During the early 17th century, individuals suffering under the religious persecution of England fled to the Americas in order to desperately find freedom for their practices. In the proceeding years, more came to settle in this newfound land. Young, self-reliant Thomas Jefferson, even in his early stages of adolescence, fixated most of his time to studying, pondering, and learning. Independent, intelligent, and ignited, Jefferson would mature to be one of the founding fathers of freedom.
Disparity divided Jefferson and his classmates. As they spent their spare time on leisure, Jefferson willingly devoted more of his time to expanding his knowledge. Jefferson’s studies in law gradually developed him into supporting American independence from Great Britain, and swayed him to writing the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson’s early education in diverse academics, including studying Greek and Latin, literature, mathematics, and law, kindled his devotion to seeking independence for America from Great Britain. Jefferson is forever remembered as “one of the greatest American Founding Fathers,” as author of the Declaration of Independence, Father of Liberty, who helped shape the nation of the United States of America. Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at the Shadwell plantation in Goochland County, Virginia (Pettinger 1). His father, Peter Jefferson, was an acknowledged, affluent farmer and landowner, as well as a skilled cartographer who was the to accurately sketch the Province of Virginia (Thomas 1). Jane Randolph Jefferson, mother of Thomas Jefferson, hailed from the Randolph clan of English and Scottish royalty (2).
Maturing as a prominent, scholarly student, Jefferson spent “up to 15 hours a day studying,” a broad range of subjects (Pettinger 1). His limitless devotion to reading shapes his greater understanding of the world (2). Young Jefferson’s education started when he was of nine years old. His early studies under William Douglas consisted of learning ancient Greek and Latin (Lerner 12). Such studies were rarely found in most schools, and only in a small hand of “private academies,” (12). Prominent Jefferson was under Douglas’ care until he was of age 14, in which he studied under the influences of Reverend James Maury. In Maury’s care, Jefferson cultivated his studies in literature and arithmetic, along with more extensive practice of the classical languages (Thomas 1).
With the death of his father when Jefferson was 14, Maury held himself responsible for nurturing Jefferson’s character and nature (Lerner 12). With endless possibilities to expand his knowledge, Jefferson sought for all the ways of acquiring wisdom which led him to attend the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg. Unlike his fellow classmates, disparity divided the disciplined Jefferson from young men of his age (Crawford 14). While the other men displayed interests playing cards or pursuing women, Jefferson committed his precious time to broaden his education (Thomas 1). Jefferson denounced the temptations of Williamsburg, calling it “Devilsburg,” for gambling, horse racing, and other leisures that allured men away from their studies (Crawford 14).
He biblically alludes to individuals who sacrifice their willpower to the irresistible temptations and ignore their education for the fruits of leisure found in the city. Young Thomas Jefferson displayed a strong will and portrayed himself as an established individual who will not sacrifice his well-being for selfish needs, and he is one that others may look up to. His portrayal suggested that of an objective leader who will prioritize the welfare of his people before his own.With a lack of fellow classmates with similar interests, Jefferson found himself accompanying a small band of scholars, whom included William Small, George Wythe, and Francis Fauquier ( Crawford 15). The overwhelming influences of Wythe swayed Jefferson to practicing the legal art of law as his profession.
During his studies, influenced by his band of scholars, Jefferson stated his beliefs of disobeying unjust law which would later serve as one of the foundations of the Declaration of Independence: “‘If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so” (16). Appealing to logos, Jefferson admits that it is not wrong to denounce a rule that goes against one’s beliefs. He believes that individuals must challenge the law in order for their government to understand something is wrong; for it is only logical that people are to determine the outcomes of the government that they represent. Well known for drafting the American Declaration for Independence, Thomas Jefferson, with professional experience under law, employed powerful rhetoric in order to appeal to the British and all whom are wishing for the end of British rule in the colonies. Jefferson, referring to the colonists as one, asserts, “‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (The Declaration of Independence).
He chose “we,” as a means of second person plural, declaring that it is not just him speaking out, but it is every individual of the thirteen colonies all under one,l united for one cause: seeking independence from the Crown and Parliament. Alluding to God, or any other religious deity in which people believe in, he gave them life in order to freely live it to the individual’s extent, not by the hands of men who declare that they are above them. With appeals to logos, Jefferson reminds the British “that all men are created equal … with certain unalienable rights” in which the people created a government in order to protect those rights. Above all, he deeply believed that the government should prioritize those rights before everything else, and if the people feel that the government is unable to do so, they should have the right to form a new one. Deemed as one of his three greatest accomplishments, Thomas Jefferson composed and wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in order to further expound after his written words of religious freedom in the first amendment. In his statute, he proclaims, “tthat no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, no shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion” (Lapsansky-Werner 727). Anaphorically, via the words “no ..
. shall,” Jefferson addressed the public that no religion shall force their beliefs upon those unwilling because each have their own rights to their own beliefs. His repetition of shall in the statute’s syntax strengthens the address to be legally binding, instead of using words like “may” or “should.
