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Thomas Jefferson

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Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, circa 1800
Guide to:
U.S. Politics
Icon politics USA.svg
Hail to the Chief?
Persons of interest
I had no idea, however, that in Pennsylvania, the cradle of toleration and freedom of religion, it [fanaticism] could have arisen to the height you describe. This must be owing to the growth of Presbyterianism. The blasphemy of the five points of Calvinism, and the impossibility of defending them, render their advocates impatient of reasoning, irritable, and prone to denunciation.
—Jefferson pwning the Calvinists
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
—Thomas Jefferson on authoritarianism
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
—Thomas Jefferson on Federalism
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.
—Maybe he was just going through brown sugar withdrawal?

Thomas Jefferson was an important founder of the United States of America. He was a legislator, architect, inventor, and the country's third President. As author of the Declaration of Independence, he was one of the first Enlightenment thinkers to try and put some of the radical new ideas regarding government into practice. Although prevailing social attitudes kept the ideas expressed in the document from becoming government policy and social standards for several generations, it was nevertheless a revolutionary move. It has often been said that, despite his own slave lovings holdings, an early version of the Declaration also would have called for the abolition of slavery in the United States.[citation needed] Contemporary rumors, later supported by DNA analysis, stated that Jefferson fathered children through his slave concubine Sally Hemings.[1] Jefferson has become a favourite source for quotes by libertarians and the like.[2] To the ire of Christian-nation pseudohistorians, he was, like your typical Founding Father, a deist.

Post revolution[edit]

After the Revolution, he served as ambassador to France, Secretary of State, Vice-President, and from 1801-1809, President. His strict interpretation of the Constitution, while prevalent throughout most of his political life, was put aside when he effected the annexation of the Louisiana Territory from the French. In purchasing Louisiana, he utilized a power not explicitly granted to the President or Congress in the Constitution. Jefferson would also crack down on journalists and political leaders opposing his Embargo Act against British goods, arresting several for sedition. Libertarians tend to ignore this.


Jefferson's beliefs differed from common Christianity at the time. He was a self-proclaimed Christian Deist, following the teachings of Jesus to a degree but not accepting his divinity.[3] In fact, he went so far as to cut the superstitious parts from the Bible, reducing it to roughly 200 pages, known as the Jefferson Bible (mostly taken up with the sayings of Jesus). Moreover, soon after being sworn in as President, he was presented with a giant cheese wheel by a Massachusetts Baptist group, thanking him for his support of the separation of church and state.

As a consequence the Texas Board of Education decided to remove Jefferson from the state's history standards in 2009.[4]

In 2012, Evangelical Christian author David Barton wrote the book The Jefferson Lies, in which he claimed to refute Jefferson's Deist beliefs. The book was cancelled by its publisher, Thomas Nelson, after numerous complaints about historical inaccuracies.[5] Weeks later, right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck announced he would publish the book under his publishing arm, Mercury Ink.[6][7]


His plantation in Virginia, which he named "Monticello"[8] (Italian for "Little mountain"), featured a house with a number of architectural innovations, such as an eight-sided dome on the roof, a mechanical wall clock that told the day of the week, dumbwaiters, a one brick curving wall and circular staircases. It has been registered as both a National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was at Monticello that Jefferson invented the swivel chair.[9]

His epitaph[edit]

Jefferson wrote his own epitaph before his death, and demanded that it be put on his grave without anything added to it. It listed what he considered his three greatest achievements:


The reason why his presidency is excluded? He wanted his grave to list his gifts to his country and not his country's gift to him.[10]


Presidents of the United States
Washington (n/a) - J. Adams (Fed.) - Jefferson (Dem-Rep) - Madison (Dem-Rep) - Monroe (Dem-Rep) - J.Q. Adams (Dem-Rep) - Jackson (D) - Van Buren (D) - Harrison (Whig) - Tyler (Whig) - Polk (D) - Taylor (Whig) - Fillmore (Whig) - Pierce (D) - Buchanan (D) - Lincoln (R) - A. Johnson (D*) - Grant (R) - Hayes (R) - Garfield (R) - Arthur (R) - Cleveland (D) - Harrison (R) - Cleveland (D) again - McKinley (R) - T. Roosevelt (R) - Taft (R) - Wilson (D) - Harding (R) - Coolidge (R) - Hoover (R) - F.D. Roosevelt (D) - Truman (D) - Eisenhower (R) - Kennedy (D) - L.B. Johnson (D) - Nixon (R) - Ford (R) - Carter (D) - Reagan (R) - G.H.W. Bush (R) - Clinton (D) - G.W. Bush (R) - Obama (D) - Trump (R) (incumbent)
*Ran for VP on the "National Union" ticket together with Lincoln but was otherwise a lifelong Democrat