This Synopsis by David W. Allan
"We hold these truths to
be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with inherent and unalienable rights, that among these are
life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, that to secure these rights
governments are instituted among men. We...solemnly publish and declare,
that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent
states...and for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on
the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our
fortunes, and our sacred honour."
These immortal words, penned by Thomas Jefferson, as he introduced the
World's most successful revolution, are inscribed in the hearts of every
freedom loving American. How grateful we should be that the Lord raised up
this giant (in all aspects of his nature) of a man.
No man in this or any other country in the Western world--excepting only
Leonardo da Vinci--ever matched Jefferson in the range of his activities, in
the fertility of his thinking, and in the multiplicity of his interests. The
number of things Jefferson did, or knew how to do, still astonishes. He was a
mathematician, surveyor, architect, paleontologist, prosodist, lawyer,
philosopher, farmer, fiddler and inventor. He set up an educational system; he
built a university; he founded a great political party; he helped design the
national capital; he was instrumental in establishing America's coinage; he
doubled the territory of the United States; he collected scientific materials
in the fields of zoology, geology and anthropology; he wrote a classic essay
on poetry; he codified the legal system of his native State. He could converse
and read several languages. Everything interested him; nothing was alien to
In brilliant letters his total correspondence runs into 18,000 pieces of
mail. Jefferson formulated his ideas with depth and beauty rarely excelled. He
was a passionate champion of the rights, freedom and dignity of man. Young
Jefferson adopted for his motto: "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to
It had taken two days to travel the 100 miles from Williamsburg to
Monticello, following the marriage of TJ to Martha Wayles Skelton. Virginia
had received a record snowfall. Their two-horse chaise broke down on the way.
Proceeding on horseback and taking a mountain track, rather than a
road--traveling through some 18 inches of snow--they arrived at Monticello
late the second night. The home was still in the skeletal stage, with only one
room prepared for occupancy. The night was cold and dreary, and Jefferson,
with his usual consideration for others, would not disturb the servants. He
stabled the horses himself and took his bride into their new "home."
...kindled a fire... found a bottle of wine; the two shared a toast and
succumbed to laughter out of sheer happiness.
Jefferson was a devoted family man. His devotion to his wife was inspiring
to all who knew them. She was the object of his love. Combined in her slender
person were a number of irresistible qualities. She was well-born, beautiful,
finely educated, warm-hearted, a graceful dancer, a fine musician, full of
high spirits, and wealthy. Six children were born to them--three died in
infancy. Martha's untimely death was devastating to Jefferson.
In 1776, Jefferson was not the leader of the Virginia delegation in
Congress, but he was probably its most learned member and certainly its best
writer. At the age of 32, he was a gentleman "who could calculate an
eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break
a horse, dance a minuet and play the violin." At this time in his life he
penned the immortal words in the Declaration of Independence. In a letter to
Colonel William S. Smith, John Adam's son-in-law, TJ said, "The tree of
liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots &
tyrants. It is its natural manure."
Jefferson, as a US foreign ambassador could not be in Philadelphia in 1787,
but he had trained James Madison in great detail with his thinking--plus they
were very close in their political philosophies. Madison's major lead in the
constitutional convention was in large measure representing Jefferson.
However, when TJ read the constitution, he was upset because it lacked the
Bill of Rights. He was also concerned about having no time limit to
office--especially for the President. The people had to be eternally protected
against the Government. Otherwise, he was well taken by what had been
When he was approached with a proposition to make money in a financial
enterprise, he replied:
When I first entered on the stage of public life (now twenty-four years,
ago), I came to a resolution never to engage while in public office in any
kind of enterprise for the improvement of my fortune, nor to wear any other
character than of a farmer. I Have never departed from it in a single
instance; and I have in multiplied instance found myself happy in being able
to decide and to act as a public servant, clear of all interest, in the
multiform questions that have arisen, wherein I have seen others embarrassed
and biased by having got themselves into a more interested situation. Thus I
have thought myself richer in contentment than I should have been with any
increase of fortune.
His popularity was so great that he almost won the 1796 election without
campaigning--only two votes shy. However, he prepared carefully for the 1800
election--fearing the loss of freedom if the opposing party won. He championed
the cause of the common people and spoke in their name. He not only formulated
their inarticulate hopes, but also believed in their intelligence, trusted
their judgment, respected their character. Jefferson wanted every man to have
a chance for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
During this campaign, he was attacked as an infidel, because he did not go
to church. Jefferson was a very devout believer in Christ and practiced the
gospel teachings better than almost any man, but he was attacked furiously
because of his non-traditional religious approach and castigated as a heathen.
