Thomas Jefferson was a strong choice for the 3rd American President. Even though he was reluctant to take part when he was nominated, he managed to be a strong fiscal leader and a wily negotiator for the young country.
Early Life of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson didn’t begin his formal education until he was nine years old. He studied Latin and Greek at a small private school led by the Reverend William Douglas where his family lived. He started studying classical languages, literature, and mathematics when he turned 14 in 1757. His learned with the Reverend James Maury, “a correct classical scholar,” according to Jefferson in later reflections.
He was an average looking man, freckled, sandy-haired, tall, and gangly. Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a great public speaker, but he was a persuasive and well-expressed correspondent. While serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, he contributed using his pen instead of his voice to promote his belief in patriotism.
Even though he was called the “silent member” of the Continental Congress, he wrote the Declaration of Independence at the age of 33. Later he strived to make its words an actuality in Virginia. He wrote a bill to establish religious freedom, which was ratified in 1786, as just one example of his continued work.
Thomas Jefferson as an American President
Thomas Jefferson became the second Vice-President of the United States under his opponent in 1796, regardless of his prior objections to being considered for the executive office. John Adams actually became the American President, winning by three votes, because of an error in the Constitution.
In the following election in 1800, that flaw caused an even larger problem. Republican electors, while making an attempt to have both the President and Vice President chosen from their own political party, caused a tie vote between Aaron Burr and Jefferson. The House of Representatives had to be called on to settle the unexpected situation. Even though Alexander Hamilton disliked both Jefferson and Burr, he supported the election of Thomas Jefferson.
By the time Thomas Jefferson undertook the office as the American President, the undeclared war with France had ended. He significantly reduced Army and Navy disbursements, decreased the budget, and removed the whiskey tax that was disliked in the West. By making those fiscal adjustments, he was able to drop the national debt by to two thirds of what it was originally.
He was also able to send a naval squadron to combat against the Barbary pirates that were negatively affecting American trade in the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, he purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803 from Napoleon. He did have to adjust his opinion about the constitutionality of the acquisition because the Constitution had no allowance for acquiring new land.
Thomas Jefferson was elected to serve a second term as American President, and he was increasingly engrossed with keeping the country from becoming involved in the Napoleonic wars. Both France and England were interfering with the rights of American merchant ships to remain neutral. Jefferson imposed an embargo upon shipping from America, but this didn’t work and was extremely unpopular.
Thomas Jefferson’s Retirement
Thomas Jefferson returned to Monticello after his second term as President and pondered various projects including his impressive plans for the University of Virginia. A French nobleman made the observation that Jefferson seemed to place, not only his house, but all of his thoughts “on an elevated situation, from which he might contemplate the universe.”
He died on the 4th of July, 1826 at his plantation.
The following poster provides an attractive and concise summary of Thomas Jefferson’s achievements throughout his lifetime: