Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale

In office
March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1809
Vice President Aaron Burr (1801–1805),
George Clinton (1805–1809)
Preceded by John Adams
Succeeded by James Madison

In office
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
President John Adams
Preceded by John Adams
Succeeded by Aaron Burr

In office
March 22, 1790 – December 31, 1793
President George Washington
Preceded by John Jay
(as Secretary of Foreign Affairs)
Succeeded by Edmund Randolph

United States Ambassador to France
In office
Appointed by Congress of the Confederation
Preceded by Benjamin Franklin
Succeeded by William Short

Delegate from Virginia to The Congress of the Confederation
In office
November 1, 1783 – May 7, 1784
Preceded by James Madison
Succeeded by Richard Henry Lee

2nd Governor of Virginia
In office
June 1, 1779 – June 3, 1781
Preceded by Patrick Henry
Succeeded by William Fleming

Representative from Albemarle County to Virginia House of Delegates
In office

In office

Representative from Albemarle County to House of Burgesses[1]
In office

Born April 13 [O.S. April 2] 1743
Shadwell, Virginia
Died July 4, 1826(1826-07-04) (aged 83)
Charlottesville, Virginia
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
Children Martha Washington Jefferson
Jane Randolph Jefferson
Mary Wayles Jefferson
Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson I
Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson II
Alma mater The College of William & Mary
Occupation planter
Religion see below
Signature "Th: Jefferson"
Classic engraving of Jefferson on Louisiana Purchase Exposition issue of 1904.

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826)[2] was the third President of the United States (1801–1809) and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776). Jefferson was one of the most influential Founding Fathers, known for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States. Jefferson envisioned America as the force behind a great "Empire of Liberty"[3] that would promote republicanism and counter the imperialism of the British Empire.

Major events during his presidency include the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806), as well as escalating tensions with both Britain and France that led to war with Britain in 1812, after he left office.

As a political philosopher, Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment and knew many intellectual leaders in Britain and France. He idealized the independent yeoman farmer as exemplar of republican virtues, distrusted cities and financiers, and favored states' rights and a strictly limited federal government. Jefferson supported the separation of church and state[4] and was the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779, 1786). He was the eponym of Jeffersonian democracy and the cofounder and leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, which dominated American politics for 25 years. Jefferson served as the wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781), first United States Secretary of State (1789–1793), and second Vice President of the United States (1797–1801).

A polymath, Jefferson achieved distinction as, among other things, a horticulturist, political leader, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, musician, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia. When President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962 he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."[5] To date, Jefferson is the only president to serve two full terms in office without vetoing a single bill of Congress. Jefferson has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest of U.S. presidents.


Early life and education


Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743[2] into a family closely related to some of the most prominent individuals in Virginia, the third of ten children. Two died in childhood.[6] His mother was Jane Randolph, daughter of Isham Randolph, a ship's captain and sometime planter, first cousin to Peyton Randolph, and granddaughter of wealthy English and Scottish gentry. Jefferson's father was Peter Jefferson, a planter and surveyor in Albemarle County (Shadwell, then Edge Hill, Virginia.) He was of possible Welsh descent, although this remains unclear.[7] When Colonel William Randolph, an old friend of Peter Jefferson, died in 1745, Peter assumed executorship and personal charge of William Randolph's estate in Tuckahoe as well as his infant son, Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. That year the Jeffersons relocated to Tuckahoe where they would remain for the next seven years before returning to their home in Albemarle. Peter Jefferson was then appointed to the Colonelcy of the county, an important position at the time.[8]


In 1752, Jefferson began attending a local school run by William Douglas, a Scottish minister. At the age of nine, Jefferson began studying Latin, Greek, and French. In 1757, when he was 14 years old, his father died. Jefferson inherited about 5,000 acres (20 km²) of land and dozens of slaves. He built his home there, which eventually became known as Monticello.

After his father's death, he was taught at the school of the learned minister James Maury from 1758 to 1760. The school was in Fredericksville Parish near Gordonsville, Virginia, twelve miles (19 km) from Shadwell, and Jefferson boarded with Maury's family. There he received a classical education and studied history and science.

In 1760, at the age of 16, Jefferson entered the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg. He enrolled in the philosophy school and studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under Professor William Small, who introduced the enthusiastic Jefferson to the writings of the British Empiricists, including John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton (Jefferson called them the "three greatest men the world had ever produced").[9] He also perfected his French, carried his Greek grammar book wherever he went, practiced the violin, and read Tacitus and Homer. A keen and diligent student, Jefferson displayed an avid curiosity in all fields and, according to the family tradition, frequently studied fifteen hours a day. His closest college friend, John Page of Rosewell, reported that Jefferson "could tear himself away from his dearest friends to fly to his studies."

While in college, Jefferson was a member of a secret organization called the F.H.C. Society. He lodged and boarded at the College in the building known today as the Sir Christopher Wren Building, attending communal meals in the Great Hall, and morning and evening prayers in the Wren Chapel. Jefferson often attended the lavish parties of royal governor Francis Fauquier, where he played his violin and developed an early love for wines.[10] After graduating in 1762 with highest honors, he read law with William & Mary law professor George Wythe and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767.

After college

On October 1, 1765, Jefferson's oldest sister Jane died at the age of 25.[11] Jefferson fell into a period of deep mourning, as he was already saddened by the absence of his sisters Mary, who had been married several years to Thomas Bolling, and Martha, who had wed earlier in July to Dabney Carr.[11] Both had moved to their husbands' residences, leaving younger siblings Elizabeth, Lucy, and the two toddlers as his companions. Jefferson was not comforted by the presence of Elizabeth or Lucy as they did not provide him with the same intellectual stimulation as his older siblings had.[11]

Jefferson would go on to handle many cases as a lawyer in colonial Virginia, managing more than a hundred cases each year between 1768 and 1773 in General Court alone, while acting as counsel in hundreds of cases.[12] Jefferson's client list included members of the Virginia's elite families, including members of his mother's family, the Randolphs.[12]


Jefferson's Home Monticello
On April 13th of 1956 the U.S. Post Office issued a postage stamp honoring Montecello.[13]

In 1768 Thomas Jefferson started the construction of Monticello, a neoclassical mansion. Starting in childhood, Jefferson had always wanted to build a beautiful mountaintop home within sight of Shadwell.[14][15] Jefferson went greatly in debt on Monticello by spending lavishly to create a neoclassical environment, based on his study of the architect Andrea Palladio and The Orders. [16]

Monticello was also Thomas Jefferson's slave plantation. Throughout a period lasting seventy years, Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 slaves. Many of the slaves at the Monticello plantation intermarried amongst each other and produced children. Jefferson only paid a few of his trusted slaves in important positions for work done or for performing difficult tasks like cleaning chimneys or privies. Fragmentary records indicate a rich spiritual life at Monticello slave quarters, incorporating both Christian and African traditions. Although there is no record that Jefferson instructed slaves in grammar education, several enslaved men at Monticello could read and write.[17]

Toward revolution

Besides practicing law, Jefferson represented Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Burgesses beginning in 1769. Following the passage of the Coercive Acts by the British Parliament in 1774, he wrote a set of resolutions against the acts, which were expanded into A Summary View of the Rights of British America, his first published work. Previous criticism of the Coercive Acts had focused on legal and constitutional issues, but Jefferson offered the radical notion that the colonists had the natural right to govern themselves.[18] Jefferson also argued that Parliament was the legislature of Great Britain only, and had no legislative authority in the colonies.[18] The paper was intended to serve as instructions for the Virginia delegation of the First Continental Congress, but Jefferson's ideas proved to be too radical for that body.[18]

Drafting a declaration

Jefferson served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress beginning in June 1775, soon after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. When Congress began considering a resolution of independence in June 1776, Jefferson was appointed to a five-man committee to prepare a declaration to accompany the resolution. The committee selected Jefferson to write the first draft probably because of his reputation as a writer. The assignment was considered routine; no one at the time thought that it was a major responsibility.[19] Jefferson completed a draft in consultation with other committee members, drawing on his own proposed draft of the Virginia Constitution, George Mason's draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and other sources.[20]

Political career from 1774 to 1800

Rudolph Evans' statue of Jefferson with excerpts from the Declaration of Independence to the right
Rudolph Evans' statue of Jefferson with excerpts from the Declaration of Independence to the right

Jefferson showed his draft to the committee, which made some final revisions, and then presented it to Congress on June 28, 1776. After voting in favor of the resolution of independence on July 2, Congress turned its attention to the declaration. Over several days of debate, Congress made a few changes in wording and deleted nearly a fourth of the text, most notably a passage critical of the slave trade, changes that Jefferson resented.[21] On July 4, 1776, the wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved. The Declaration would eventually become Jefferson's major claim to fame, and his eloquent preamble became an enduring statement of human rights.[21]

State legislator

About 50 men, most of them seated, are in a large meeting room. Most are focused on the five men standing in the center of the room. The tallest of the five is laying a document on a table.
In John Trumbull's painting Declaration of Independence, the five-man drafting committee is presenting its work to the Continental Congress. Jefferson is the tall figure in the center laying the Declaration on the desk.

