Declaration of Independence, an architect of the American Revolution, and a renaissance man who promoted science and scholarship.[356]The participatory democracy and expanded suffrage he championed defined his era and became a standard for later generations.[357] Meacham opined, he was the most influential figure of the democratic republic in its first half century, succeeded by presidential adherents James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren.[358] Jefferson is recognized for having written more than 18,000 letters of political and philosophical substance during his life, which Francis D. Cogliano describes as “a documentary legacy … unprecedented in American history in its size and breadth.”[359]

Jefferson’s reputation declined during the Civil War due to his support of states’ rights. In the late 19th century, his legacy was widely criticized; conservatives felt his democratic philosophy had led to that era’s populist movement, while Progressives sought a more activist federal government than Jefferson’s philosophy allowed. Both groups saw Hamilton as vindicated by history, rather than Jefferson, and President Woodrow Wilson even described Jefferson as “though a great man, not a great American”.[360]

Statue of Thomas Jefferson inside Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson
Memorial Statue

In the 1930s, Jefferson was held in higher esteem; President Franklin D. Roosevelt(1933–45) and New Deal Democrats celebrated his struggles for “the common man” and reclaimed him as their party’s founder. Jefferson became a symbol of American democracy in the incipient Cold War, and the 1940s and ’50s saw the zenith of his popular reputation.[361] Following the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, Jefferson’s slaveholding came under new scrutiny, particularly after DNA testing in the late 1990s supported allegations he had a relationship with Sally Hemings.[362]

Noting the huge output of scholarly books on Jefferson in recent years, historian Gordon Wood summarizes the raging debates about Jefferson’s stature: “Although many historians and others are embarrassed about his contradictions and have sought to knock him off the democratic pedestal … his position, though shaky, still seems secure.”[363]

The Siena Research Institute poll of presidential scholars, begun in 1982, has consistently ranked Jefferson as one of the five best U.S. presidents,[364] and a 2015Brookings Institution poll of American Political Science Association members ranked him as the fifth greatest president.[365]

Memorials and honors

(left to right) Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Lincoln sculptured into Mt Rushmore

Jefferson has been memorialized with buildings, sculptures, postage, and currency. In the 1920s, Jefferson, together with George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, was chosen by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and approved by President Calvin Coolidge to be depicted in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial.[366]

The Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. in 1943, on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth. The interior of the memorial includes a 19-foot (6 m) statue of Jefferson and engravings of passages from his writings. Most prominent are the words inscribed around the monument near the roof: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”[367]


See also


A Summary View of the Rights of British America

A Summary View of the Rights of British America was a tract written by Thomas Jefferson in 1774, before the U.S. Declaration of Independence, in which he laid out for delegates to the First Continental Congress a set of grievances againstKing George III, especially against the King’s and Parliament’s response to theBoston Tea Party. Jefferson declares that the British Parliament did not have the right to govern the Thirteen Colonies. He argues that since the individual colonies were founded they were independent of British rule.[1] Jefferson, in this work, held that allodial title, not feudal title, was held to American lands, and thus the people did not owe fees and rents for that land to the British crown.

The work was presented to, and debated by, the First Continental Congress. When this took place, Jefferson did not attend. Despite his attempts, Congress agreed to a more moderate decision than Jefferson’s proposed concept. Despite not being able to completely convince Congress, friends of Jefferson printed the Summary in a pamphlet form. It was distributed throughout London, New York and Philadelphia. Research states that the document “helped establish Jefferson’s reputation as a skillful, if radical, political writer.”[1]


“A Summary View of the Rights of British America: Set Forth in Some Resolutions Intended for the Inspection of the Present Delegates of the People of Virginia, Now in Convention / by a Native, and Member of the House of Burgesses”.World Digital Library. 1774. Retrieved 2013-08-03.








Jefferson Bible

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to as theJefferson Bible, was a book constructed by Thomas Jefferson in the later years of his life by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson’s condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages that portray Jesus as divine.[1][2][3][4]

The Jefferson Bible
Jefferson Bible.jpg

The title page of the Jefferson Bible written in Jefferson’s hand. Reads, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English”
Material Red Morocco goatskin leather, handmade wove paper, iron gall ink
Size 21.2 cm x 13.2 cm x 3.4 cm
Writing Greek, Latin, French, and English
Created Approx. 1819, Monticello
Discovered Acquired by the Smithsonian in 1895
Present location Smithsonian National Museum of American History

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to as theJefferson Bible, was a book constructed by Thomas Jefferson in the later years of his life by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson’s condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages that portray Jesus as divine.[1][2][3][4]