Much character assassination took place because of these religious feelings.
At the height of the campaign of vilification, Jefferson gave voice to one of
his angriest yet immortal statements in a letter to Dr. Rush: "...I have
sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny
over the mind of man." This immortal quote is now inscribed in stone in
the Jefferson memorial.
So much mud was hurled at Jefferson that some of it stuck. This religious
oppression came mainly from the clergy--proud in their ministries, but not
with an ounce of support from Jefferson--hence, the jealousy and bigotry that
was leveled toward him. For generations many communities, particularly in the
North, continued to regard Thomas Jefferson as Antichrist. As late as 1830 the
Philadelphia Public Library refused to keep any works dealing with the life or
writings of Jefferson. In New England he was pursued by relentless clerical
hatred. A Puritan clergyman during a baptism asked the father for the child's
name. "Thomas Jefferson," the father replied. "No such
unchristian name!" thundered the clergyman. "John Adams, I baptize
Jefferson abhorred the idea of a big national debt. It was clear that debt
meant interest, interest called for higher taxes, and higher taxes involved a
reduction in the standard of living of the common people. Coddling the bankers
and robbing the toilers was not Jefferson's idea of the good society. He once
explained in a letter to Samuel Kercheval:
If we run into such debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in
our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our
amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are,
our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four,
give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and
daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we
must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think,
no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain
subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our
As President, Jefferson inherited a national debt of over $80,000,000.
...by the end of his administration--despite the purchase of Louisiana and
losses due to the Embargo--the nation debt was decreased by $27,000,000.
He loved America as a wise father proud of his offspring, not as an anxious
lover jealous of his mistress. He wanted his land to be a beacon of freedom to
mankind,... a haven for the world's oppressed.
Of all emigrating peoples, Jefferson preferred Italians. They were among
the world's finest artisans and artists, as well as energetic farmers and
He regarded diplomats with suspicion as the spoilers of peace and their
craft as the smithy of war. To William Short he wrote, "I have ever
considered diplomacy as the pest of the peace of the world, as the workshop in
which nearly all the wars of Europe are manufactured."
He won an overwhelming second term and was beloved of the people. A lot of
problems arose during his second term; most of which were out of his control,
but he weathered the storm. Announcing at the beginning of his second term
that this would be his last, he left it in great honor. During his eight year
tenure as our Third President, he avoided war; never saw a drop of blood spilt
and negotiated many national conflicts from blowing up into war. This was
during the Napoleon wars in Europe--with lots of reasons to be drawn into the
conflicts. Providentially, Jefferson was able to find Napoleon in a weak
moment, and bought the whole of the Louisiana Territory for 60,000,000 French
francs (about $15,000,000). This included what we now know as Arkansas,
Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska,
North and South Dakota, Oklahoma,and Wyoming--comprising an area of almost a
million square miles. All of Europe, including Scandinavia, could be tucked
away in this area.
1809: Few men in history ever achieved such philosophical balance and
spiritual harmony as did Jefferson; the German poet Goethe was of similar
balance. Jefferson said at this time in his life, "My temperament is
sanguine. I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern."
Margaret Bayard Smith, wife of the editor of the National Intelligencer
and Washington Adviser, an ardent Jeffersonian triweekly, visited
Monticello about four months after TJ's retirement. She wrote:
There is a tranquility about him, which an inward peace alone could
bestow... His tall and slender figure is not impaired by age... His white
locks announce an age his activity, strength, health, enthusiasm, ardor and
gayety contradict. His face owes all its charm to its expression and
intelligence; his features are not good and his complexion bad, but his
countenance is so full of soul and beams with much benignity... His low and
mild voice harmonizes with his countenance rather than his figure. But his
manners--how gentle, how humble, how kind... To a disposition ardent,
affectionate and communicative, he joins manners timid even to bashfulness,
and reserved even to coldness.
Jefferson confided in her that his whole life was a conflict between
private inclination and public duty. He incurred great debt while serving as
President, but did it because of his integrity to the principles he believed
He and John Adams had been members of opposite political parties, and
though friends early on had been driven apart by political contentions. In
1812 Jefferson received a letter that counted a great deal to him; it was
signed--"with sincere Esteem your Friend and Servant"--John Adams.