In September 1776, Jefferson returned to Virginia and was elected to the new Virginia House of Delegates. During his term in the House, Jefferson set out to reform and update Virginia's system of laws to reflect its new status as a democratic state. He drafted 126 bills in three years, including laws to abolish primogeniture, establish freedom of religion, and streamline the judicial system. In 1778, Jefferson's "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge" led to several academic reforms at his alma mater, including an elective system of study—the first in an American university.

While in the state legislature Jefferson proposed a bill to eliminate capital punishment for all crimes except murder and treason. His effort to reform the death penalty law was defeated by just one vote,[22] and such crimes as rape remained punishable by death in Virginia until the 1960s.[23] He succeeded in passing an act prohibiting the importation of slaves but not slavery itself.

Governor of Virginia

Jefferson served as governor of Virginia from 1779–1781. As governor, he oversaw the transfer of the state capital from Williamsburg to the more central location of Richmond in 1780. He continued to advocate educational reforms at the College of William and Mary, including the nation's first student-policed honor code. In 1779, at Jefferson's behest, William and Mary appointed George Wythe to be the first professor of law in an American university. Dissatisfied with the rate of changes he wanted to push through, he later became the founder of the University of Virginia, which was the first university in the United States at which higher education was completely separate from religious doctrine.

Virginia was invaded twice by the British led first by Benedict Arnold and then by Lord Cornwallis during Jefferson's term as governor. He, along with Patrick Henry and other leaders of Virginia, were but ten minutes away from being captured by Banastre Tarleton, a British colonel leading a cavalry column that was raiding the area in June 1781.[24] Public disapproval of his performance delayed his future political prospects, and he was never again elected to office in Virginia.[25] He was, however, appointed by the state legislature to Congress in 1783.

Member of Congress

The Virginia state legislature appointed Jefferson to the Congress of the Confederation on 6 June 1783, his term beginning on 1 November. He was a member of the committee formed to set foreign exchange rates, and in that capacity he recommended that the American currency should be based on the decimal system.

Jefferson also recommended setting up the Committee of the States, to function as the executive arm of Congress when Congress was not in session.

He left Congress when he was elected a minister plenipotentiary on 7 May 1784. He became Minister to France in 1785.

Minister to France

Memorial plaque on the Champs-Élysées, Paris, France, marking where Jefferson lived while he was Minister to France. The plaque was erected after World War I to commemorate the centenary of Jefferson's founding of the University of Virginia.
Memorial plaque on the Champs-Élysées, Paris, France, marking where Jefferson lived while he was Minister to France. The plaque was erected after World War I to commemorate the centenary of Jefferson's founding of the University of Virginia.

Because Jefferson served as minister to France from 1785 to 1789, he was not able to attend the Philadelphia Convention. He generally supported the new constitution despite the lack of a bill of rights and was kept informed by his correspondence with James Madison.

While in Paris, he lived in a home on the Champs-Élysées. He spent much of his time exploring the architectural sites of the city, as well as enjoying the fine arts that Paris had to offer. He became a favorite in the salon culture and was a frequent dinner guest of many of the city's most prominent people. In addition, he frequently entertained others from French and European society. He and his daughters were accompanied by two slaves of the Hemings family from Monticello. Jefferson paid for James Hemings to be trained as a French chef (Hemings later accompanied Jefferson as chef when he was in Philadelphia). Sally Hemings, James' sister, had accompanied Jefferson's younger daughter overseas. Some speculate Jefferson to have begun a long-term relationship with Sally Hemings[26] in Paris. Both the Hemings learned French during their time in the city.[27]

From 1784 to 1785, Jefferson was one of the architects of trade relations between the United States and Prussia. The Prussian ambassador Friedrich Wilhelm von Thulemeyer and John Adams, both living in the Hague, and Benjamin Franklin in Paris, were also involved.[28]

Despite his numerous friendships with the social and noble elite, when the French Revolution began in 1789, Jefferson sided with the revolutionaries.

Secretary of State

After returning from France, Jefferson served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington (1790–1793). Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton began sparring over national fiscal policy, especially the funding of the debts of the war, with Hamilton believing that the debts should be equally shared, and Jefferson believing that each state should be responsible for its own debt (Virginia had not accumulated much debt during the Revolution). In further sparring with the Federalists, Jefferson came to equate Hamilton and the rest of the Federalists with Tories and monarchists who threatened to undermine republicanism. He equated Federalism with "Royalism," and made a point to state that "Hamiltonians were panting after...and itching for crowns, coronets and mitres."[29] Jefferson and James Madison founded and led the Democratic-Republican Party. He worked with Madison and his campaign manager John J. Beckley to build a nationwide network of Republican allies to combat Federalists across the country.

Jefferson strongly supported France against Britain when war broke out between those nations in 1793. Historian Lawrence S. Kaplan notes Jefferson's "visceral support for the French cause," while agreeing with Washington that the nation should not get involved in the fighting.[30] The arrival in 1793 of an aggressive new French minister, Edmond-Charles Genêt, caused a crisis for the Secretary of State, as he watched Genêt try to violate American neutrality, manipulate public opinion, and even go over Washington's head in appealing to the people; projects that Jefferson helped to thwart. According to Schachner, Jefferson believed that political success at home depended on the success of the French army in Europe:[31]

Aquatint of Thomas Jefferson in profile by Tadeusz Kościuszko
Thomas Jefferson, aquatint by Tadeusz Kościuszko
Jefferson still clung to his sympathies with France and hoped for the success of her arms abroad and a cordial compact with her at home. He was afraid that any French reverses on the European battlefields would give "wonderful vigor to our monocrats, and unquestionably affect the tone of administering our government. Indeed, I fear that if this summer should prove disastrous to the French, it will damp that energy of republicanism in our new Congress, from which I had hoped so much reformation."

Break from office

Jefferson at the end of 1793 retired to Monticello where he continued to orchestrate opposition to Hamilton and Washington. However, the Jay Treaty of 1794, orchestrated by Hamilton, brought peace and trade with Britain – while Madison, with strong support from Jefferson, wanted, Miller says, "to strangle the former mother country" without going to war. "It became an article of faith among Republicans that 'commercial weapons' would suffice to bring Great Britain to any terms the United States chose to dictate." Jefferson, in retirement, strongly encouraged Madison.[32]

Election of 1796 and Vice Presidency

As the Democratic-Republican candidate in 1796 he lost to John Adams, but had enough electoral votes to become Vice President (1797–1801). He wrote a manual of parliamentary procedure, but otherwise avoided the Senate.

With the Quasi-War, an undeclared naval war with France, underway, the Federalists under John Adams started a navy, built up the army, levied new taxes, readied for war, and enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. Jefferson interpreted the Alien and Sedition Acts as an effort to suppress Democratic-Republicans rather than dangerous enemy aliens and, in fact, they were used to attack his party, with the most notable attacks coming from Matthew Lyon, a representative from Vermont. Jefferson and Madison rallied support by anonymously writing the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which declared that the federal government had no right to exercise powers not specifically delegated to it by the states. The Resolutions meant that, should the federal government assume such powers, its acts under them could be voided by a state. The Resolutions presented the first statements of the states' rights theory, that later led to the concepts of nullification and interposition.

Election of 1800

Working closely with Aaron Burr of New York, Jefferson rallied his party, attacking the new taxes especially, and ran for the Presidency in 1800. Consistent with the traditions of the times, he did not formally campaign for the position. Before the passage of the Twelfth Amendment, a problem with the new union's electoral system arose. He tied with Burr for first place in the electoral college, leaving the House of Representatives (where the Federalists still had some power) to decide the election.

After lengthy debate within the Federalist-controlled House, Hamilton convinced his party that Jefferson would be a lesser political evil than Burr and that such scandal within the electoral process would undermine the still-young regime. The issue was resolved by the House, on February 17, 1801, after thirty-six ballots, when Jefferson was elected President and Burr Vice President. Burr's refusal to remove himself from consideration created ill will with Jefferson, who dropped Burr from the ticket in 1804 after Burr killed Hamilton in a duel.

However, Jefferson's win over the Federalist John Adams in the general election was derided in its time for how the electoral college was set up under the three-fifths compromise at the Constitutional convention. Jefferson owed part of his election to the South's inflated number of Electors due to slave-holdings, which meant that twelve of Jefferson's electoral votes—his margin of victory—were derived from citizenry who were denied the vote and their full humanity.[33][34] After his election in 1800, Jefferson was derided as the "Negro President", with critics like the Mercury and New-England Palladium of Boston writing on January 20, 1801, that Jefferson had the gall to celebrate his election as a victory for democracy when he won "the temple of Liberty on the shoulders of slaves."[34][35]

Presidency 1801–1809

First Jefferson stamp
~ Issue of 1856 ~

During Jefferson's presidency many federal taxes were repealed, and he sought to rely mainly on customs revenue. He pardoned people who had been imprisoned under the Alien and Sedition Acts, passed in John Adams' term, which Jefferson believed to be unconstitutional. He repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801 and removed many of Adams' "midnight judges" from office, which led to the Supreme Court deciding the important case of Marbury v. Madison. He began and won the First Barbary War (1801–1805), America's first significant overseas war, and established the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1802.

