Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson—The Man

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Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States and served from 1801-1809. During his presidency in 1803, we purchased the Louisiana Territory from France for 15 million dollars (even a great deal even back then) expanding what was at the time was a newly formed nation. Jefferson achieved many things during his presidency, but he is remembered for much more than his term as president. He is also one of the most well-known founding fathers. His involvement goes beyond his 8 years as president—beginning before the American Revolution and his dedication to the country lasted until his death. Considered then, as he is today remembered, a great writer, he was assigned the daunting task of writing The Declaration of Independence in 1776, which is the document responsible for declaring our independence from Britain and establishment of the United States of America.
Jefferson believed greatly in the power of the individual state. His involvement with the nation did not end with merely the formation or laying out the foundation for the country as a whole. His home state of Virginia also occupied much of his time, effort, and dedication. Two of his best known documents concerned with Virginia were Notes on the State of Virginia and The Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom.
Of course, Jefferson did many other notable things, which includes starting the Democratic-Republican Party, and his list of accomplishments is not lacking in the least, but these three documents (The Declaration of Independence, Notes on the State of Virginia, and The Virginia Statute on Religion) helped shape the formation of Virginia at a local level, as well as setting an example for other states, and the United States of America. These documents are our tangible items that help us unravel the story of how the US came to be with the help of Thomas Jefferson.


The Declaration of Independence

One of the most important and well-known documents of American history is the beloved Declaration of Independence. It was the document that on July 4, 1776 declared our break from Great Britain and established the 13 colonies into a new country: The United States of America. The main author and the man created for this masterpiece is none other than Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence “articulates the fundamental ideas that form the American nation: All men are created free and equal and possess the same inherent, natural rights”1. The document is divided into three parts, which consists of The Preamble, charges against the King of Britain (King George III), and the conclusion.

Notes on the State of Virginia

on the State of Virginia// is Thomas Jefferson’s only full-length book that is about Virginia “and a sweeping commentary on natural history, society, politics, education, religion, slavery, liberty, and law. Many consider it the most important American book written before 1800,”2. It was originally written in 1781 to answer questions posed by a French diplomat; however, most of it was written between the years 1783 and 1784. In 1785, 200 copies were published in Paris and privately distributed.3 Two years later it was formally published. At the time it was noticed because it “wrested the interpretation of the young American nation from European critics and intellectuals and offered an eloquent indigenous voice. It profoundly influenced European understanding of the United States, as well as American views of Virginia. It established Jefferson's international reputation as a serious scientist, a man of letters, and the principal spokesman for his "country," whether Virginia or the United States; his discursive text, ranging over the entire continent, implicitly blurred the distinction between the two”4. Today it is remembered for being one of the most detailed records of any American region and influential in ensuring that Virginia would be anything but forgotten in American studies.

The Virginia Statute on Religion

The Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom was a bill for establishing religious freedom, originally simply known as Bill No. 82 for the state of Virginia. The bill was created during the appointment a Committee of Revisers in Virginia’s General Assembly (the committee was formed in 1776) that consisted of five committee members, the three main ones: Thomas Jefferson, George Wythe, and Edmund Pendleton.5 It was later passed January 16, 1786 after Jefferson was elected Governor of the state, but the bill itself was presented by James Madison. The importance of this document is that it was “a statement about both freedom of conscience and the principle of separation of church and state…it is the forerunner of the first amendment protections for religious freedom”6.

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