Today In History: Thomas Jefferson Is Born
Today is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. Jefferson was one of the most prominent Founding Fathers and had a major hand in framing the character of American politics for centuries to come. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He was also the third President, serving two terms from 1801 to 1809. He was also John Adams’s Vice President from 1797 to 1801.
Jefferson was born and raised in Virginia. After graduating from the College of William & Mary, he practiced law and represented Virginia at the Continental Congress during the Revolution. In 1785, he was appointed the United States Minister to France and then the first ever Secretary of State in 1790.
His political disposition was marked by a deep aversion to centralized federal power. He was concerned over the possibility of the nascent United States government organizing itself along the lines of the British monarchy from which it wrestled its destiny. A proposal for a national bank put forward by George Washington and Alexander Hamilton saw Jefferson resign from his post in protest. He was also strongly opposed to the desire, voiced by Hamilton and others, for a federal military.
Jefferson is both venerated as an exemplar of American values and castigated as a hypocrite, due to his simultaneous espousal of Enlightenment ideals of inalienable human rights and love of freedom and personal ownership of slaves. While slave ownership was culturally accepted at the time, abolitionist sentiment was also strong. Jefferson almost certainly had an “affair” with Sally Hemings, whose six children were believed to all be Jefferson’s. His personal and ideological relationship with slavery was murky at best.
After burying the hatchet with his friend turned political adversary John Adams, the two of them both died on the same day in 1826 – the 4th of July.