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Tomas Jefferson An Intimate History

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					Tomas Jefferson An Intimate History

 Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States and
considered to be one of the smartest to serve. He was one of the most
influential founding fathers of the United States and the principal
author of the Declaration of Independence. As an influential Founding
Father, Jefferson envisioned America as a country of freedom away from
the King and one that would promote Democratic values. Tomas Jefferson
has a long list of public office positions including, Governor of
Virginia during the war, first United States Secretary of State for
Washington, and the second Vice President of the United States for his
best friend, John Adams. His accomplishments range from making the
Louisiana Purchase to sending Lewis and Clark to explore the Wild West.
Jefferson was a man after the common man’s heart. He believed the
government should only be a small entity that helped run the country. He
idealized the common man as the symbol for republican virtues. Tomas did
not like the idea of large busy cities, but favored states' rights and a
strictly limited federal government. Jefferson helped define the idea of
separation of church and state as the author of the Virginia Statute for
Religious Freedom. After the American public elected Jefferson in 1800,
his Republican party dominated American politics for twenty years.
Jefferson is remembered as Americans founding father that believed in
liberty and democracy. However he owed his fortune to tobacco plantations
worked on land and by slaves that he had inherited. In Fawn Brodie’s
Tomas Jefferson: In Intimate History, we see life and his views on the
inferiority of blacks, and his sexual indiscretions with one of them.
Brodie shows us how a man with genius potential lived his life as one of
the first American public officials.
Peter Jefferson, Tomas Jefferson’s father, had a knack for making
friends. In fact, his best friend was William Randolph. Both men loved to
acquire land from the king for their use. The story goes that, Peter and
had his eye on 400 acres of land next to the Rivanna River that would be
a plush area for a house and plantation. Peter went to file for a
thousand acres including the 400 and found that his friend William had
filed two day earlier for 2,400 that included that land. After hearing
about this William sold the land to peter for a bowl of arrack punch.
Peter later built his house their and had his son, Tomas. Tomas’s father
would later die Eleven years later and leave his wife alone to raise 8
children.
Oddly Tomas Jefferson rarely mentions his mother, Jane Jefferson, despite
the fact that he lived with her till he was twenty seven years old. There
are only three references to her in the thousands of letter and papers
that historians have on Jefferson. Two sources are in a letter to his
uncle and in his autobiography. The third is in Jefferson’s account
books. In these books Jefferson records every nuance that he spent
throughout his life. When coming across a purchase for his mother it
states, “For you”. This leads historians to believe that Jefferson’s
mother may have been checking up on his accounts books, or possibly a
form of communication between the two. Whatever the case, Historians have
found it hard to find out much about Jefferson’s mother because there is
no trace of her handwriting anywhere. Due to a house fire and possible
destruction by Tomas Jefferson, himself, there are no records of Jane
Jefferson’s writings.
Jefferson truly had a love/hate relationship with women. Tomas Jefferson
always believed that a quite graceful woman was the best kind of woman.
He detested women who interfered in their husband’s politics. Jefferson
states, “The tender breasts of ladies were not formed for political
convulsions.” His view on woman completely slanted his world view. He
believed the Queen of France to be the cause of the French Revolution.
His view on woman would ultimately drive some of his decisions later in
life.
Martha Wayles Skelton is described by her great-granddaughter, as being
“very beautiful, a little above middle height, with a little exquisitely
formed figure. She was a model of grace and had queen like carriage.”
Martha Wayles Skelton would later become Martha Jefferson. The two of
them met in the hall of her father’s house. Jefferson fell in love with
her in 1770, when he was twenty seven years old. Martha was a widow for
Jefferson’s former friend, Bathurst Skelton. Martha had only been married
twenty-two months. She had a son as well with Bathurst. After becoming
married to Tomas, Martha gave birth to six children. Only two of the
children survived to adulthood. Martha was a bit of an heiress. After her
father die in 1773, Tomas Jefferson inherited not only 135 slaves, her
father was a slave traitor, but also gained 11,000 acres.