Thus began a classic correspondence in American history. The reconciliation of
the two friends was the work of Dr. Benjamin Rush, the Philadelphia physician
who was also one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
In one of the letters to Adams, Jefferson wrote:
I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for
Newton and Euclid, and I find myself much happier. Sometimes, indeed, I look
back to former occurrences... Of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence, I see now living not more than half a dozen on your side of
the Potomac, and on this side, myself alone. You and I have been wonderfully
spared, and myself with remarkable health... I am on horseback three or four
hours of every day... I walk little, however, a single mile being too much
for me, and I live in the midst of my grandchildren... I salute you with
unchanged affection and respect.
In October, 1823, Jefferson received a startling letter from President
Monroe. Jefferson was then past eighty. Monroe was drawing on Jefferson's
great wisdom regarding a matter of grave international importance, that of
co-operating with Great Britain to keep European Powers out of the Americas.
At this point in history, Great Britain and the U.S. had been on terms of
uninterrupted hostility for half a century. Proposing friendly cooperation
seemed almost ludicrous, but Jefferson responded:
The question... is the most momentous which has ever been offered to my
contemplation since that of Independence... Our first and fundamental maxim
should be, never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe. Our second,
never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs.
Monroe accepted Jefferson's advice, and even his line of reasoning--out of
which came the Monroe Doctrine. Like many other freedom issues of great
magnitude we see Jefferson as the supporter and even the author of most of
them directly or indirectly.
He told Charles Thomson regarding the words of Jesus he had pasted in a
special creedo book which he had personally made: "A more beautiful or
precious morsel of ethics I have never seen, it is a document in proof that I
am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of
Jesus." He told Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse--a famous medical scientist from
boston: "The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all the happiness of
man. 1. That there is only one God, and he all perfect. 2. That there is a
future state of rewards and punishments. 3. That to love God with all thy
heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion. He saw the apostasy
in Christianity and hoped the American people would return to the pure
teachings and unspoiled doctrines of Jesus.
To Joseph Marx, a Jew, he said that the Jewish sect was "parent and
basis of all those of Christendom," That it had been singled out by
Christians "for a persecution and oppression which proved they have
profited nothing from the benevolent doctrines of him whom they profess to
make the model of their principles and practice."
Most of the last decade of Jefferson's life was spent establishing the
University of Virginia at Charlottesville. He wisely used every ounce of his
political influence, his patience and gentle persuasion, which often happened
over a meal at Monticello. The energy he put into this effort at his age is
incredible. He was the basic influence in energizing state legislative
funding, the architectural design, the choosing of its illustrious faculty
(mostly from abroad where he was well known and greatly respected). His belief
in education and the blessings of an enlightened man were fundamental drivers
in his personal life. He wished to impart these to America.
Monticello (Italian for "Little Mountain") is an architectural
masterpiece. He developed an incredible library to help satisfy his insatiable
appetite for learning. Yet he always liked to be known as a farmer. Indeed, it
was the most beautiful farm in the area with a marvelous vegetable garden, all
kinds of fruit trees and a variety of nut trees, a most lovely flower garden.
He grew grapes and loved good wine--no hard liquor nor rich foods; he was
basically vegetarian using meat more as a condiment. He believed one should
always rise from the table just a little bit hungry. He invented the Malboro
plow for efficient turning of the soil; it looks all the same as what is used
today. The rolling hills of his estate off from Monticello must be some of the
most beautiful in the state. He was fascinated with astronomy and
clocks--building a seven day clock as part of the entry way. He was on his
horse almost every day up until just two weeks before he died. Frequently
(almost daily at times), he would ride into Charlottesville (some eight miles)
to check the progress of the University and to encourage the work.
In 1824, after Jefferson's 81st birthday, he received a most memorable
visit from his dear friend, Lafayette. They had not seen each other for 35
years, and the world had been through many revolutions and many wars.
Lafayette arrived at Monticello accompanied by an escort of Virginia gentlemen
with Revolutionary banners. There was a fanfare of martial trumpets. The
cavalcade stopped on the lawn in front of the portico where the thin,
white-haired man was standing. As Lafayette got out of the carriage, Jefferson
descended the steps of the portico. Jefferson could barely walk. Lafayette was
lame. "As they approached each other," Thomas Jefferson Randolph
recalls, "their uncertain gait quickened itself into a shuffling run, and
exclaiming, ' Ah Jefferson!' 'Ah Lafayette!' they burst into tears as they
fell into each other's arms." Hundreds of people witnessed the scene;
there was not a dry eye among them. It will be remembered that Lafayette's
support of the revolution was critical, and Jefferson was the main negotiator
in the alliance.