Early draft

In an 1803 letter to Joseph Priestley, Jefferson stated that he conceived the idea of writing his view of the “Christian System” in a conversation with Dr.Benjamin Rush during 1798–99. He proposes beginning with a review of the morals of the ancient philosophers, moving on to the “deism and ethics of the Jews,” and concluding with the “principles of a pure deism” taught by Jesus, “omitting the question of his deity.” Jefferson explains that he does not have the time, and urges the task on Priestley as the person best equipped to accomplish the task.[5]

Jefferson accomplished a more limited goal in 1804 with The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, the predecessor to The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.[6] He described it in a letter to John Adams dated October 13, 1813:

In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites andGamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines.[5]

Jefferson wrote that “Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God.” He called the writers of the New Testament “ignorant, unlettered men” who produced “superstitions, fanaticisms, and fabrications.” He called the Apostle Paul the “first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.” He dismissed the concept of the Trinity as “mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.” He believed that the clergy used religion as a “mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves” and that “in every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.” And he wrote in a letter to John Adams that “the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

Jefferson never referred to his work as a Bible, and the full title of this 1804 version was, The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, being Extracted from the Account of His Life and Doctrines Given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; Being an Abridgement of the New Testament for the Use of the Indians, Unembarrased [uncomplicated] with Matters of Fact or Faith beyond the Level of their Comprehensions.[7]

Jefferson frequently expressed discontent with this earlier version. The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth represents the fulfillment of his desire to produce a more carefully assembled edition.


Using a razor and glue, Jefferson cut and pasted his arrangement of selected verses from the King James Version[8] of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in chronological order—putting together excerpts from one text with those of another to create a single narrative. Thus he begins with Luke 2 and Luke 3, then follows with Mark 1 and Matthew 3. He provides a record of which verses he selected, and of the order he chose in hisTable of the Texts from the Evangelists employed in this Narrative and of the order of their arrangement.

Consistent with his naturalistic outlook and intent, most supernatural events are not included in Jefferson’s heavily edited compilation. Paul K. Conkin states that “For the teachings of Jesus he concentrated on his milder admonitions (the Sermon on the Mount) and his most memorable parables. What resulted is a reasonably coherent, but at places oddly truncated, biography. If necessary to exclude the miraculous, Jefferson would cut the text even in mid-verse.”[9] Historian Edwin Scott Gaustad explains, “If a moral lesson was embedded in a miracle, the lesson survived in Jeffersonian scripture, but the miracle did not. Even when this took some rather careful cutting with scissors or razor, Jefferson managed to maintain Jesus’ role as a great moral teacher, not as a shaman or faith healer.”[10]

Therefore, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth begins with an account of Jesus’s birth without references toangels (at that time), genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection are also absent from his collection.[11]

No supernatural acts of Christ are included at all in this regard, while the few things of a supernatural nature include receiving of the Holy Spirit,[12] angels,[13] Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood,[14] the Tribulation,[15] theSecond Coming,[16] the resurrection of the dead,[17] a future kingdom,[16][18] and eternal life,[19] Heaven,[20] Hell[21]and punishment in everlasting fire, the Devil,[22] and the soldiers falling backwards to the ground in response to Jesus stating, “I am he.”[23]

Rejecting the resurrection of Jesus, the work ends with the words: “Now, in the place where He was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” These words correspond to the ending of John 19 in the Bible.


It is understood by some historians that Jefferson composed it for his own satisfaction, supporting the Christian faith as he saw it. Gaustad states, “The retired President did not produce his small book to shock or offend a somnolent world; he composed it for himself, for his devotion, for his assurance, for a more restful sleep at nights and a more confident greeting of the mornings.” [24]

There is no record of this or its successor being for “the Use of the Indians,” despite the stated intent of the 1804 version being that purpose. Although the government long supported Christian activity among Indians,[25][26] and in Notes on the State of Virginia Jefferson supported “a perpetual mission among the Indian tribes,” at least in the interest of anthropology,[27] and as President sanctioned financial support for a priest and church for theKaskaskia Indians,[28] Jefferson did not make these works public. Instead, he acknowledged the existence of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth to only a few friends, saying that he read it before retiring at night, as he found this project intensely personal and private.[29]

Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Librarian of Congress (1864–1894) stated: “His original idea was to have the life and teachings of the Saviour, told in similar excerpts, prepared for the Indians, thinking this simple form would suit them best. But, abandoning this, the formal execution of his plan took the shape above described, which was for his individual use. He used the four languages that he might have the texts in them side by side, convenient for comparison. In the book he pasted a map of the ancient world and the Holy Land, with which he studied the New Testament.” [30]