In 1803, despite his misgivings about the constitutionality of Congress's power to buy land, Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from France, doubling the size of the United States. The land thus acquired amounts to 23 percent of the United States today.[36]

In 1807, his former vice president, Aaron Burr, was tried for treason on Jefferson's order, but was acquitted. During the trial Chief Justice John Marshall subpoenaed Jefferson, who invoked executive privilege and claimed that as president he did not need to comply. When Marshall held that the Constitution did not provide the president with any exception to the duty to obey a court order, Jefferson backed down.

Jefferson's reputation was damaged by the Embargo Act of 1807, which was ineffective and was repealed at the end of his second term.

In 1803, President Jefferson signed into law a bill that excluded blacks from carrying the U.S. mail. Historian John Hope Franklin called the signing "a gratuitous expression of distrust of free Negroes who had done nothing to merit it." [37]

On March 3, 1807, Jefferson signed a bill making slave importation illegal in the United States.[38][39]

Administration, Cabinet and Supreme Court appointments 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

Associate Justice

  • William Johnson – 1804
  • Henry Brockholst Livingston – 1807
  • Thomas Todd – 1807

States admitted to the Union:

  • Ohio – March 1, 1803
Painting of Jefferson wearing fur collar by Rembrandt Peale, 1805
Painting of Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale (1805)

Father of a university

Also see: History of the University of Virginia

After leaving the Presidency, Jefferson continued to be active in public affairs. He also became increasingly concerned with founding a new institution of higher learning, specifically one free of church influences where students could specialize in many new areas not offered at other universities. Jefferson believed educating people was a good way to establish an organized society, and felt schools should be paid for by the general public, so less wealthy people could obtain student membership as well.[40] A letter to Joseph Priestley, in January 1800, indicated that he had been planning the University for decades before its establishment.

His dream was realized in 1819 with the founding of the University of Virginia. Upon its opening in 1825, it was then the first university to offer a full slate of elective courses to its students. One of the largest construction projects to that time in North America, it was notable for being centered about a library rather than a church. No campus chapel was included in his original plans. Until his death, Jefferson invited students and faculty of the school to his home.

Jefferson is widely recognized for his architectural planning of the University of Virginia grounds, an innovative design that is a powerful representation of his aspirations for both state sponsored education and an agrarian democracy in the new Republic. His educational idea of creating specialized units of learning is physically expressed in the configuration of his campus plan, which he called the "Academical Village". Individual academic units are expressed visually as distinct structures, represented by Pavilions, facing a grassy quadrangle, with each Pavilion housing classroom, faculty office, and homes. Though unique, each is visually equal in importance, and they are linked with a series of open air arcades that are the front facades of student accommodations. Gardens and vegetable plots are placed behind and surrounded by serpentine walls, affirming the importance of the agrarian lifestyle.

His highly ordered site plan establishes an ensemble of buildings surrounding a central rectangular quadrangle, named The Lawn, which is lined on either side with the academic teaching units and their linking arcades. The quad is enclosed at one end with the library, the repository of knowledge, at the head of the table. The remaining side opposite the library remained open-ended for future growth. The lawn rises gradually as a series of stepped terraces, each a few feet higher than the last, rising up to the library set in the most prominent position at the top, while also suggesting that the Academical Village facilitates easier movement to the future.

Stylistically, Jefferson was a proponent of the Greek and Roman styles, which he believed to be most representative of American democracy by historical association. Each academic unit is designed with a two story temple front facing the quadrangle, while the library is modeled on the Roman Pantheon. The ensemble of buildings surrounding the quad is an unmistakable architectural statement of the importance of secular public education, while the exclusion of religious structures reinforces the principle of separation of church and state. The campus planning and architectural treatment remains today as a paradigm of building of structures to express intellectual ideas and aspirations. A survey of members of the American Institute of Architects identified Jefferson's campus as the most significant work of architecture in America.

The University was designed as the capstone of the educational system of Virginia. In his vision, any citizen of the state could attend school with the sole criterion being ability.


Obelisk at Thomas Jefferson's gravesite
Jefferson's gravesite[41]

Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. He died a few hours before John Adams, his compatriot in their quest for independence, then great political rival, and later friend and correspondent. Adams is often rumored to have referenced Jefferson in his last words, unaware of his passing.[42] Jefferson is considered to have died from a number of conditions in his old age: toxins in his blood and uremia from nephropathy, severe diarrhea, and pneumonia. Problems urinating from a urinary tract infection, while a symptom of kidney disease, have made some consider that Jefferson died from undiagnosed prostate cancer.[43]

Although he was born into one of the wealthiest families in North America, Thomas Jefferson was deeply in debt when he died. Jefferson's trouble began when his father-in-law died, and he and his brothers-in-law quickly divided the estate before its debts were settled. It made each of them liable for the whole amount due – which turned out to be more than they expected.

Jefferson sold land before the American Revolution to pay off the debts, but by the time he received payment, the paper money was worthless amid the skyrocketing inflation of the war years. Cornwallis ravaged Jefferson's plantation during the war, and British creditors resumed their collection efforts when the conflict ended. Jefferson suffered another financial setback when he cosigned notes for a relative who reneged on debts in the financial Panic of 1819. Only Jefferson's public stature prevented creditors from seizing Monticello and selling it out from under him during his lifetime.

After his death, his possessions were sold at auction. In 1831, Jefferson's 552 acres (223 hectares) were sold to James T. Barclay for $7,000, equivalent to $144 thousand today.[44] Thomas Jefferson is buried on his Monticello estate, in Charlottesville, Virginia. In his will, he left Monticello to the United States to be used as a school for orphans of navy officers. His epitaph, written by him with an insistence that only his words and "not a word more" be inscribed (notably omitting his service as Governor of Virginia, Vice-President and President), reads:


Below the epitaph, on a separate panel, is written

BORN APRIL 2. 1743. O.S.
DIED JULY 4. 1826.

The initials O.S. are a notation for Old Style and that is a reference to the change of dating that occurred during Jefferson's lifetime from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar under the British Calendar (New Style) Act 1750.[45]

Appearance and temperament

Jefferson was a thin, tall man, who stood at approximately six feet and remarkably straight.[46]

"The Sage of Monticello" cultivated an image that earned him the other nickname, "Man of the People." He affected a popular air by greeting White House guests in homespun attire like a robe and slippers. Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison (Jefferson's secretary of state), and Jefferson's daughters relaxed White House protocol and turned formal state dinners into more casual and entertaining social events.[47]

Jefferson's writings were utilitarian and evidenced great intellect, and he had an affinity with languages. He learned Gaelic to translate Ossian, and sent to James Macpherson for the originals.

As President, he discontinued the practice of delivering the State of the Union address in person, instead sending the address to Congress in writing (the practice was eventually revived by Woodrow Wilson); he gave only two public speeches during his Presidency. Jefferson had a lisp[48] and preferred writing to public speaking partly because of this. He burned all of his letters between himself and his wife at her death, creating the portrait of a man who at times could be very private. Indeed, he preferred working in the privacy of his office rather than in the public eye.[49]

Interests and activities

Jefferson's drawing of a pasta machine, ca. 1787

Jefferson was an accomplished architect who was extremely influential in bringing the Neo-Palladian style—popular among the Whig aristocracy of Britain—to the United States. The style was associated with Enlightenment ideas of republican civic virtue and political liberty. Jefferson designed his home Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia. Nearby is the University of Virginia, the only university ever to have been founded by a U.S. president. Jefferson designed the architecture of the first buildings as well as the original curriculum and residential style. Monticello and the University of Virginia are together one of only four man-made World Heritage Sites in the United States of America.

Jefferson also designed Poplar Forest, near Lynchburg, in Bedford County, Virginia, as a private retreat from his very public life. Jefferson contributed to the design of the Virginia State Capitol, which was modeled after the Maison Carrée, an ancient Roman temple at Nîmes in southern France. Jefferson's buildings helped initiate the ensuing American fashion for Federal architecture.

Jefferson invented many small practical devices, such as a rotating book stand and (in collaboration with Charles Wilson Peale) a number of improvements to the polygraph, a device that made a copy of a letter as he wrote the original.[50] Monticello included automatic doors, the first swivel chair, and other convenient devices invented by Jefferson. His interest in mechanical drawing devices included the use of the physiognotrace. In 1802, Charles Willson Peale sent a watercolor sketch of this instrument to Thomas Jefferson,[51] along with a detailed explanation. The drawing now sits with the Jefferson Papers in the Library of Congress. In 1804, Charles Fevret de Saint-Memin created an oval silhouette likeness of Jefferson using the physiognotrace, which became one of the best known likenesses of Jefferson in his day.[52]

In 1780, he joined Benjamin Franklin's American Philosophical Society. He served as president of the society from 1797 to 1815.

