“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These famous lines of the Declaration of Independence was written in the front parlor of a second floor rented apartment by the American, Thomas Jefferson. These few words show what ideas and beliefs Thomas Jefferson stood for, and how he continuously fought for these words to become fulfilled in his country.
This powerful advocate of liberty was born in 1743 in Albermarle County, Virginia. From his father he inherited some 5,000 acres of land, and from his mother, a high social ranking. He studied at the College of William and Mary, then read the law.
Thomas Jefferson was a man of many different talents. He knew several languages, including Latin and Greek. He was an expert mathematician who was even able to calculate when eclipses of the sun and moon would occur. He could design buildings, perform medical operations like an experienced surgeon, survey land, and play the violin. Despite his thinness, he was strong enough to tame a wild horse and chop wood like a lumberjack. Most important of all, he was know to be a superb writer.
Though surprisingly, Thomas Jefferson was not a man of many words. Not known for his speaking abilities, he was shy and seldom spoke in public. When delegates at the Congress gave long speeches, Thomas Jefferson oftentimes just listened. John Adams said of Jefferson, “During the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together.”
Instead, this Virginian contributed his pen rather than his voice to the patriotic cause. Being known throughout the colonies as a fine writer on political questions, he received the most votes to become the chairman of the committee elected to write a Declaration of Independence. The other members of the committee asked him to write a first draft of the Declaration. Jefferson began his work in the parlor of his apartment. For several days, he worked long hours at a desk, writing this Declaration for which he is widely known. He described that his words were not meant to be original or creative, but “to be an expression of the American mind.”
Thomas Jefferson was a reluctant candidate for President in 1796, and came within three votes of election. However in 1800 he did become the third president of the United States. As president Jefferson slashed Army and Navy expenditures, cut the budget, eliminated tax on whiskey, and reduced the national debt by a third. Although the Constitution made no provisions for the acquisition of new land, Jefferson suppressed his qualms over constitutionality and acquired the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803.
Jefferson retired to Monticello to ponder such projects as his grand designs for the University of Virginia. As a French nobleman observed, he had placed his house and his mind “on an elevated situation, from which he might contemplate the universe.”
Truly, Thomas Jefferson was an American. He had endless devotion and love for his country, and helped establish what the American experience stood for. He had a great impact on how the young nation grew into the powerful country it is today. Not only did he physically double the size of the United States, he played a key role in making the nation independent.