Thomas Jefferson Bio and Presidency
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Thomas Jefferson Bio and Presidency
U.S. History Dual Credit
The third president of the United States, a diplomat, statesman, architect, scientist, and philosopher, Thomas Jefferson is one of the most eminent figures in American history. No leader in the period of the American Enlightenment was as articulate, wise, or conscious of the implications and consequences of a free society as Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson was born April 13, 1743 (April 2, old style), on the farm called Shadwell, adjoining what is now Monticello, in the county of Albermarle, Virginia.
The date of his birth was unknown to the public until after his decease. Repeated
attempts had been made to ascertain it by formal applications to him on various
occasions, both by individuals and public bodies; but from scruples of a patriotic
nature, he always declined revealing it and enjoined the same privacy upon his family.
The principles which determined him on this subject were the great indelicacy and
impropriety of permitting himself to be made the recipient of a homage, so
incompatible with the true dignity and independence of the republican character, and
the still greater repugnance which he should feel at seeing the birthday honors of the Republic transferred in any degree, to any individual.
Soon after his inauguration as President in 1801, he was waited on by the Mayor and Corporation of the city of Washington, with the request that he would communicate
the anniversary of his birth, as they were desirous of commemorating an event which
had conferred such distinguished glory upon their country. He replied, "The only
birthday which I recognize is that of my country\'s liberties." In August, 1803, he
received a similar communication from Levi Lincoln on behalf of a certain association
in Boston, to which he replied: "Disapproving myself of transferring the honors and
veneration for the great birthday of our Republic to any individual, or of dividing them
with individuals, I have declined letting my own birthday be known, and have engaged
my family not to communicate it." (ME 10:416) This has been the uniform answer to
every application of the kind.
On the paternal side, Mr. Jefferson could number no titles to high or ancient lineage. His ancestors, however, were of solid respectability and among the first
settlers of Virginia. They emigrated to this country from Wales, and from near the mountain of Snowden. His grandfather was the first of whom we have any particular
information. He had three sons: Thomas, who died young; Field, who resided on the waters of the Roanoke and left numerous descendants; and Peter, the father of the
subject of these memoirs, who settled in Albermarle county, on the lands called Shadwell. He was the third or fourth settler in that region of the country. They were
all gentlemen of property and influence in the colony.
But the chief glory of Mr. Jefferson\'s genealogy was the sturdy contempt of hereditary honors and distinctions with which the whole race was imbued. It was a strong genealogical feature, pervading all the branches of the primitive stock and forming a remarkable head and concentration in the individual who was destined to confer immortality upon the name. With him, indeed, if there was any one sentiment which
predominated in early life and which lost none of its rightful ascendancy through a
long career of enlightened and philanthropic effort, it was that of the natural equality of all men in their rights and wants, and of the nothingness of those pretensions which
"are gained without merit and forfeited without crime." The boldness with which, on
his first entrance into manhood, he attacked and overthrew the deep rooted institutions
of Primogeniture and Entails forms a striking commentary upon this attribute of his character.
An anecdote is related by Mr. Madison, which is no less apposite and striking. During the infant stages of our separate sovereignty, the slowness with which the wheels of government moved and the awkwardness of its forms were everywhere the prominent topics of conversation. On one occasion at which Mr. Jefferson was present, a question being started concerning the best mode of providing the executive chief, it was among other opinions gravely advanced that an hereditary determination was preferable to any elective process that could be devised. At the close of an eloquent effusion against the agitations and animosities of a popular choice and in favor of birth as, on the whole, affording a better chance for a
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