Jefferson was interested in birds. His Notes on Virginia contains a list of the birds found in his home state, though there are "doubtless many others which have not yet been described and classed." He also comments that the drawings of Virginia birds by the English naturalist Mark Catesby "are better as to form and attitude, than colouring, which is generally too high."

Letter from Jefferson to General George Rogers Clark asking Clark to crate fossils he discovered at Big Bone Lick, Kentucky, for shipment to a New Orleans collector. The following year Jefferson offered the archaeological finds to the National Institute of Paris, France

Jefferson was an avid wine lover and collector, and a noted gourmet. During his years in France (1784–1789), he took extensive trips through French and other European wine regions, and bought wine to send back to the United States. He is noted for the bold pronouncement: "We could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good." While there were extensive vineyards planted at Monticello, a significant portion were of the European wine grape Vitis vinifera and did not survive the many vine diseases native to the Americas.

In 1801, he published A Manual of Parliamentary Practice that is still in use. In 1812, Jefferson published a second edition.

After the British burned Washington, D.C. and the Library of Congress in August 1814, Jefferson offered his own collection of books to the nation. In January 1815, Congress accepted his offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6,487 books. The foundation was laid for a great national library. Today, the Library of Congress' website for federal legislative information is named THOMAS, in honor of Jefferson.[53] In 2007, Jefferson's two-volume 1764 edition of the Qur'an was used by Rep. Keith Ellison for his swearing in to the House of Representatives.[54]

Political philosophy and views

Jefferson's 1818 letter to Mordecai Manuel Noah
In his May 28, 1818, letter to Mordecai Manuel Noah, Jefferson expressed his faith in humanity and his views on the nature of democracy.

Jefferson was a leader in developing republicanism in the United States. He insisted that the British aristocratic system was inherently corrupt and that Americans' devotion to civic virtue required independence. In the 1790s he repeatedly warned that Hamilton and Adams were trying to impose a British-like monarchical system that threatened republicanism. He supported the War of 1812, hoping it would drive away the British military and ideological threat from Canada.

Jefferson's vision for American virtue was that of an agricultural nation of yeoman farmers minding their own affairs. His agrarianism stood in contrast to the vision of Alexander Hamilton of a nation of commerce and manufacturing, which Jefferson said offered too many temptations to corruption. Jefferson's deep belief in the uniqueness and the potential of America made him the father of American exceptionalism. In particular, he was confident that an underpopulated America could avoid what he considered the horrors of class-divided, industrialized Europe.

Jefferson's republican political principles were heavily influenced by the Country Party of 18th century British opposition writers. He was influenced by John Locke (particularly relating to the principle of inalienable rights). Historians find few traces of any influence by his French contemporary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.[55]

Banks and bankers

His opposition to the Bank of the United States was fierce: "I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."[56] Nevertheless Madison and Congress, seeing the financial chaos caused by the War of 1812, disregarded his advice and created the Second Bank of the United States in 1816.

Jefferson wrote many letters to colleagues where he often defined his views about the banking cartel of the day. Among the most definitive is his letter to John Taylor of May 28, 1816:

The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated. I contemplate it as a blot left in all our constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens.[57]

Thomas Jefferson, 1816

Individual rights

Jefferson believed that each individual has "certain inalienable rights". That is, these rights exist with or without government; man cannot create, take, or give them away. It is the right of "liberty" on which Jefferson is most notable for expounding. He defines it by saying, "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."[58] Hence, for Jefferson, though government cannot create a right to liberty, it can indeed violate it. The limit of an individual's rightful liberty is not what law says it is but is simply a matter of stopping short of prohibiting other individuals from having the same liberty. A proper government, for Jefferson, is one that not only prohibits individuals in society from infringing on the liberty of other individuals, but also restrains itself from diminishing individual liberty.

Jefferson's commitment to equality was expressed in his successful efforts to abolish primogeniture in Virginia, the rule by which the first born son inherited all the land.[59]

Jefferson believed that individuals have an innate sense of morality that prescribes right from wrong when dealing with other individuals—that whether they choose to restrain themselves or not, they have an innate sense of the natural rights of others. He even believed that moral sense to be reliable enough that an anarchist society could function well, provided that it was reasonably small. On several occasions, he expressed admiration for the tribal, communal way of living of Native Americans:[60] Jefferson is sometimes seen as a philosophical anarchist.[61]

He said in a letter to Colonel Carrington: "I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments." However, Jefferson believed anarchism to be "inconsistent with any great degree of population".[62] Hence, he did advocate government for the American expanse provided that it exists by "consent of the governed".

In the Preamble to his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles & organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness.[63]

Jefferson's dedication to "consent of the governed" was so thorough that he believed that individuals could not be morally bound by the actions of preceding generations. This included debts as well as law. He said that "no society can make a perpetual constitution or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation." He even calculated what he believed to be the proper cycle of legal revolution: "Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it is to be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right." He arrived at 19 years through calculations with expectancy of life tables, taking into account what he believed to be the age of "maturity"—when an individual is able to reason for himself.[64] He also advocated that the national debt should be eliminated. He did not believe that living individuals had a moral obligation to repay the debts of previous generations. He said that repaying such debts was "a question of generosity and not of right."[65]

States' rights

Jefferson's very strong defense of States' rights, especially in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, set the tone for hostility to expansion of federal powers. However, some of his foreign policies did strengthen the government. Most important was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, when he used the implied powers to annex a huge foreign territory and all its French and Indian inhabitants. The population was estimated to be 97,000 as of the 1810 census.[66] His enforcement of the Embargo Act of 1807, while it failed in terms of foreign policy, demonstrated that the federal government could intervene with great force at the local level in controlling trade that might lead to war.

Carrying of arms

Jefferson copied many excerpts from the various books he read into his "Legal Commonplace Book."[67] One passage he copied which touches on gun control was from Cesare Beccaria's Essay on Crimes and Punishments. The passage, which is written in Italian, discusses the "false idea of utility” (false idee di utilità) which Beccaria saw as underlying some laws. It can be translated, in part, as:

A principal source of errors and injustice are false ideas of utility. For example: that legislator has false ideas of utility … who would deprive men of the use of fire for fear of their being burnt, and of water for fear of their being drowned; and who knows of no means of preventing evil but by destroying it.

The laws of this nature are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. ... It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed persons.[68]

Jefferson's only notation was, "False idee di utilità."[68] It isn't known whether Jefferson agreed with the example Beccaria used, or with the general idea, or if he had some other reason for copying the passage.


Jefferson in 1816 wrote to George Logan,

In this respect England exhibits the most remarkable phenomenon in the universe in the contrast between the profligacy of it's government and the probity of it's citizens. And accordingly it is now exhibiting an example of the truth of the maxim that virtue & interest are inseparable. It ends, as might have been expected, in the ruin of it's people, but this ruin will fall heaviest, as it ought to fall on that hereditary aristocracy which has for generations been preparing the catastrophe. I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it's birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.[69]


Trained as a lawyer, Jefferson was a gifted writer but never a good speaker or advocate and was never comfortable in court. He believed that judges should be technical specialists but should not set policy. He privately felt the 1803 Supreme Court ruling in Marbury v. Madison was a violation of democracy, for it made the Supreme Court the final decision-maker on the Constitution. He lacked enough support in Congress to propose a Constitutional amendment to overturn it.[70] Jefferson continued to oppose the doctrine of judicial review:

To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem [good justice is broad jurisdiction], and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.[71]

Rebellion to restrain government and retain individual rights

After the Revolutionary War, Jefferson advocated restraining government via rebellion and violence when necessary, in order to protect individual freedoms. In a letter to James Madison on January 30, 1787, Jefferson wrote, "A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical…It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."[72] Similarly, in a letter to Abigail Adams on February 22, 1787 he wrote, "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all."[72] Concerning Shays' Rebellion after he had heard of the bloodshed, on November 13, 1787 Jefferson wrote to William S. Smith, John Adams' son-in-law, "What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."[73] In another letter to William S. Smith during 1787, Jefferson wrote: And what country can preserve its liberties, if the rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.[72]


In a letter to Francis Hopkinson of March 13, 1789, Jefferson wrote: "I never had an opinion in politics or religion which I was afraid to own. A costive reserve on these subjects might have procured me more esteem from some people, but less from myself."[74]

Women in politics

Jefferson was not an advocate of women's suffrage; author Richard Morris wrote, "Abigail Adams excepted, Jefferson detested intellectual women. Annoyed by the political chatter of women in Parisian salons, he wrote home expressing the hope that 'our good ladies ... are contented to soothe and calm the minds of their husbands returning ruffled from political debate.'" While President, Jefferson wrote that "The appointment of a woman to office is an innovation for which the public is not prepared, nor am I."[75]


