American Founders’ Month (and Freedom Week) continues in Florida. Today, we look at Thomas Jefferson. Out of all of the Founders’, it may be Thomas Jefferson that most schoolchildren are most familiar with. They know him, of course, as the author of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration, of course, is considered on of the clearest rebukes of tyranny ever written, and it remains to this day a symbol of the pursuit of liberty the world over.
Like many of his peers, however, Jefferson was a man of massive contradictions. An advocate for liberty who owned a great many slaves, a slaveowner who recognized the evils of slavery (‘the rock upon which the Union would split’) but never freed his own slaves (unlike his colleague and friend George Washington, who freed his own upon his death), an opponent of an activist and strong central government who nevertheless used his power to purchase vast swathes of land from the French (despite his doubts about whether the Constitution gave him that power), and a believer in the importance of civility and comity in politics and life who was involved in one of the most brutal presidential campaigns in American history.
Thomas Jefferson was indeed many things, some good, some bad, but all important to the legacy of freedom and the Founders of this country. As one of his successors as president, John F. Kennedy, once said while hosting a dinner for Nobel Prize winners,
I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
Someone once said that Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet.
Log in and learn more about Thomas Jefferson from this excellent lesson provided by our friends at iCivics!
You can grab the PowerPoint featured at the top of this post here: Thomas Jefferson AFM
Additional entries in the American Founders’ Month series:
Introduction to the Founding Fathers
Who Was George Washington?
Abigail Adams: Founding Mother and so much more
John Adams: A Hero of Liberty
James Madison: Father of the Constitution
The Sons of Liberty: The Tea Party and More
Mercy Otis Warren: Antifederalist and Advocate for Liberty
Alexander Hamilton: More Than a Musical
George Middleton: An Early Leader for Civil Rights and Equality
Patrick Henry: Liberty or Death