Thomas Jefferson DOI


The third of ten children, Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 into a prominent planter family of Virginia. In 1752, Jefferson began attending a local school run by a Scottish Presbyterian minister. At the age of nine, Jefferson began studying Latin, Greek, and French. He learned to ride horses, and began to appreciate the study of nature. In 1757 at the age of fourteen, his father died and left Thomas about 5,000 acres of land as well as dozens of slaves. From 1758 to 1760 he studied history and the classics under the Reverend James Maury whom he boarded with. At the age of 16 Thomas entered the College of William and Mary and studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under Professor William Small. William Small introduced Thomas to the writings of John Locke, Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton. Thomas graduated with highest honors in 1762. he read law with law professor George Wythe of William and Mary and in 1767 was admitted to the Virginia Bar.

Thomas Jefferson has been claimed to be a Christian, a Unitarian, and a deist. But which was he? Thomas did not shrink away from questioning the existence of God. To his nephew and ward, Peter Carr, he offered the following advice:

“Fix Reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than the blindfolded fear….. Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of it consequences. If it end in belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in it exercise and in the love of others which it will procure for you.”

The terminology Thomas used in the Declaration of Independence was of a Deistic Nature. He was further influenced by Francis Hutcheson and Cicero. While attending The College of William and Mary, Thomas was greatly influenced by Deist Philosophy. Although he had a lifelong esteem for the teachings of Jesus concerning morals, Thomas did not believe in the divinity or Jesus nor in miracles. Unable to accept the doctrine of the Trinity “from a very early part of my life”, he declined a request to act as a godfather in 1788. Although Thomas never declared himself a Deist, he did Praise Jesus for what Thomas considered a form of Deism.

Raised in the Church of England at a time when it was the established church in Virginia and only denomination funded by Virginia tax money. Thomas served as a vestryman ,a lay administrative position in his local parish. After the revolution the Church of England in America was reorganized as the Episcopal Church of America. As president Thomas attended weekly nondenominational services held in the House of Representatives, but not while he served as Vice President. There is no historical evidence that Thomas was ever a communicant or was ever confirmed.

Thomas was strongly opposed to organized religion, though he professed a belief in God. Thomas was often accused of being an infidel, which was a term used to described the person as not believing in God, and persons considered to be harmful tho the Christian faith in which they were raised and often leveled at Deists. While in the White House, Thomas,believing much of the New Testament being false, composed his own condensed version of the Gospels. Having studied the Bible he concluded Jesus never claimed to be God and therefore omitted the virgin birth, miracles attributed to Jesus, and his divinity and resurrection.

Thomas stated what he did not believe in often, such as an eternal Hell and the Doctrine of Predestination. In a letter dated 1817 he wrote the following to John Adams:

“The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ leveled to every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticism’s of Plato, Materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power, and preeminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonism’s en grafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained.”

Thomas loathed Calvinism stating His [Calvin’s] religion was demonism. If ever man worshiped a false God, he did. The being described in his five points is … a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin”

Thomas was in agreement with his friend Joseph Priestley’s Unitarianism, and like Deism, rejected the Trinity. Although Thomas never joined a Unitarian Church he did attend Unitarian services while in Philadelphia until Priestley’s death in 1804.

As a Lawyer Thomas handled many cases involving the elite families of Virginia and was very active from 1768 to 1773. In 1768 Thomas began construction of Monticello and fell in debt while spending lavishly on Monticello. In addition to practicing law, beginning in 1769, Thomas represented Albemarle County. Following the passage of the Coercive Acts by the British Parliament in 1774, Thomas offered a radical notion that the colonists had the right to govern themselves. He also argued that was the legislature of Great Britain and hand no legislative powers of the colonies.

Thomas was married at the age of 29, in 1772, to 23 year old widow Martha Wavles Skelton with whom he had six children of which only two survived to adulthood.

Thomas’s political career covered 1775 to 1800. In June of 1775 Thomas began serving as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. In June of 1776 Thomas was appointed to a five-man committee to prepare a declaration to accompany the resolution of independence. The committee selected Thomas to write the first Draft. Final revision were made to his draft and presented to the Congress on 28 June 1776 and ratified on 4 July l1776.

Thomas returned to Virginia in September 1776 and as elected to the new Virginia House of Delegates. While serving his term, Thomas began to reform and update Virginia’s system of laws to comply with the new democratic state. He proposed a bill to eliminate capital punishment for all crimes except for treason and murder but was defeated.

As Governor of Virginia, Thomas served from 1779 to 1781. In 1780 he transferred the state capital from Williamsburg to Richmond. In 1781 Thomas and other rebel leaders barely escaped capture by the British. Thomas would note win office again in Virginia but he was appointed to Congress by the state legislature in June 1783. He left on 7 May 1784 when elected a minister plenipotentiary.

From 1785 to1789 Thomas served as minister to France. In September of 1785 Thomas and John Adams collaborated by mail to outline an anti-piracy treaty with Morocco and was ratified by Congress on 18 July 1787 and is still in force to this day. Thomas Brought some of his slaves to serve his household which included James Hemings. When his youngest daughter died, he requested a slave, Sally Hemings, to travel with Polly. And it is likely Thomas began his relationship with Sally while in Paris. Thomas retired to Monticello in 1793 after serving as Gorge Washington’s secretary of state from 1790 to 1793. Thomas had a 38 year relationship with Sally Hemings after being widowed in 1783 and had six children by her, four of which survived to adulthood.

In 1796 Thomas lost to John Adams but had enough electoral votes to become Vice President from 1797 ti 1801, Avoiding the senate He did manage to write a manual of parliamentary procedures. For the Senate. John Adams started to rebuild the military and levied new taxes and enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts which Thomas declared that the federal government had no right to exercise without being delegated to it by the states.

Working with Aaron Burr Thomas rallied the democratic-Republican party by attacking the new taxes and ran for the presidency in 1800. Thomas owed his election to the South’s inflated number of electors, because it counted slaves under the 3/5 compromise. Thomas became known by some as the “Negro President”.

Thomas Jefferson served as president from 1801 to 1809 with his greatest accomplishments being the Louisiana Purchase and the abolition of the slave trade. Thomas repealed many of the federal taxes by relying on more customs revenues. Repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801 He began and won the First Barbary War of 1801 to 1805. He further established the US Military Academy at West Point in 1802. The Louisiana Territory was purchased from France in 1803 and effectively doubled the size of the United States and Thomas launched the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 to 1806. He segregated the US Post Office by not allowing blacks to carry the mail. In 1807 Thomas ordered Aaron Burr tried for treason, but he was acquitted. Congress passed a law called for by Thomas making it illegal to import or export slaves. The Embargo Act of 1807 was repealed at the end of Thomas’s second term and his reputation was damaged by It for the Act was ineffective. Thomas Jefferson died on 4 July 1826 the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

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