We always hear about Thomas Jefferson in our history classes, as one of the most influential American politicians at the time of the nation’s birth. Though, we don’t always take the time to understand why this is the case. Looking at what he accomplished as president and politician seems mind boggling. In my blog, I will discuss Thomas Jefferson’s major accomplishments, his leadership lessons, and criticisms of his actions.
Before engaging the thesis, I want to discuss Jefferson’s background, before the late 1770’s. The reason being that his major accomplishments come during and after this time period. It is important to discover what his actions were at this early stage in his life, to understand how he came to be one of the most influential men in American history. The following information is taken from Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. First off, Jefferson was born and raised in Virgina, to wealthy parents. His father owned a large plantation and, thus, was able to afford a great education for his son, that which many others could not afford. Jefferson went to the College of William and Mary. Two classes he took, which are important to note, were: literature and philosophy. After studying law, Jefferson, then, was admitted to the Virgina bar. He was a skilled lawyer and, afterwards, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. In 1774, he wrote the”Summary View of the Rights of British America.” The Summary View opposed all the oppressive taxes and other acts Britain imposed on the 13 Colonies.
1. Human Right’s Advocate
Thomas Jefferson must be considered a champion of human rights. He believed that all men deserved these necessary human guarantees. He took this idea and influenced those of his generation and future generations, including ours, to make it a reality. This great amount of influence can be considered one of Thomas Jefferson’s greatest accomplishment.
One way, in which he influenced so many people, is through his writing of the Declaration of Independence. Now, before going further it is important to mention why he wrote the Declaration. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration in order to inform the Brittish Monarchy that the 13 Colonies will no longer be under it’s rule. This is consistent with the idea of “a government needing the consent of the people.” The reason Jefferson, among many others, wanted independence is because the monarcy was becoming too oppressive. For instance, the Tea Act, set a tax on tea. Within it, he including words, such as: equality among all men. Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation can be traced back to these words. In “Jeffersonian Democracy and the Origins of Political Antislavery in the United States: The Missouri Crisis Revisited, ” Sean Wilentz writes, “They believed that the institution was an affront to God, democracy, equality, and human progress- “the definitions and axioms of free society” that Lincoln traced back to Thomas Jefferson.” At this time, it is important to note that Thomas Jefferson wanted to go past these axioms. He wanted to write within the Declaration, that the slave trade was extremely immoral. Though, on page 105 of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Jon Meacham writes, “The denunciation of slavery was also eliminated.”
Thomas Jefferson demonstrated his abhorrence to slavery in other instances. Meacham writes about this on page 124 of his biography on Jefferson. For instance, he wanted to pass an amendment that would emancipate slaves born after a specified day and then deport them out of the country after an appropriate age. Jefferson wrote that, ““Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate, than that these people are to be free.”” The problem is that he was not born in the right time period to free slaves.