Biography of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Politician and American philosopher, Vice President of the United States under the Presidency of John Adams (1796-1801), and third President of the United States (1801-1809). Born April 13, 1743, Shadwell (Virginia's), and died July 4, 1826, at his residence in Monticello (State of Virginia), the same day and year than its predecessor in the role of John Adams. Due to their great culture and erudition, Thomas Jefferson was a clear example of man illustrated, freethinking and supporter of rights natural of man and one of the politicians, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, more decisive for the future of their country. As principal author of the Declaration of independence, poured it all its pictorial ideas European-style, which would then apply in his two presidential terms.

First years

A member of a family of Virginia landowner, Jefferson was the eldest of 10 children. His father, Peter Jefferson, owned several thousand acres and about 240 slaves, possession which the young Jefferson inherited to the death, in the year 1757. Jefferson was raised with several religious preceptors who instilled in him an early interest in Botany, geology, cartography and the Greek and Latin. At the age of 17, Jefferson went to complete his studies at William and Mary College, where he/she learned the mathematical concepts needed to direct their prosperous plantation. Jefferson continued to study and became interested in the legal profession, specialty, in the year 1767, he/she graduated to start a promising career as a lawyer. It was precisely at that time when Jefferson took contact with the illustrated philosophical ideas of the English like Locke, Voltaire and Diderot and French authors. Combining his profession as a lawyer with his philosophical ideals, Jefferson became an advocate wishful thinking of freedom against British tyranny.

The beginning of his political career

The political career of Thomas Jefferson was developed in parallel to the momentum gained by the American Revolution. Thus, the year 1769 was elected member of the Assembly of citizens of Virginia, office where he/she stayed until the year 1774, combining his new occupation politics with one of his passions, the architecture, as it would then show to design his mansion at Monticello planes and those of the Virginia State Capitol, in Richmond.En the year 1772, Jefferson married the rich widow Martha Wales Skelton.

In the year 1774, Jefferson wrote his first essay of importance, Summary view of the rights of British America, which exposed the natural of the colonists self-government rights since, according to him, these did not come to America as agents of the British Government, but as individuals. Many of the opinions expressed in this essay were later embodied in the Declaration of independence.

That same year, Jefferson attended the first Congress of Philadelphia, in which the representatives of the thirteen colonies definitely promoted the independence movement. Jefferson was elected Chairman of the Committee appointed to prepare the draft of the Declaration of independence, written in late July and which was read at the second Congress of Philadelphia in the year 1776. The approved document was work, almost full, of Jefferson, since its two partners in the project, John Adams and Benjamín Franklin, just introduced modifications of relief.

Once broken political ties with the metropolis, Jefferson returned in 1777, Virginia to participate in the drafting of the Constitution of the State, which was able to introduce the repeal of birthright and the right links (inheritance of possessions through a specific line of descendants), eliminating in this way the two major governmental obstacles to the right to private property. Other Jefferson's many legislative achievements were the separation of powers of the Church and the State, the implementation of a policy of public education at the State level and the Statute for religious freedom (the latter was not approved until the year 1786), by which prohibited the State Fund any religious organization.

Appointed Governor of Virginia, between the years 1779-1781, after leaving the post temporarily withdrew to his magnificent possession of Monticello, to write, in the year 1782, his Notes on Virginia, in which he/she captured a series of interesting notes about the social, political and economic life of the State of Virginia in the 18th century. After the death of his wife that same year, Jefferson returned to the Congress as a representative from Virginia, writing several official documents, which included the introduction of the dollar as the national currency by its importance, subject to the international decimal system and the Ordinance of 1784, which was organized West of the Appalachians a series of new territories which soon would become part of the States of the Union.

In the year 1785, Jefferson was appointed Ambassador to France replacing BenjamínFranklin. In the course of the four years that remained in France, Jefferson was witnessed the outbreak of the French revolution in Paris, eagerly embracing the ideas of the first French revolutionary period, which reaffirmed their political ideals. In addition, their stay in France crystallized in a sincere friendship toward that country, circumstances that later would deal with another large heavy weight of American policy, the leader of the federalist party Alexander Hamilton.

The administrations of George Washington and John Adams

Back to his country, Jefferson declared favorable to the agreements adopted in his absence by the Congress of Philadelphia, which was named George Washington first President of the Republic Federal of the United States of America, who appointed Thomas Jefferson Secretary of State (Foreign Minister).

In his new role, Jefferson did not hesitate much deal with Alexander Hamilton, appointed Secretary of the Treasury, disagreements that caused Jefferson to begin to develop a new party to spin, the Democrata-republicano, made up of farmers and land owners, against the federalist party, led by Alexander Hamilton, composed mostly by bankers and industrialists. Hamilton was intended to expand the powers of the central Government at the expense of the autonomy of the States and create a powerful banking able to control the economic life of their new country. To do so, it was necessary to the industrialization of the country, establishing high tariffs and bind to the governmental project to the richest classes. Jefferson, faithful to its ideal fisiocraticos, granted to agriculture all the virtues and the only real source of wealth and production. In his opinion, United States must remain an agrarian nation, based on small independent farmers.

