Thomas Jefferson

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Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, circa 1800
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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 strongly condemned the institution of slavery in the Colonies that would soon form the United States[1][note 1]. Contemporary rumors, later supported by DNA analysis, stated that Jefferson fathered children through his slave concubine Sally Hemings.[2] Jefferson has become a favourite source for quotes by libertarians and the like.[3] 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. To his credit, he did enable legislation that abolished the slave trade in the United States, even though slavery itself would have to wait another few decades for some unpleasantness to occur.[4] Even this is suspect, though: by 1808, when the legislation prohibiting the Transatlantic Slave Trade that Jefferson so enabled passed, Virginia (Jefferson's home state) was a net exporter of slaves at a scale significant to their economic stability. This left the Virginian economy (and by extension many of Jefferson's business interests) in direct competition with the Transatlantic Slave Trade.[5] The end result of all this was that Jefferson's home state saw a huge economic boon in the banning of said trade for the next 53 years or so (roughly until that unpleasantness) as it became the chief supplier of slaves to the rest of the slave-holding states. [6] Coincidentally, of course.[note 3]


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.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15] Weeks later, right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck announced he would publish the book under his publishing arm, Mercury Ink.[16][17]


His plantation in Virginia, which he named "Monticello"[18] (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.[19]

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.[20]


  1. Included in Jefferson's laundry list of accusations directed at King George III: "he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce"
  2. Unions of love, on the other hand, were often forbidden (thought to foment dissent) and deliberately separated when found.[9]
  3. Virgina was one of the few states in the nation with a population of enslaved individuals that consistently grew each year independent of the rate of 'import' of enslaved foreigners it undertook.[7] This was achieved primarily through what slave-holders euphemistically called 'natural increase in stock' but which is more properly termed 'brutal and horrific systematic rape.' Essentially, contraception was broadly suppressed and possession of it persecuted horrifically, slave owners and plantation overseers were given impunity to rape a majority of those women enslaved on the property, and what enslaved men on the property could be incentivized to do so were allowed to rape as well.[8] [note 2] Virginia also drove its slave labor market with forms of labor less comparatively deadly than those dominant in many other states (most notoriously the Carolina rice plantations, which were so deadly plantation holders had to purchase large numbers of enslaved individuals in advance of anticipated deaths per work period in a kind of revolving door of monstrosity and horror.)[10] In combination with 'one drop' racial statutes and the uniquely American notion that children inherit the enslaved status of their mother directly, for life, as chattel (charming, that) slave holders in the American South (most particularly Virginia) often assembled vast fortunes selling or leveraging as credit the children of individuals they held enslaved. A slaver who was practiced at this could even develop relationships with the banking community where credit would be extended on the basis of 'natural increase' in accordance with records provided showing 'natural increase' thus far.[11] By the time of the Civil War, such networks were so widespread in Virginia that a majority of the state's economic credit was held in the form of enslaved individuals or tickets of credit against their potential children. Essentially commoditizing the wombs of enslaved women through rape as economic practice. Lovely.[12]


  1. Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence
  3. And sometimes, they couldn't be more wrong. Here's some spurious quotations attributed to Jefferson
  4. The Act prohibiting slavery itself
  5. Ned & Constance Sublette, The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry (2015) Ch 1, 2, & 15
  6. Sublette, The American Slave Coast (2015) Ch 1 – 6
  7. Sublette, The American Slave Coast (2015) Ch 15
  8. Sublette, The American Slave Coast (2015) Ch 1 – 6
  9. Ned & Constance Sublette, The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry (2015)
  10. Sublette, The American Slave Coast (2015) Ch 13
  11. Sublette, The American Slave Coast (2015) Ch 4
  12. Sublette, The American Slave Coast (2015) Ch 1, 2 & 15
  13. Michael Corbett and Julia Mitchell Corbett, Politics and religion in the United States (1999) p. 68