The religious views of Thomas Jefferson diverged from the orthodox Christianity of his day. Throughout his life Jefferson was intensely interested in theology, biblical study, and morality. He is most closely connected with the Episcopal Church, Unitarianism, and the religious philosophy of Deism. He wrote to a nephew, "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."[76][77] In private letters, Jefferson refers to himself as a "Christian" (1803),[78][79] "a sect by myself" (1819),[80] an "Epicurean" (1819),[81] a "Materialist" (1820),[82] and a "Unitarian by myself" (1825).[83]

Native American policy

Jefferson was the first President to propose the idea of a formal Indian Removal plan.[84][85]

Andrew Jackson is often erroneously credited with initiating Indian Removal, because Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, during his presidency, and also because of his personal involvement in the forceful removal of many Eastern tribes.[84] But Jackson was merely legalizing and implementing a plan laid out by Jefferson in a series of private letters that began in 1803 (for example, see letter to William Henry Harrison below).[84]

Jefferson's first promotions of Indian Removal were between 1776 and 1779, when he recommended forcing the Cherokee and Shawnee tribes to be driven out of their ancestral homelands to lands west of the Mississippi River.[84]

His first such act as president, was to make a deal with the state of Georgia that if Georgia were to release its legal claims to discovery in lands to the west, then the U.S. military would help forcefully expel the Cherokee people from Georgia. At the time, the Cherokee had a treaty with the United States government which guaranteed them the right to their lands, which was violated in Jefferson's deal with Georgia.[84]

Acculturation and assimilation

Jefferson's original plan was for Natives to give up their own cultures, religions, and lifestyles in favor of western European culture, Christian religion, and a sedentary agricultural lifestyle.[84][85]

Jefferson's expectation was that by assimilating them into an agricultural lifestyle and stripping them of self-sufficiency, they would become economically dependent on trade with white Americans, and would thereby be willing to give up land that they would otherwise not part with, in exchange for trade goods or to resolve unpaid debts.[86] In an 1803 letter to William Henry Harrison, Jefferson wrote:

To promote this disposition to exchange lands, which they have to spare and we want, for necessaries, which we have to spare and they want, we shall push our trading uses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands.... In this way our settlements will gradually circumscribe and approach the Indians, and they will in time either incorporate with us a citizens or the United States, or remove beyond the Mississippi. The former is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves; but, in the whole course of this, it is essential to cultivate their love. As to their fear, we presume that our strength and their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them, and that all our liberalities to them proceed from motives of pure humanity only. Should any tribe be foolhardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the seizing the whole country of that tribe, and driving them across the Mississippi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation.[86]

Forced removal and extermination

In cases where Native tribes resisted assimilation, Jefferson believed that they should be forcefully removed from their land and sent west.[84] As Jefferson put it in a letter to Alexander von Humboldt in 1813:

You know, my friend, the benevolent plan we were pursuing here for the happiness of the aboriginal inhabitants in our vicinities. We spared nothing to keep them at peace with one another. To teach them agriculture and the rudiments of the most necessary arts, and to encourage industry by establishing among them separate property. In this way they would have been enabled to subsist and multiply on a moderate scale of landed possession. They would have mixed their blood with ours, and been amalgamated and identified with us within no distant period of time. On the commencement of our present war, we pressed on them the observance of peace and neutrality, but the interested and unprincipled policy of England has defeated all our labors for the salvation of these unfortunate people. They have seduced the greater part of the tribes within our neighborhood, to take up the hatchet against us, and the cruel massacres they have committed on the women and children of our frontiers taken by surprise, will oblige us now to pursue them to extermination, or drive them to new seats beyond our reach.[87]

Jefferson believed assimilation was best for Indians; second best was removal to the west. The worst possible outcome would happen if Indians attacked the whites.[88] He told his Secretary of War, General Henry Dearborn (who was the primary government official responsible for Indian affairs): "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 Mississipi."[89]

On slavery

Jefferson owned slaves all his life. Biographers point out that Jefferson was deeply in debt and had encumbered his slaves by notes and mortgages; he could not free them until he was free of debt, which never happened.[90] As a result, Jefferson seems to have suffered pangs and trials of conscience. His claimed ambivalence was also reflected in his treatment of those slaves who worked most closely with him and his family at Monticello and in other locations. He invested in having them trained and schooled in high quality skills.[91] He wrote about slavery, "We have the wolf by the ears; and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other."[92]

He sponsored and encouraged Free-State advocates like James Lemen.[93] According to a biographer, Jefferson "believed that it was the responsibility of the state and society to free all slaves."[94] In 1769, as a member of the House of Burgesses, Jefferson proposed for that body to emancipate slaves in Virginia, but he was unsuccessful.[95] In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson condemned the British crown for sponsoring the importation of slavery to the colonies, charging that the crown "has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere." However, this language was dropped from the Declaration at the request of delegates from South Carolina and Georgia.

In 1778 the legislature passed a bill he proposed to ban further importation of slaves into Virginia, and he said it "stopped the increase of the evil by importation, leaving to future efforts its final eradication." Many slave owners opposed the slave trade, while supporting slavery. The two were distinct institutions.[96]

Though Jefferson supported the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, it was not an anti-slavery law; it was supported by slave owners because it contained a fugitive slave clause (they could recover runaway slaves), and it would not affect the number of slave to free state House Representatives in the Congress because they knew that the Southwest Ordinance of 1790 would guarantee slavery south of the river Ohio.[97]

In 1807, as President, he signed a bill abolishing the slave trade. The slave trade was an embarrassment and other nations like Great Britain were doing the same, whilst maintaining slave plantations and slavery.

Jefferson seems to attack the institution of slavery in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1784):

There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.[98]

In this same work, Jefferson advanced his suspicion that black people were inferior to white people "in the endowments both of body and mind."[99] However, he also wrote in the same work that black people could have the right to live free in any country where people judge them by their nature, and not as just being good for labor.[100] He also wrote, "Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. [But] the two races...cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them."[47] According to historian Stephen Ambrose: "Jefferson, like all slaveholders and many other white members of American society, regarded Negroes as inferior, childlike, untrustworthy and, of course, as property. Jefferson, the genius of politics, could see no way for African Americans to live in society as free people." At the same time he trusted them with his children, with preparation of his food and entertainment of high-ranking guests. So clearly he believed that some were trustworthy.[101] For a long-term solution Jefferson believed that slaves should be freed then deported peacefully to African colonies. Otherwise, he feared war and that in his words, "human nature must shudder at the prospect held up. We should in vain look for an example in the Spanish deportation or deletion of the Moors. This precedent would fall far short of our case."[102]

But on February 25, 1809, Jefferson repudiated his earlier view, writing in a letter to Abbé Grégoire:

Sir,—I have received the favor of your letter of August 17th, and with it the volume you were so kind to send me on the "Literature of Negroes." Be assured that no person living wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a complete refutation of the doubts I have myself entertained and expressed on the grade of understanding allotted to them by nature, and to find that in this respect they are on a par with ourselves. My doubts were the result of personal observation on the limited sphere of my own State, where the opportunity for the development of their genius were not favorable and those of exercising it still less so. I expressed them therefore with great hesitation; but whatever be their degree of talent it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others. On this subject they are gaining daily in the opinions of nations, and hopeful advances are making toward their re-establishment on an equal footing with the other colors of the human family. I pray you therefore to accept my thanks for the many instances you have enabled me to observe of respectable intelligence in that race of men, which cannot fail to have effect in hastening the day of their relief; and to be assured of the sentiments of high and just esteem and consideration which I tender to yourself with all sincerity.[103]

In August 1814 Edward Coles and Jefferson corresponded about Coles' ideas on emancipation: "Your solitary but welcome voice is the first which has brought this to my ear, and I have considered the general silence which prevails on this subject as indicating an apathy unfavorable to every hope.[104]

In 1817, as Polish general and American war of independence rebel Tadeusz Kościuszko died, Jefferson was named by Kościuszko as the executor of his will, in which the Pole asked that the proceeds from the sale of his assets be used to free, among others, Jefferson's slaves. Jefferson, 75 at the time, did not free his slaves and pleaded that he was too old to take on the duties of executor; at the same time energetically throwing himself into the creation of the University of Virginia.[105] Some historians have speculated that he had qualms about freeing slaves.[106] The downturn in land prices after 1819 pushed Jefferson further into debt.