Some speculate that the reference to “Indians” in the 1804 title may have been an allusion to Jefferson’s Federalist opponents, as he likewise used this indirect tactic against them at least once before, that being in his second inaugural address. Or that he was providing himself a cover story in case this work became public.[31]

Also referring to the 1804 version, Jefferson wrote, “A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”[30]

Jefferson’s claim to be a Christian was made in response to those who accused him of being otherwise, due to his unorthodox view of the Bible and conception of Christ. Recognizing his rather unusual views, Jefferson stated in a letter (1819) to Ezra Stiles Ely, “You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”[32]

Further information: Thomas Jefferson and religion

Publication history

After completion of the Life and Morals, about 1820, Jefferson shared it with a number of friends, but he never allowed it to be published during his lifetime.

The most complete form Jefferson produced was inherited by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and was published in 1895 by the National Museum in Washington. The book was later published as a lithographicreproduction by an act of the United States Congress in 1904. Beginning in 1904 and continuing every other year until the 1950s, new members of Congress were given a copy of the Jefferson Bible. Until the practice first stopped, copies were provided by the Government Printing Office. A private organization, the Libertarian Press, revived the practice in 1997.[33][34]

In January 2013, the American Humanist Association published an edition of the Jefferson Bible, distributing a free copy to every member of Congress and President Barack Obama.[35] A Jefferson Bible For the Twenty-First Century adds samples of passages that Jefferson chose to omit, as well as examples of the “best” and “worst” from the Hebrew Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Buddhist Sūtras, and the Book of Mormon.[36]

The Smithsonian published the first full-color facsimile[37] of the Jefferson Bible on November 1, 2011. Released in tandem with a Jefferson Bible exhibit at the National Museum of American History, the reproduction features introductory essays by Smithsonian Political History curators Harry R. Rubenstein and Barbara Clark Smith, and Smithsonian Senior Paper Conservator Janice Stagnitto Ellis. The book’s pages were digitized using a Hasselblad H4D50-50 megapixel DSLR camera and a Zeiss 120 macro lens, and were photographed by Smithsonian photographer, Hugh Talman.[38]

The entire Jefferson Bible is available to view, page-by-page, on the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s website.[39] The high-resolution digitization enables the public to see the minute details and anomalies of each page.

The text is in the public domain and freely available on the Internet.

Recent history

In 1895, the Smithsonian Institution under the leadership of librarian Cyrus Adler purchased the original Jefferson Bible from Jefferson’s great-granddaughter Carolina Randolph for $400. A conservation effort commencing in 2009, led by Senior Paper Conservator Janice Stagnitto Ellis,[40] in partnership with the museum’s Political History department, allowed for a public unveiling in an exhibit open from November 11, 2011, through May 28, 2012, at the National Museum of American History. Also displayed were the source books from which Jefferson cut his selected passages, and the 1904 edition of the Jefferson Bible requested and distributed by the United States Congress.[37] The exhibit was accompanied by an interactive digital facsimile available on the museum’s public website. On February 20, 2012, the Smithsonian Channel premiered the documentary Jefferson’s Secret Bible.[37]