” The separation of church and state developed to be a common principle that is followed by the United States government to this day. During his time as Vice President in office, President John Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts, which Jefferson firmly disapproved of (Vidal 160). Jefferson sought after Congress in order to express his discontent and argued, “‘I do not know what mortifies me more, that I should fear to write what I think, or my country bear such a state of things'” (161).
Ironically, in the land of the free, it became illegal to write, speak, or promote false accusations about the government. As author of the Declaration of Independence, the democratic foundation of America-the voice of all the colonists who sought for independence from an oppressive government, Jefferson was stunned by President Adams’ hypocrisy. His words reached out to all who seeked equality, and because of his empowering faith, Thomas Jefferson was qualified by the people as the third president of the United States on March 4, 1801. Instead of being escorted inside a horse-drawn carriage, Jefferson walked to and from his inauguration.
Strongly believing in the morals he grew up with, Jefferson admitted himself that presidency already related to the power of a king, and serving anymore than two terms was “like a bad edition of Polish King” (29). Jefferson’s first term as president was mostly noted for the Louisiana Territory purchase in 1803, which costed America fifteen million dollars. It gave the United States property of the land that stretched across the Missippi River and the Rocky Mountains, further pursuing the American dream of the Manifest Destiny.As an advocate for the abolition of slavery, Jefferson continued to promote a democratic method in which slavery could be emancipated, but also avoid taking away people’s rights of their “property.” When addressing the issue on slavery, Jefferson admitted that it was like taking a beast head on: “But, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go” (Staton 1). Metaphorically declaring the issue of slave labor as a wild creature, any attempts to deal with the situation results in a negative outcome. By choosing to ignore the issue of enslavement, the numbers of the enslaved will only increase: “The slave population in Virginia skyrocketed from 292,627 in 1790 to 469,757 in 1830” (1). Logically, if slavery was abolished, Jefferson also realized he is also seizing a liberty given to the people he fought so valiantly for; a liberty in which they are entreated to their own property, in which that was what enslaved men, women, and children were only thought of.
Although plagued with the situation of providing justice for all, Jefferson continued to support the abolishment of slave labor.After Jefferson’s presidency, he chose to live a humble life in Monticello. There, he spent his days rebuilding and improving the home he has not stepped in for over forty years. Thomas Jefferson’s perseverance in his struggles for freedom for all left an everlasting influence in the nation. With his prior, expansive education as a child, Jefferson matured to be a man respected by many. His tenacious spirit and strong-will fueled the heated words drafted onto the Declaration of Independence, which will forever be looked at by all who live under the American flag, and those from other nations who also seek independence from tyranny. He continued to promote the abolition of slavery even after his presidency. According to Jefferson, he planned to abolish slavery in stages: “By setting a date after which the children born of slaves would be born free, thus cutting away the roots of the tree of slavery, and leaving the branches to wither with time” (Lerner 99).
Yet, Lerner admits, Jefferson’s plan failed when one of his pupils challenged him and proposed his teacher to free his own slaves. Jefferson was unable to do so, but he had a greater purpose in doing so. The former president had plans of providing the nation with a new university. For many years, Jefferson was planning on remodelling the educational system of the state, as well as building a new university. He drafted a bill, known as the Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge along “with provision for public schooling ‘without proper regard to wealth, birth or other accidental condition or circumstance” (Lerner 99). In 1814, Jefferson finally decided to execute his plan for the building of a university, and its would come to be known as the University of Virginia.
By 1825, the university would finally be standing, with its first 65 students. (102). Jefferson was 80 by then and his health was suffering, but he continued to use all of his energy to see the success of his project. He visited the campus everyday, walking through classrooms and listening in on lectures. Just months after executing his plan for the university in 1814, Jefferson heard of the burning of the U.S. Capitol by the British.
Intent on helping, he offered his personal library to Congress, a collection of books that included a only handful of books in government and political economy. The books on government and economy consisted of over thirteen hundred volumes and Jefferson admits, “I have been fifty years making it, and have spared no pains” (Crawford 110). Indefinitely, Jefferson’s personal collection would belong to Congress after his death.
He hoped to himself that contribution of education and his library would benefit society even after his death. Thomas Jefferson experienced a fulfilled life as the author of the Declaration of Independence, a Founding Father, determined to make the growing nation of America an independent, equal, and welcoming nation for all. All of his actions were motivated by his experiences in his younger years as a maturing young man with an extensive education and profound instructors. His collaborations with the expansive minds of men like William Douglas, James Maury, and George Wythe influenced his passion for law and equality. This passion proceeded him into drafting the Declaration of Independence, and provided the sovereign country with rights to shape itself on its own. On the fourth of July in 1826, Thomas Jefferson died, and on his tombstone, he wished for his three achievements to remember him by listed on there and nothing more.
The tombstone read, “Here was buried/Thomas Jefferson/Author of the Declaration of American Independence/of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom/&/ Father of the University of Virginia” (Jefferson 1).