Jefferson formally emancipated two enslaved people during his lifetime, Robert Hemings in 1794 and James Hemings in 1796. He freed five additional enslaved men upon his death, including Madison and Eston Hemings, whom many historians now believe were the two youngest of his four children with Sally Hemings. Jefferson petitioned the legislature to allow all five men to remain in the state because an 1806 Virginia law provided that emancipated slaves had to leave the state within one year or face re-enslavement if they did not receive permission to remain.[107] Jefferson allowed the elder siblings of Madison and Eston, Beverley (a male) and Harriet Hemings to leave Monticello in 1822 to live as white people. Jefferson also informally freed their cousin James Hemings in 1804.[108] Six months after Jefferson's death, 130 enslaved men, women, and children from Monticello were auctioned off to help pay the debts of Jefferson's estate.[109]

Jefferson on US Postage

Since the middle 19th century when the United States Post Office first began using postage stamps Thomas Jefferson's portrait has been found engraved on the face of the various U.S. Postage issues that have honored him. The first U.S. postage stamp to honor Jefferson was issued in March 1856, (displayed above) nine years after the Post Office issued its first two stamps of Washington and Franklin in 1847. Before this time ink and hand-stamps, usually made of cork or wood, (hence the term 'stamp') were used to mark and confirm payment of postage. Almost as popular and famous as George Washington, Jefferson has appeared comparatively much less often on postage issues over the last 160+ years, and unlike Washington and Franklin, appears on just two commemorative issues. All other occurrences of Jefferson are found on regular issues.[110]

~ Thomas Jefferson on the Regular Issues: ~
~ 1870 ~
~ 1895 ~
~ 1903 ~
~ 1923 ~

All examples of Jefferson appearing on U.S. Postage are too numerous to include on this page. The additional examples can be viewed in another page.

Jefferson's role in US Currency

Three years after the United States Constitution was enacted in 1789 the newly seated Congress once again took up discussion of the issue of coinage. Then on April 2, 1792, Congress approved an Act requiring coins to be minted bearing the words 'United States of America' and also "an impression emblematic of liberty, with an inscription of the word Liberty, and the year of the coinage...". This was the first major step in establishing the US coinage system.[111][112]

The US had its problems to deal with in order to get its currency into circulation, and established in the free market. Not only were there crude minting conditions to improve, there was little gold and silver bullion available at the time, as the US was in its infancy and still recovering from the costs of the revolution. Also the expected movement of new US coinage into the marketplace was greatly impaired by metals speculators who exported US gold and silver coins overseas. The metal imbalance situation got so out of hand that in 1804, President Thomas Jefferson ordered a suspension of gold $10.00 Eagle production. In 1806, Jefferson likewise halted silver dollar production. Not until 1836 did minting of silver dollars resume. For three decades, then, the basal United States coin was not even minted.[111]

In more modern times Jefferson's portrait appears on the U.S. $2 bill, nickel, and the $100 Series EE Savings Bond.

Thomas Jefferson was honored on a Presidential Dollar which released into circulation on August 16, 2007. The day before the coins were issued the U.S. Mint held an official release ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.[113]

Monuments and memorials

Jefferson has been memorialized in many ways, including buildings, sculptures, and currency. The Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. on April 13, 1943, 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 which are 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".[114]

His original tombstone, now a cenotaph, is located on the campus in the University of Missouri's Quadrangle.

A life mask of Jefferson was created by John Henri Isaac Browere in the 1820s.[115]

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.[116]

Recent memorials to Jefferson include the commissioning of the NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson in Norfolk, Virginia on July 8, 2003, in commemoration of his establishment of a Survey of the Coast, the predecessor to NOAA's National Ocean Service; and the placement of a bronze monument in Jefferson Park, Chicago at the entrance to the Jefferson Park Transit Center along Milwaukee Avenue in 2005.

Marriage and family

Acknowledged wife and children

In 1772, at age 29 Jefferson married the 23-year-old widow Martha Wayles Skelton. They had six children: Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772–1836), Jane Randolph (1774–1775), a stillborn or unnamed son (1777), Mary Jefferson Eppes (1778–1804), Lucy Elizabeth (1780–1781), and another Lucy Elizabeth (1782–1785). Martha died on September 6, 1782, after the birth of her last child. Jefferson never remarried.

Alleged mixed-race children

Jefferson is alleged to have had a long-term, intimate relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, a quadroon, who was believed to have been a half-sister to Jefferson's late wife. She had six children, four of whom survived to adulthood and were freed or allowed to escape by Jefferson. They were presumably seven-eighths white by ancestry.[117]

During the administration of President Jefferson allegations were initiated by former employee James T. Callender after being denied an appointment that Jefferson had fathered several children with Hemings after his wife's death. Late twentieth-century DNA testing indicated that a male in Jefferson's paternal line was the father of at least one of Sally Hemings's children but do not specifically identify Thomas Jefferson and the allegations remain unproven. Jefferson commented on the matter in a private letter in 1816:[118]

I should have fancied myself half guilty had I condescended to put pen to paper in refutation of their falsehoods, or drawn to them respect by any notice from myself.

Callender's original accusations may be suspect because of his avowed hatred for Jefferson; many of the "facts" he dished up are known to be false. One recently discovered document is a letter written by the nineteenth-century biographer Henry Randall, recounting a conversation between himself and Jefferson's oldest grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. In this conversation Randolph confirmed what others close to the family had already disclosed: that Sally Hemings was actually the mistress of Jefferson's nephew Peter Carr, and that "their connection ...was perfectly notorious at Monticello." He also pointed out that "there was not the shadow of suspicion that Mr. Jefferson in this or any other instance had commerce with female slaves."[119]