When, in the year 1792, broke out the war between France and Great Britain, Jefferson argued for helping France and established British trade restrictions. But, thanks to the mediation of Hamilton, George Washington leaned by the practice of neutrality in the conflict. Jefferson resigned from his annoying post by the growing friendship of the Government with Britain and, above all, by the policies promoted by the Secretary of the Treasury. Along with James Madison, Thomas Jefferson ended up forming the Republican party, which began to politically confront the federalist Government.

During the presidential elections of the year 1796, Jefferson lost the Presidency by only two votes to his opponent, the also federalist John Adams. But, according to the existing electoral system at the time, this occupied the Vice-Presidency as the second most voted political force (first and only time that a US President ruled with a Vice President who was not of his party).

As you might expect, the conflict between both politicians soon explode, taking into account the different interests and conceptions of politics both defending. However, due to their weak position in the new Government, totally dominated by the federalists, Jefferson was forced to move to the background waiting for better times. During this period, Jefferson noted with concern the federalist rise and the use that these made sense anti-French to create a standing army (controlled by Hamilton), and, what was even more serious, the adoption of the law on foreigners and mutineers, by which the Government could restrict the entry of foreigners, mostly French, in the country (likely to vote Republican), stop, condemn and expel anyone who injuriase or launched false accusations against members of the Government or senior management. Both Jefferson and his companion's seat in the Senate, James Madison, denounced the unconstitutionality of the Act, which conferred upon them a role of bastions in defense of individual rights and the autonomy of the States against the central power of the federal Government.

Third President of the United States of America

In the presidential elections of the year 1800, Jefferson and his Republican colleague's campaign, Aaron Burr, obtained equal number of votes, so the election of President had to be resolved by the vote by the House of representatives, which, after 36 stressful votes, eventually electing Thomas Jefferson as President.

From his Office Jefferson faced the federalist opposition and a large segment of his own party, so it practiced a policy between the two extremes. Decided to print his presidency of simplicity, Jefferson removed federalist pageantry and adopted ceremonies in imitation of the Royal courts: he/she established the seat of Government in the newly-created city of Washington D.C. (district of Columbia), eliminated the presidential message that replaced with a speech, reduced duties of Congress sessions of three to five monthsimposed the policy of parties and cracked down considerably the costs of the army and Navy.

But, without a doubt, the two major successes of the first presidential term of Thomas Jefferson were: purchase to France, of April 30, 1803, immense territories westward including in Louisiana (see the article Louisiana Purchase) and the expedition to lands located to the West of the Mississippi River that was entrusted to the explorers Lewis and Clarkthat peaceful relations with the indigenous tribes of the region could be and were all kinds of scientific data of interest, the couple opened a route the slow and constant migration of a number of settlers who began to win territory for the Union.

In the year 1804, Jefferson returned to be re-elected President. His second term was marked by the European conflict, which seriously damaged the economy of the United States. Jefferson, in an attempt to protect the independence of the country and keep us diplomacy as flexible as possible without acquiring any irrevocable commitment with none of the main contenders, not was obliged to continue to maintain the neutral policy of his predecessors, much to his regret. But, given that the British not respected American neutrality, patrolling with their boats the North American coasts and intercepting American vessels in search of contraband and deserters. Jefferson chose the path of peaceful coercion, and issued the law of the Embargo, in the year 1807, by which all American boat prohibiting trade with any foreign country. The embargo was a terrible blow to U.S. trade and raised a wave of indignation in almost all social layers of the country. Jefferson was violently attacked in the Congress, to the point that few days until you take possession of the newly elected President, James Madison, Presidential Office was forced to sign the repeal of the law.

Paradoxically, the political maneuver of Jefferson served as New England, always engaged in maritime trade activities abroad, had to restart a new economic direction: capital previously invested in foreign trade was applied in lift factories and steel mills that began really to the process of industrialization in the United States, as was his great political foe Alexander Hamilton.

After completing his second term, on March 3, 1809, Jefferson withdrew to his home in Monticello, where he/she spent the rest of his life devoted to another of its great endeavors, the Foundation of the University of Virginia. He/She designed buildings, developed curricula and tried to get more qualified teachers, objective that succeeded in making his University the most advanced country in those moments.

Multifaceted and complex man, the perfect embodiment of the American elite of his time, Thomas Jefferson refused to release their slaves and remained always in disagreement with the abolitionist ideas, made that you made him fall in absolute contradiction since it was considered a defender of human and natural dignity of man. Since his retirement from Monticello he/she did lavish tips to the Presidents James Madison and James Monroe, until the date of his death, on July 4, 1826, anniversary of the Declaration of independence that he/she himself was commissioned to elaborate.


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Carlos Herraiz García.