Editions in print


See also


  1. R.P. Nettelhorst. “Notes on the Founding Fathers and the Separation of Church and State”. Quartz Hill School of Theology. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  2. Jump up^ Jefferson, Thomas, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb, 10:376-377.
  3. Jump up^ Thomas Jefferson’s Abridgement of the Words of Jesus of Nazareth (Charlottesville: Mark Beliles, 1993), 14.
  4. Jump up^ Jefferson, Thomas, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb, 10:232-233.
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b Excerpts from the Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson Retrieved March 30, 2007
  6. Jump up^ Unitarian Universalist Historical Society profile of Jefferson. Retrieved March 30, 2007
  7. Jump up^ Randal, Henry S., The Life of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 3 (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1858), 654.
  8. Jump up^ Jefferson Bible Angelfire.com
  9. Jump up^ Paul K. Conkin, quoted in Jeffersonian Legacies, edited by Peter S. Onuf, p. 40
  10. Jump up^ Edwin Scott Gaustad, Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson, p 129
  11. Jump up^ Reece, Erik (December 1, 2005). “Jesus Without The Miracles – Thomas Jefferson’s Bible and the Gospel of Thomas”. Harper’s Magazine, v. 311, n. 1867.
  12. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 40 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  13. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 42 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  14. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 64 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  15. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 63 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  16. ^ Jump up to:a b “The Book, Page 67 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  17. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 59 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  18. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 39 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  19. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 37 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  20. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 62 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  21. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 46 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  22. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 68 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  23. Jump up^ “The Book, Page 73 – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  24. Jump up^ Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson, p. 131
  25. Jump up^ American Indians and Christianity Oklahoma Historical Society
  26. Jump up^ Library of Congress exhibit, American Indians of the Pacific Northwest
  27. Jump up^ Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, University of Virginia Library, p. 210
  28. Jump up^ TREATY WITH THE KASKASKIA, 1803
  29. Jump up^ Smithsonian magazine, Secretary Clough on Jefferson’s Bible, October 2011
  30. ^ Jump up to:a b Cyrus Adler, Introduction to the Jefferson Bible
  31. Jump up^ Forrest Church, The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, p. 20
  32. Jump up^ Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819, Encyclopedia Virginia
  33. Jump up^ Hitchens, Christopher (January 9, 2007). “What Jefferson Really Thought About Islam”. Slate. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
  34. Jump up^ “Writing”.
  35. Jump up^ “Humanists slice and dice the world’s sacred texts – Religion News Service”. Religion News Service.
  36. Jump up^ “Humanists Create New ‘Jefferson Bible;’ Deliver Copies to Obama, Congress”. Christian Post.
  37. ^ Jump up to:a b c G. Wayne Clough (October 2011). “Secretary Clough on Jefferson’s Bible”. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
  38. Jump up^ Jefferson, Thomas (2011). The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Edition: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Smithsonian Books. ISBN 978-1-58834-312-3.
  39. Jump up^ “Thomas Jefferson’s Bible – The Jefferson Bible, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution”.
  40. Jump up^ “History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places – Smithsonian”.

External links


Reynolds v. United States

Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. (8 Otto.) 145 (1878), was a Supreme Court of the United States case that held that religious duty was not a defense to a criminal indictment. Reynolds was the first Supreme Court opinion to address the Impartial Jury and the Confrontation Clauses of the Sixth Amendment.

George Reynolds was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), charged with bigamy under the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Actafter marrying Amelia Jane Schofield while still married to Mary Ann Tuddenham in Utah Territory. He was secretary to Brigham Young and presented himself as a test of the federal government’s attempt to outlaw polygamy. An earlier conviction was overturned on technical grounds.[1]


The LDS Church, believing that the law unconstitutionally deprived its members of their First Amendment right to freely practice their religion, chose to ignore the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act at the time. On the other hand, in subsequent years, efforts had been underway to strengthen the anti-bigamy laws. Eventually, amid the efforts to indict the LDS leadership for bigamy, theFirst Presidency agreed to furnish a defendant in a test case to be brought before the United States Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the anti-bigamy law. Reynolds, a secretary in the office of the president of the church, agreed to serve as the defendant, then provided the United States Attorney with numerous witnesses who could testify of his being married to two wives, and was indicted for bigamy by a grand jury on October 23, 1874. In 1875, Reynolds was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labor in prison and a fine of five hundred dollars. In 1876 theUtah Territorial Supreme Court upheld the sentence.

Previously, U.S. Attorney William Carey promised to stop his attempts to indict general authorities during the test case. However when Carey failed to keep his promise and arrested George Q. Cannon, LDS Church leaders decided that they would no longer cooperate with him.[2]

Prior history

Reynolds was indicted in the District Court for the 3rd Judicial District of the Territory of Utah under sect. 5352 of the Revised Statutes, which stated, as quoted in the Supreme Court decision:

Every person having a husband or wife living, who marries another, whether married or single, in a Territory, or other place over which the United States have exclusive jurisdiction, is guilty of bigamy, and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500, and by imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.

Reynolds tried to have the jury instructed that if they found he committed bigamy with the only intention of following his religion, then he must be found not guilty. The trial court refused this request and instructed the jury that if they found that Reynolds, under religious influence, “deliberately married a second time, having a first wife living, the want of consciousness of evil intent—the want of understanding on his part that he was committing crime—did not excuse him, but the law inexorably, in such cases, implies criminal intent.”

After being found guilty by the lower court, Reynolds appealed to the Utah Territorial Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction.


The Court affirmed Reynolds’s conviction unanimously. Chief Justice Morrison Waite wrote on behalf of himself and seven colleagues. Justice Field wrote a concurrence that dissented on one minor point.

Before the Supreme Court, Reynolds argued that his conviction for bigamy should be overturned on four issues: that it was his religious duty to marry multiple times and the First Amendment protected his practice of his religion; that his grand jury had not been legally constituted; that challenges of certain jurors were improperly overruled; that testimony was not admissible as it was under another indictment.