In 1752, Jefferson began attending a local school run by a local. At the
age of nine, Jefferson began studying Latin, Greek, and French. Jefferson
also learned to ride horses, and began to appreciate unique love for
nature. When he was fourteen years old and his father died, Jefferson
inherited about 5,000 acres of land and close to fifty of his father’s
slaves. Tomas soon began to study studied under James Maury from 1758 to
1760. While living and studying with Maury's family, he began to learn
about history, science and the classics. By 16, Jefferson started
attending the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg. For two years
the man studied mathematics and philosophy. A professor by the name
William Small introduced the near genius Jefferson to the writings of the
British Empiricists. This included John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac
Newton. Jefferson soon became almost fluent in French, Greek, and could
play the violin quite well. “A diligent student, Jefferson displayed an
avid curiosity in all fields. After graduating in 1762 with highest
honors, he read law with William & Mary law professor George Wythe and
was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767.” There was absolutely nothing
the man could not accomplish.
October 1, 1765 was a day that haunted Jefferson's mind for a long time.
His oldest sister Jane died at the age of 25. Jefferson fell into a long
time of deep mourning and sadness. Jefferson had written about his
feeling of abandonment by the absence of his sisters. Mary had been
married several years to Thomas Bolling, and Martha, had married earlier
in July to Dabney Carr. By 1768, Thomas Jefferson started the
construction of Monticello, his large neoclassical mansion. “Starting in
childhood, Jefferson had always wanted to build a beautiful mountaintop
home within sight of Shadwell.” Jefferson went greatly in debt on
Monticello by spending lavishly to create his neoclassical environment,
based on his study of the architect Andrea Palladio and the classical
orders. This would start his money problem in which he never broke from.
But it was after this point in which Jefferson decided to start his
career in Politics.
Besides practicing law, Jefferson represented Albemarle County in the
Virginia House of Burgesses beginning in 1769. Jefferson wrote A Summary
View of the Rights of British America after the passage of the Coercive
Acts by the British Parliament in 1774. This was his first published
work. Jefferson offered the radical notion that the colonists had the
natural right to govern themselves. Jefferson also argued that
Parliament was the legislature of Great Britain only, and had no
legislative authority in the colonies. The paper was intended to serve as
instructions for the Virginia delegation of the First Continental
Congress, but Jefferson's ideas proved to be too radical for that country
at that time.
Tomas Jefferson was the primary author of the declaration of
independence. Jefferson showed his draft to the committee, which made
some final revisions, and then presented it to Congress. After voting in
favor of the resolution of independence on July 2, Congress turned its
attention to the declaration. Over several days of debate, Congress made
a few changes in wording and deleted nearly a fourth of the text, most
notably a passage critical of the slave trade, changes that Jefferson
resented. “Of all the patriots celebrating the signing of the Declaration
of Independence Jefferson was perhaps the least able to enjoy it. He was
angered by what he called the mutilations of his document.” On July 4,
1776, the wording of the Declaration of Independence was ratified. The
Declaration would eventually become Jefferson's major claim to fame, and
his eloquent preamble became an enduring statement of human rights.
Martha Jefferson’s death was very hard on Tomas. In a story written by
Edmund Bacon, He recounts what happened when Martha was on her death bed.
Martha, knowing she would die soon, tells Tomas all the things she wanted
done. When she came to the children she began to weep and after composing
herself the story says, “She told him she could not die happy if she
thought her four children were ever to have a stepmother brought in over
them. Holding her hand in his, Mr. Jefferson promised her solemnly that
he would never marry again. And he never did.” Jefferson then went in to
a state of utter depression and anger. His daughter describes the events
that followed Martha’s death. “He was led from the room almost in a state
of insensibility by his sister Mrs. Carr who with great difficulty got
him into his library where he fainted and remained so long insensible
that they feared he never would revive.” After this time Jefferson did
have relations with other woman including Maria Cosway. Maria was an
accomplished composer and musician. But no woman matched up to the after
that Jefferson’s slave, Sally Hemings, did. Sally became Jefferson’s
second love. He would ultimately fall in love with her and the two of
them had children. Their relationship had to be completely secret. Sally
Hemings’ third son wrote about the relationship. “During that time my
mother became Mr. Jefferson’s concubine. Soon after their arrival (to
Virginia back from France) she gave birth to a child, of whom Tomas
Jefferson was the Father.” Jefferson would continue the relationship for
some 38 years but Sally would stay a slave until Jefferson’s death. All
of Sally’s children were freed and were the only ones to be freed from
the Jefferson estate.