See also


  1. "The Thomas Jefferson Papers Timeline: 1743 -1827". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 The birth and death of Thomas Jefferson are given using the Gregorian calendar. However, he was born when Britain and her colonies still used the Julian calendar, so contemporary records record his birth (and on his tombstone) as April 2, 1743. The provisions of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, implemented in 1752, altered the official British dating method to the Gregorian calendar with the start of the year on January 1 – see the article on Old Style and New Style dates for more details.
  3. Robert W. Tucker, and David C. Hendrickson, Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson (1990)
  4. Jefferson, Thomas (January 1, 1802). "Jefferson's Wall of Separation Letter". U.S. Constitution Online. Retrieved April 13, 2008. 
  5. April 29, 1962 dinner honoring 49 Nobel Laureates (Simpson's Contemporary Quotations, 1988, from Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 347).
  6. "Facts on Thomas Jefferson". 1943-04-13. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 
  7. Thomas Jefferson Encylopedia – Welsh Ancestry. Retrieved June 2, 2010.
  8. Henry Stephens Randall, The Life of Thomas Jefferson
  9. Merrill D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson: Writings, p. 1236
  10. Thomas Jefferson on Wine by John Hailman, 2006
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Henry Stephens Randall, The Life of Thomas Jefferson. p 41
  12. 12.0 12.1 Henry Stephens Randall, The Life of Thomas Jefferson. p 47
  13. Scotts U.S. Stamp Catalogue
  14. Thomas Jefferson p.214
  15. TJ to John Minor August 30, 1814 Lipscomb and Bergh, WTJ 2:420-21
  16. ArchitectureWeek. "The Orders – 01". Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  17. "nMonticello". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Merrill D. Peterson, "Jefferson, Thomas"; American National Biography Online, February 2000.
  19. Ellis, American Sphinx, 47–49.
  20. Maier, American Scripture. Other standard works on Jefferson and the Declaration include Garry Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (1978) and Carl L. Becker, The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas (1922).
  21. 21.0 21.1 Ellis, American Sphinx, 50.
  22. "Part I: History of the Death Penalty". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  23. "Virgina Executions". Rob Gallagher. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  24. Bennett, William J. (2006). "The Greatest Revolution". America: The Last Best Hope (Volume I): From the Age of Discovery to a World at War. Nelson Current. p. 99. ISBN 1-59555-055-0. 
  25. Ferling 2004, p. 26
  26. Annette Gordon-Reed "Did Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?," American Heritage, Fall 2008.
  27. Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008
  28. The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States of America. 1833. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  29. Ferling 2004, p. 59
  30. "Foreign Affairs," in Peterson, ed. Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Encyclopedia (1986) p 325
  31. Schachner 1951, p. 495
  32. Miller (1960), 143–4, 148–9.
  33. An American History Lesson For Pat Buchana, Kenneth C. Davis, Huffington Post, July 18, 2009.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Thomas Jefferson, the 'Negro President', Gary Willis on The Tavis Smiley Show, February 16, 2004.
  35. Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power, Review of Garry Willis's book on WNYC, February 16, 2004.
  36. "Table 1.1 Acquisition of the Public Domain 1781–1867" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  37. [John Hope Franklin, Race and History: Selected Essays 1938–1988 (Louisiana State University Press: 1989) p. 336] and [John Hope Franklin, Racial Equality in America (Chicago: 1976), p. 24-26]
  38. Martin Kelly. "Thomas Jefferson Biography – Third President of the United States". Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  39. Robert MacNamara. "Importation of Slaves Outlawed by 1807 Act of Congress". Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  40. "Jefferson on Politics & Government: Publicly Supported Education". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  41. Thomas Jefferson at Find a Grave
  42. Jefferson Still Survives. Retrieved on 2006-12-26.
  43. Jefferson's Cause of Death. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
  44. Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  45. "Monticello Report: The Calendar and Old Style (O. S.)". Thomas Jefferson Foundation ( 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  46. Monticello Report: Physical Descriptions of Thomas Jefferson. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  47. 47.0 47.1 "'Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)' at the University of Virginia". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  48. "Thomas Jefferson: Silent Member". Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  49. "'American Sphinx' by Joseph J. Ellis at".,%20Jefferson,%20American%20Sphinx.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  50. ""Jefferson's Inventions"". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  51. Physiognotrace
  52. "The Jefferson Encyclopedia". 2009-12-18. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  53. Ellis, Joseph J. (1994). "American Sphinx: The Contradictions of Thomas Jefferson". Library of Congress. 
  54. Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts (January 1, 2007). "But It's Thomas Jefferson's Koran!". Washington Post: p. C03. Retrieved January 3, 2007. 
  55. J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (1975), 533; see also Richard K. Matthews, The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson, (1986), p. 17, 139n.16.
  56. Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor May 28, 1816, in Appleby and Ball (1999) p 209); also Bergh, ed. Writings 15:23; also Library of Congress
  57. Letter to John Taylor, Library of Congress
  58. Letter to Isaac H. Tiffany, April 4, 1819 in Appleby and Ball (1999) p 224.
  59. Brown 1954, pp. 51–52
  60. "Notes on Virginia". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  61. Adler, Mortimer Jerome (2000). The Great Ideas. Open Court Publishing. p. 378. 
  62. Letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787
  63. "Professor Julian Boyd's reconstruction of Jefferson's "original Rough draft" of the Declaration of Independence". 2005-07-06. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  64. Letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789
  65. Letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789; Daniel Scott Smith, "Population and Political Ethics: Thomas Jefferson's Demography of Generations," The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 56, No. 3 (Jul., 1999), pp. 591–612 in jstor
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  67. "The Thomas Jefferson Papers". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  68. 68.0 68.1 "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...(Quotation)". Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  69. Ford, ed, Paul Lester (1899). The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol X, 1816–1826. New York, London: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 
  70. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation p. 699
  71. Letter to William C. Jarvis, 1820
  72. 72.0 72.1 72.2 Melton, The Quotable Founding Fathers, 277.
  73. Letter to William Smith, November 13, 1787
  74. "Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to American Presidents". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  75. Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny, p. 133, Richard B. Morris, 1973, Harper & Row Publishers, Inc.
  76. Jefferson to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787
  77. Charles Sanford, The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson (1987).
  78. Albert Ellery Bergh, ed (1853). April 21, 1803 letter to Doctor Benjamin Rush. X. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association. p. 379. Retrieved 2009-05-23. "... To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other.... And in confiding it [an enclosed syllabus] to you, I know it will not be exposed to the malignant perversions of those who make every word from me a text for new misrepresentations and calumnies. I am moreover averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public; because it would countenance the presumption of those who have endeavored to draw them before that tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquisition over the rights of conscience, which the laws have so justly proscribed...." 
  79. "Syllabus of an estimate of the merit of the doctrines ofJesus, compared with those of others". Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  80. Albert Ellery Bergh, ed (1853). June 25, 1819 letter to Ezra Stiles Ely. XV. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association. p. 202. Retrieved 2009-05-23. "You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know." 
  81. Albert Ellery Bergh, ed (1853). October 31, 1819 letter to William Short. XV. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association. p. 219. Retrieved 2009-05-23. "As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us." 
  82. "Letter to William Short". April 13, 1820. 
  83. Thomas Jefferson (January 8, 1825). "letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse".  The copy of this 1825 Thomas Jefferson letter to Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846) is in an unknown hand.
  84. 84.0 84.1 84.2 84.3 84.4 84.5 84.6 Miller, Robert (July 1, 2008). Native America, Discovered and Conquered: : Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny. Bison Books. p. 90. ISBN 978-0803215986 -- This reference is generic and lacks page numbers. Did writer actually read the book?. 
  85. 85.0 85.1 Drinnon, Richard (March 1997). Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0806129280. 
  86. 86.0 86.1 Jefferson, Thomas (1803). "President Thomas Jefferson to William Henry Harrison, Governor of the Indiana Territory,". Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  87. "Letter From Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt December 6, 1813". Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  88. Bernard W. Sheehan, Seeds of extinction: Jeffersonian philanthropy and the American Indian‎ (1974) pp 120–21
  89. James P. Ronda, Thomas Jefferson and the changing West: from conquest to conservation (1997) p. 10; text in Moore, MariJo (2006). Eating Fire, Tasting Blood: An Anthology of the American Indian Holocaust. Running Press. ISBN 978-1560258384. 
  90. Herbert E. Sloan, Principle and Interest: Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt (2001) pp. 14–26, 220–1.
  91. Hitchens 2005, p. 48
  92. Miller, John Chester (1977). The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery. New York: Free Press, p. 241. The letter, dated April 22, 1820, was written to former Senator John Holmes of Maine.
  93. Macnaul, W.C. (1865). The Jefferson-Lemen Compact.
  94. "Willard Sterne Randall, Thomas Jefferson: A Life. p 593.
  95. The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes at the Library of Congress.
  96. [Ordinance of 1787] Lalor Cyclopædia of Political Science
  97. Pohlmann, Marcus D. (2002). Student's guide to landmark ... – Google Books. ISBN 9780313313851. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  98. Notes on the State of Virginia, Ch 18.
  99. Notes on the State of Virginia Query 14
  100. name="autogenerated2">"Jefferson, Thomas, 1743–1826.". 
  101. Flawed Founders by Stephen E. Ambrose.
  102. Hitchens 2005, pp. 34–35
  103. Letter of February 25, 1809 from Thomas Jefferson to French author Monsieur Gregoire, from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (H. A. Worthington, ed.), Volume V, p. 429. Citation and quote from Morris Kominsky, The Hoaxers, pp. 110–111.
  104. Twilight at Monticello, Crawford, 2008, Ch 17, p.101
  105. Why we should all regret Jefferson's broken promise to Kościuszko, Nash&Hodges
  106. For your freedom and ours, the Kościuszko squadron, Olson&Cloud, pg 22–23, Arrow books ISBN 0-09-942812-1
  107. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, Annette Gordon-Reed, pp. 38-43 (Univ. of Virginia Press, 1997)
  108. "The Hemingses of Monticello", Annette Gordon-Reed, 489-503, 581-583 (WW Norton, 2008)
  109. Lucia Stanton, Free Some Day: The African American Families of Monticello, (Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2000), p. 141.
  110. Scott Stamp Catalog, Index of Commemorative Stamps
  111. 111.0 111.1 US Coin Values
  112. The U.S. Mint and Coinage: An Illustrated History from 1776 to the Present, 1983 by Don. Taxay
  113. New York Times/ABOUT.COM
  114. Office of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER), of the National Park Service, Library of Congress (September 1994). "Documentation of the Jefferson Memorial". Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  115. Charles Henry Hart. Browere's life masks of great Americans. Printed at the De Vinne Press for Doubleday and McClure Company, 1899. Google books]
  116. National Park Service. "Carving History". Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  117. "''John Wayles Paternity''". 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
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  119. The Real Thomas Jefferson by Allison, Andrew, K.DeLynn Cook, M. Richard Maxfield, W. Cleon Skousen p.232-233 National Center for Constitutional Studies, Washington, D.C.


Primary sources

  • Thomas Jefferson: Writings: Autobiography / Notes on the State of Virginia / Public and Private Papers / Addresses / Letters (1984, ISBN 978-0-940450-16-5) Library of America edition. There are numerous one-volume collections; this is perhaps the best place to start.
  • Thomas Jefferson, Political Writings ed by Joyce Appleby and Terence Ball. Cambridge University Press. 1999 online
  • Lipscomb, Andrew A. and Albert Ellery Bergh, eds. The Writings Of Thomas Jefferson 19 vol. (1907) not as complete nor as accurate as Boyd edition, but covers TJ from birth to death. It is out of copyright, and so is online free.
  • Edwin Morris Betts (editor), Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book, (Thomas Jefferson Memorial: December 1, 1953) ISBN 1-882886-10-0. Letters, notes, and drawings—a journal of plantation management recording his contributions to scientific agriculture, including an experimental farm implementing innovations such as horizontal plowing and crop-rotation, and Jefferson's own moldboard plow. It is a window to slave life, with data on food rations, daily work tasks, and slaves' clothing. The book portrays the industries pursued by enslaved and free workmen, including in the blacksmith's shop and spinning and weaving house.
  • Boyd, Julian P. et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. The definitive multivolume edition; available at major academic libraries. 31 volumes covers TJ to 1800, with 1801 due out in 2006.
  • The Jefferson Cyclopedia (1900) large collection of TJ quotations arranged by 9000 topics; searchable; copyright has expired and it is online free.
  • The Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606–1827, 27,000 original manuscript documents at the Library of Congress online collection
  • Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), London: Stockdale. This was Jefferson's only book
    • Shuffelton, Frank, ed., (1998) Penguin Classics paperback: ISBN 0-14-043667-7
    • Waldstreicher, David, ed., (2002) Palgrave Macmillan hardcover: ISBN 0-312-29428-X
    • online edition
  • Cappon, Lester J., ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters (1959)
  • Howell, Wilbur Samuel, ed. Jefferson's Parliamentary Writings (1988). Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice, written when he was vice-President, with other relevant papers
  • Melton, Buckner F.: The Quotable Founding Fathers, Potomac Books, Washington D.C. (2004).
  • Smith, James Morton, ed. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776–1826, 3 vols. (1995)