Religious duty argument

The Court considered whether Reynolds could use religious belief or duty as a defense. Reynolds had argued that as a Mormon, it was his religious duty as a male member of the church to practice polygamy if possible.

The Court recognized that under the First Amendment, the Congress cannot pass a law that prohibits the free exercise of religion. However it held that the law prohibiting bigamy did not meet that standard. The principle that a person could only be married singly, not plurally, existed since the times of King James I of England in English law, upon which United States law was based.

The Court investigated the history of religious freedom in the United States and quoted a letter from Thomas Jefferson in which he wrote that there was a distinction between religious belief and action that flowed from religious belief. The former “lies solely between man and his God,” therefore “the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions.” The court considered that if polygamy was allowed, someone might eventually argue that human sacrifice was a necessary part of their religion, and “to permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.” The Court believed the First Amendment forbade Congress from legislating against opinion, but allowed it to legislate against action.

Other arguments[edit]

Reynolds argued that the grand jury that had indicted him was not legal. United States law at that time required that a grand jury consist of no fewer than 16 persons. The grand jury that indicted Reynolds had only 15 persons. The court rejected this argument because the Utah Territory had passed a law in 1870 under which a grand jury had to consist of only 15 persons.

During his original trial, Reynolds had challenged two jurors, both of whom stated that they had formed an opinion on the guilt or innocence of Reynolds before the trial. The court held that universal education and press reports made it hard to find jurors who had not formed some opinion. It found that Reynolds had failed to meet the requirement that he, as challenger of a juror’s objectivity, demonstrate that a juror had developed a real and strong opinion. The prosecution had discharged two potential jurors who refused to say whether or not they were living in polygamy. The Court held that it would not overturn a case based on the legality of challenges to dismissed jurors.

The Court held that evidence Amelia Jane Schofield, Reynold’s second wife, gave during an earlier trial of Reynolds for the same offense but under a different indictment was admissible. Schofield could not be found during the second trial and so evidence from the previous trial was used. The Court held that “if a witness is kept away by the adverse party, his testimony, taken on a former trial between the same parties upon the same issues, may be given in evidence”. The court held that Reynolds had every opportunity under oath to reveal the whereabouts of Schofield. This was the one point on which Justice Field dissented, finding that the evidence should not have been allowed.

Reynolds had argued that the jury had been improperly instructed by the judge when he told them that they “should consider what are to be the consequences to the innocent victims of this delusion”. Reynolds argued that this introduced prejudice to the jury. The Court held that Reynolds had freely admitted that he was a bigamist. All the judge had done was “call the attention of the jury to the peculiar character of the crime” and had done so “not to make them partial, but to keep them impartial”.


George Q. Cannon, representative of the territory, wrote in response to this decision:[3]

Our crime has been: We married women instead of seducing them; we reared children instead of destroying them; we desired to exclude from the land prostitution, bastardy and infanticide. If George Reynolds [the man who was convicted of committing bigamy] is to be punished, let the world know the facts…. Let it be published to the four corners of the earth that in this land of liberty, the most blessed and glorious upon which the sun shines, the law is swiftly invoked to punish religion, but justice goes limping and blindfolded in pursuit of crime.[4]

The New York Times defended the decision, noting that the 1862 act that banned bigamy, though “obviously directed at the polygamous practices of the Mormons, merely extended over the Territories the common law in relation to bigamy which exists in every State of the Union.” Its editorial ridiculed the Mormon defense of polygamy as a religious practice and said: “Similarly, a sect which should pretend, or believe, that incest, infanticide, or murder was a divinely appointed ordinance, to be observed under certain conditions, could set up that the enforcement of the common law, as against either [sic] of these practices, was an invasion of the rights of conscience.” It predicted the eventual success of the movement “to crush out polygamy in Utah.”[5

See also


  1. Riggs, Robert E. (1992). “Reynolds V. United States”. In Ludlow, Daniel H. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan. pp. 1229–1230. ISBN 0-02-879605-5. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  2. Jump up^ Larson, “Government, Politics, and Conflict,” pp. 252, 254.
  3. Jump up^ Gustive O. Larson, Federal Government Efforts to “Americanize” Utah Before Admission to Statehood, pp. ??
  4. Jump up^ Cannon, George Quayle, A Review of the Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Geo. Reynolds vs. The United States, Deseret News Printing and Publishing Establishment, Salt Lake City, Utah, p. 52.
  5. Jump up^ “A Blow at Polygamy”. New York Times. January 8, 1879. Retrieved December 20, 2012.

Further reading

External links