Jefferson’s presidency was considered to be anticlimactic. During his
time, Jefferson helped repeal many federal taxed. He believed that a
smaller government was the best Government. He did not agree with the
Alien and Sedition Acts and ended up pardoning many of the people
arrested during the time. Jefferson freed David Brown from prison after
the man raised a sign saying, “No stamp act, no sedition, no alien bills,
no land tax; Downfall to the tyrants of America, peace and retirement to
the President, long live the Vice-President and the Minority; May moral
virtue be the basis of civil government.” During His presidency,
Jefferson had a small opposition led by James Callender. Callender was a
political writer who was originally on Jefferson’s side, but after his
inauguration, Callender became more and more accusing of the new
President. In 1803, Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from France,
doubling the size of the United States. But the purchase was considered
more luck than anything else. “His Louisiana Purchase has been described
as a fortuitous accident, owing more to the vagaries of Bonaparte’s
ambition than Jefferson’s cautious diplomacy.” Jefferson lasted two terms
and left office in a peaceful manner.
Jefferson’s last year brought ill health and grinding anxieties. During
1819, a series of crop failures destroyed all hopes that Jefferson could
get himself out of debt that he had build up along the way. “His failure
to face his own increasing indebtedness, his chronic optimism about next
year’s bumper crop, unexpected disasters, all contributed to the
inexorable slippage toward bankruptcy.” During his last years, Jefferson
was diagnosed with, “a sever constriction in the urethra due to the
enlarged prostate gland.” This utterly crippled Jefferson leaving him
unable to attend the 50 anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of
Independence.” That was his last day on earth and with him came his best
friend, John Adams. The two died just hours apart with Adams last breath
stating, “Tomas Jefferson still survives.”
Fawn Brodie’s portrayal of Tomas Jefferson’s life is a telling tale that
dives in to aspects not regularly talked about. Brodie started her career
with controversial books including, No Man Knows My History: The Life of
Joseph Smith, and Thaddeus Stevens: The Scourge of the South. “Brodie
found time between classes and during the summers to do research outside
of Los Angeles.” Her research paid off. Focusing more on the affair of
Jefferson for a chunk of the book left me feeling like it was trying to
make the book more entertaining. Brodie writes in a style that is easy to
understand and is for the populous rather than the scholarly. Because of
this, Brodie has received some scrutiny for her work. The American
Political Science Review stated, “The debate between Fawn M. Brodie and
her colleagues within the field of history has focused on whether the
book represents a “serious” contribution to that discipline.” Her work
may not actually be revealing anything new to the field of history but
the reader is able to get a more comprehensive view of the third
president. I believed that book reveals many things that the average
reader would not know about the President. I do question some of her
sources and how she comes to some of her conclusions. Many times
throughout the book, Brodie relieves on family accounts. This would be a
very acceptable method of obtaining facts except for the fact that the
family members were not alive during Jefferson’s life. These are stories
that have been told to them and are essentially second hand accounts.
Brodie also gives many for the pages of her book to the scandal with
Sally Hemings. The Political Science review goes on to say, “These flaws
include the disproportionate amount of space devoted to Jefferson’s
supposed liaison with his quadroon slave Sally Hemings, the absence of
new and reliable evidence on this topic, and the lack of attention paid
to forces other than personality that could account for Jefferson’s
Behavior.” Now because of recent advances in science, in 2000, a DNA
sample was taken from Jefferson and his supposed children and there was a
match. But the book was written in 1974 and thus Brodie was jumping the
gun to make such accusations. The facts remains that Brodie’s book is a
great addition to the many books that are written or will be written
about Tomas Jefferson. There are still critics out there that feel the
same way. In the Journal of Southern History, Holman Hamilton writes,
“this book has valuable assets, Stylistic felicities distinguish many
pages. The drama of nation-founding events, frequently described by other
authors is produced anew with engaging freshness.” Fawn Brodie’s
biography provides a rich intricate portrait of a man who some may never
understand. She examines Jefferson in a way so readers and see the depth
of his mind and character. The readers are ultimately astonished to see
at how this man lived his life and engaged the people around him. I am a
very big fan of this book and would recommend it to all readers wanting
to see a three dimensional view of the United States third president.

				
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