The friends spent two happy weeks together with a million things to say to
each other, and before his departure, Lafayette was given a banquet at
Charlottesville with invited guests: Madison, and President Monroe. Jefferson
praised Lafayette for all he had done for the cause of American liberty and
the splendid aid he had given Jefferson in Paris:
My friends, I am old, long in the disuse of making speeches, and without
voice to utter them... ...this friend... was my most powerful auxiliary and
advocate. He made our cause his own... His influence and connections there
were great. All doors of all departments were open to him at all times... I
only held the nail, he drove it. Honor him them.
Lafayette thought that there never was anybody like his friend Jefferson.
He told a friend that the "history of the human race tells us of no one
who has ever had a broader mind, a loftier soul, a stronger
republicanism" than the Sage of Monticello.
Being strongly against slavery he fore-warningly said:
God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be
secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift
of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just,
that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between Master and Slave is
despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that
these people are to be free.
He found himself in a bind--having inherited slaves and not being able to
survive without following the pattern of the South. He chose to therefore make
their situation as humanly acceptable as possibly. He was dearly beloved by
his slaves and they could not do enough for him. As part of his will, he was
able to give some of them property, money and their freedom. This is
incredible, since one of his greatest worries in his last years was the hugh
indebtedness of Monticello--most of which he incurred while serving as
Jefferson had a great relationship with his grandson, Thomas Jefferson
Randolph, who made good on all of the debts after TJ's death. Much of
Monticello had to be sold to do it, and it must have been a terrible load for
his grandson, but his honor, love and respect for his grandfather drove him to
keep the respect of this great man and his family name.
Jefferson took a private and deeply moving farewell of his beloved daughter
Martha--his only surviving child. He wrote her a poem and handed it to her in
a little casket:
A DEATH-BED ADIEU FROM TH. J. TO M.R.
Life's visions are vanished, its dreams are no more;
Dear friends of my bosom, why bathed in tears?
I go to my fathers: I welcome the shore
Which crowns all my hopes or which buries my cares.
Then farewell, my dear, my lov'd daughter, adieu!
The last pang of life is in parting from you!
Two seraphs await me long shrouded in death;
I will bring them your love on my last parting breath.
These Seraphs refer to his wife and daughter Maria.
Jefferson approached death calmly. He read much from the Bible and from the
Greek dramatists (in the original). His mind and speech were vivacious and
animated to the end. He wrote his own epitaph, which is inscribed on a gray
granite obelisk over his grave in the family cemetery at Monticello:
Here was Buried
Author of the
of American Independence
Statute of Virginia
and Father of the
University of Virginia
This is all he wanted to be remembered for. Let us read from that statute:
We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be
compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry
whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his
body or goods, or shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious
opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by
argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the
same in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
At his death, James Madison said, "...he lives and will live in the
memory and gratitude of the wise & good, as a luminary of Science, as a
votary of liberty, as a model of patriotism, and as a benefactor of human
He and John Adams died the same day, 4 July 1826, exactly fifty years after
they had both signed the immortal Declaration of Independence. My heart is
full of gratitude for the likes of Thomas Jefferson. His contribution is not
adequately appreciated by those who are beneficiaries of his noble and great
This little synopsis is my effort to increase the appreciation of our
marvelous blessing of freedom amongst my family and friends. It is my belief
that the price of freedom is not in the memory of modern Americans. It is my
prayer that our lives will reflect our deep and heartfelt appreciation for our
heritage and blessings. May our faith, focus and energies show the Lord the
depth of our appreciation. May we stand up for truth and freedom that it may
never be lost for it is eroding rapidly. Our founding fathers and mothers laid
the foundation for the restoration of the most important truths in the
universe--how to gain the greatest of all the gifts of God (Eternal Life). It
was the Savior (the God of the Old Testament) who raised up the noble and
great ones to bring about the reformation, the American revolution and the
restoration. My gratitude to Jesus Christ for all of these blessings is beyond
bounds to describe. The freedom established in this great land and vouch-safed
by the inspired constitution will be the basis of Kingdom of God on earth when
he whose right it is comes to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords--even
though it may yet hang by a thread. Let us be watchman on the tower that we
may do our part, to defend freedom at all costs. May we also be willing to
mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.