  • Appleby, Joyce. Thomas Jefferson (2003), short interpretive essay by leading scholar.
  • Bernstein, R. B. Thomas Jefferson. (2003) Well regarded short biography.
  • Burstein, Andrew. Jefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello. (2005).
  • Cunningham, Noble E. In Pursuit of Reason (1988) well-reviewed short biography.
  • Crawford, Alan Pell, Twilight at Monticello, Random House, New York, (2008)
  • Ellis, Joseph. "American Sphinx: The Contradictions of Thomas Jefferson". 
  • Ellis, Joseph. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (1996). Prize winning essays; assumes prior reading of a biography.
  • Hitchens, Christopher (2005). Thomas Jefferson: Author of America , short biography.
  • Malone, Dumas. Jefferson and His Time, 6 vols. (1948–82). Multi-volume biography of TJ by leading expert; A short version is online.
  • Onuf, Peter. "The Scholars' Jefferson," William and Mary Quarterly 3d Series, L:4 (October 1993), 671–699. Historiographical review or scholarship about TJ; online through JSTOR at most academic libraries.
  • Padover, Saul K. Jefferson: A Great American's Life and Ideas
  • Pasley, Jeffrey L. "Politics and the Misadventures of Thomas Jefferson's Modern Reputation: a Review Essay." Journal of Southern History 2006 72(4): 871–908. Issn: 0022-4642 Fulltext in Ebsco.
  • Peterson, Merrill D. (1975). Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation.  A standard scholarly biography.
  • Peterson, Merrill D. (ed.) Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography (1986), 24 essays by leading scholars on aspects of Jefferson's career.
  • Randall, Henry Stephens (1858). The Life of Thomas Jefferson (volume 1 ed.). 
  • Schachner, Nathan (1951). Thomas Jefferson: A Biography.  2 volumes.
  • Salgo, Sandor (1997). Thomas Jefferson: Musician and Violinist.  Abook detailing Thomas Jefferson's love of music.

Academic studies

  • Ackerman, Bruce. The Failure of the Founding Fathers: Jefferson, Marshall, and the Rise of Presidential Democracy. (2005)
  • Adams, Henry. History of the United States of America during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1889; Library of America edition 1986) famous 4-volume history
    • Wills, Garry, Henry Adams and the Making of America (2005), detailed analysis of Adams' History
  • Banning, Lance. The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology (1978)
  • Brown, Stuart Gerry (1954). The First Republicans: Political Philosophy and Public Policy in the Party of Jefferson and Madison. 
  • Channing; Edward. The Jeffersonian System: 1801–1811 (1906), "American Nation" survey of political history
  • Dunn, Susan. Jefferson's Second Revolution: The Election Crisis of 1800 and the Triumph of Republicanism (2004)
  • Elkins, Stanley and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism (1995) in-depth coverage of politics of 1790s
  • Fatovic, Clement. "Constitutionalism and Presidential Prerogative: Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian Perspectives." : American Journal of Political Science, 2004 48(3): 429–444. Issn: 0092-5853 Fulltext: in Swetswise, Ingenta, Jstor, and Ebsco
  • Ferling, John (2004). Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800. 
  • Finkelman, Paul. Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (2001), esp ch 6–7
  • Hatzenbuehler, Ronald L. "I Tremble for My Country": Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia Gentry, (University Press of Florida; 206 pages; 2007). Argues that the TJ's critique of his fellow gentry in Virginia masked his own reluctance to change
  • Hitchens, Christopher (2005). Author of America: Thomas Jefferson. HarperCollins. 
  • Horn, James P. P. Jan Ellen Lewis, and Peter S. Onuf, eds. The Revolution of 1800: Democracy, Race, and the New Republic (2002) 17 essays by scholars
  • Jayne, Allen. Jefferson's Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy and Theology (2000); traces TJ's sources and emphasizes his incorporation of Deist theology into the Declaration.
  • Roger G. Kennedy. Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase (2003).
  • Knudson, Jerry W. Jefferson and the Press: Crucible of Liberty. (2006)
  • Lewis, Jan Ellen, and Onuf, Peter S., eds. Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, Civic Culture. (1999)
  • McDonald, Forrest. The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson (1987) intellectual history approach to Jefferson's Presidency
  • Matthews, Richard K. "The Radical Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson: An Essay in Retrieval," Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XXVIII (2004)
  • Mayer, David N. The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson (2000)
  • Onuf, Peter S. Jefferson's Empire: The Languages of American Nationhood. (2000). Online review
  • Onuf, Peter S., ed. Jeffersonian Legacies. (1993)
  • Onuf, Peter. "Thomas Jefferson, Federalist" (1993) online journal essay
  • Perry, Barbara A. "Jefferson's Legacy to the Supreme Court: Freedom of Religion." Journal of Supreme Court History 2006 31(2): 181–198. Issn: 1059-4329 Fulltext in Swetswise, Ingenta and Ebsco
  • Peterson, Merrill D. The Jefferson Image in the American Mind (1960), how Americans interpreted and remembered Jefferson
  • Rahe, Paul A. "Thomas Jefferson's Machiavellian Political Science". Review of Politics 1995 57(3): 449–481. ISSN 0034–6705 Fulltext online at Jstor and Ebsco.
  • Sears, Louis Martin. Jefferson and the Embargo (1927), state by state impact
  • Sloan, Herbert J. Principle and Interest: Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt (1995). Shows the burden of debt in Jefferson's personal finances and political thought.
  • Smelser, Marshall. The Democratic Republic: 1801–1815 (1968). "New American Nation" survey of political and diplomatic history
  • Staloff, Darren. Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding. (2005)
  • Taylor, Jeff. Where Did the Party Go?: William Jennings Bryan, Hubert Humphrey, and the Jeffersonian Legacy (2006), on Jefferson's role in Democratic history and ideology.
  • Tucker, Robert W. and David C. Hendrickson. Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson (1992), foreign policy
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. "Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall: What Kind of Constitution Shall We Have?" Journal of Supreme Court History 2006 31(2): 109–125. Issn: 1059-4329 Fulltext: in Swetswise, Ingenta and Ebsco
  • Valsania, Maurizio. "'Our Original Barbarism': Man Vs. Nature in Thomas Jefferson's Moral Experience." Journal of the History of Ideas 2004 65(4): 627–645. Issn: 0022-5037 Fulltext: in Project Muse and Swetswise
  • Wagoner, Jennings L., Jr. Jefferson and Education. (2004).
  • Wiltse, Charles Maurice. The Jeffersonian Tradition in American Democracy (1935), analysis of Jefferson's political philosophy
  • PBS interviews with 24 historians


  • Gaustad, Edwin S. Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson (2001) Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 0-8028-0156-0
  • Sanford, Charles B. The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson (1987) University of Virginia Press, ISBN 0-8139-1131-1
  • Sheridan, Eugene R. Jefferson and Religion, preface by Martin Marty, (2001) University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 1-882886-08-9
  • Edited by Jackson, Henry E., President, College for Social Engineers, Washington, D. C. "The Thomas Jefferson Bible" (1923) Copyright Boni and Liveright, Inc. Printed in the United States of America. Arranged by Thomas Jefferson. Translated by R. F. Weymouth. Located in the National Museum, Washington, D. C.

External links and sources

Political offices
Preceded by
John Adams
President of the United States
March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1809
Succeeded by
James Madison
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
Succeeded by
Aaron Burr
Preceded by
John Jay
as United States Secretary for Foreign Affairs
United States Secretary of State
Served under: George Washington

March 22, 1790 – December 31, 1793
Succeeded by
Edmund Randolph
Preceded by
Patrick Henry
Governor of Virginia
1779 – 1781
Succeeded by
William Fleming (acting);
Thomas Nelson, Jr. (elected)
Party political offices
New political party Democratic-Republican Party presidential candidate
1796¹, 1800, 1804
Succeeded by
James Madison
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Benjamin Franklin
United States Minister Plenipotentiary to France
1785 – 1789
Succeeded by
William Short
Notes and references
1. Prior to the passage of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804, each Presidential elector would cast two ballots; the highest vote-getter would become President and the runner-up would become Vice President. Thus, in 1796, the Democratic-Republican Party fielded Jefferson as a Presidential candidate, but he came in second and therefore became Vice President.