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Theodore Thompson
Theodore Thompson

Thomas Jefferson and His Contradictions: Slavery, Race, and Liberty in American History

- What are his main achievements and contributions? - What are some of the controversies and criticisms surrounding him? Early life and education - When and where was he born? - What was his family background and social status? - What did he study and where did he go to college? Political career before presidency - How did he get involved in the American Revolution? - What role did he play in drafting the Declaration of Independence? - What positions did he hold in the Continental Congress, Virginia government, and the Confederation Congress? - How did he become the minister to France and what did he do there? Presidency - How did he win the election of 1800 and what were the main issues and challenges he faced? - What were his domestic policies and achievements, such as the Louisiana Purchase, the Embargo Act, and the founding of the University of Virginia? - What were his foreign policies and achievements, such as the Barbary Wars, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the relations with Britain and France? Retirement and death - When and why did he retire from public life? - What did he do in his retirement years, such as writing, farming, and corresponding with John Adams? - When and how did he die and what was his legacy? Conclusion - Summarize the main points of the article. - Evaluate his impact and influence on American history and culture. - Provide some interesting facts or quotes about him. FAQs - Five unique questions and answers about Thomas Jefferson. # Article with HTML formatting Thomas Jefferson Essay Paper

Thomas Jefferson was one of the most influential and complex figures in American history. He was a founding father, a president, a diplomat, a writer, a philosopher, a scientist, an architect, a farmer, and a slave owner. He was also a champion of democracy, liberty, and individual rights, as well as a promoter of education, science, and culture. However, he was also criticized for his involvement in slavery, his views on race, his contradictions between his ideals and his actions, and his political conflicts with his rivals. In this essay paper, we will explore his life, his achievements, his contributions, and his controversies.

Thomas Jefferson Essay Paper

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Early life and education

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 in Shadwell, Virginia. He was the third of ten children of Peter Jefferson, a wealthy planter and surveyor, and Jane Randolph, a member of one of the most prominent families in Virginia. He inherited land and social status from his parents.

He showed an early interest in learning and reading. He studied Latin, Greek, French, mathematics, history, philosophy, law, natural science, and literature. He attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg from 1760 to 1762. There he met influential mentors such as William Small, George Wythe, Francis Fauquier, who introduced him to Enlightenment ideas.

Political career before presidency

Jefferson began his political career in 1769 when he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses. He became a leader of the opposition to British taxation and colonial policies. He also drafted several resolutions and bills to defend the rights of Virginians.

In 1774, he wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America , which argued that the colonies had the right to govern themselves without interference from Parliament. In 1775, he was chosen as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

In 1776, he was appointed to a committee of five to draft a declaration of independence from Britain. He was the primary author of the document, which expressed the principles and grievances of the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Congress on July 4, 1776.

From 1776 to 1779, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates, where he introduced several reforms, such as abolishing entail and primogeniture, establishing religious freedom, and revising the criminal code. He also wrote Notes on the State of Virginia , a comprehensive description of the natural, social, and political aspects of the state.

In 1779, he was elected as the governor of Virginia. He faced many challenges, such as the invasion of British troops, the shortage of supplies, and the disloyalty of some citizens. He was accused of negligence and cowardice by his enemies, but he was cleared by a legislative inquiry.

In 1781, he returned to the Continental Congress, where he helped draft the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States. He also proposed a plan for the division and settlement of the western lands.

In 1784, he was appointed as a minister plenipotentiary to negotiate treaties of commerce and friendship with foreign nations. He joined Benjamin Franklin and John Adams in Paris, where he negotiated several agreements with European powers.

In 1785, he succeeded Franklin as the minister to France. He witnessed the beginning of the French Revolution and supported the cause of liberty and democracy. He also promoted American interests and culture in Europe. He befriended many influential figures, such as Lafayette, Voltaire, Diderot, and Madame de Staël.


Jefferson returned to America in 1789. He was appointed by George Washington as the first secretary of state. He was in charge of foreign affairs and relations with other countries. He also advocated for a strict interpretation of the Constitution and a limited role of the federal government.

He clashed with Alexander Hamilton, the secretary of the treasury, who favored a loose interpretation of the Constitution and a strong role of the federal government. They also disagreed on economic policies, such as the establishment of a national bank, the assumption of state debts, and the imposition of tariffs.

Jefferson resigned from his post in 1793. He became the leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, which opposed Hamilton's Federalist Party. He criticized Washington's administration for being too pro-British and too aristocratic. He also opposed John Adams's administration for passing the Alien and Sedition Acts, which restricted civil liberties and free speech.

In 1796, he ran for president against Adams. He lost by three electoral votes but became vice president because he had more votes than any other candidate. He presided over the Senate but had little influence on Adams's policies.

In 1800, he ran for president again against Adams. He tied with his running mate Aaron Burr with 73 electoral votes each. The House of Representatives decided the outcome after 36 ballots. Jefferson won with the help of Hamilton, who preferred him over Burr.

He was inaugurated as the third president on March 4, 1801. He called for unity and reconciliation among all Americans. He reduced taxes, debt, military spending, and federal offices. He also repealed the Alien and Sedition Acts and pardoned those who were convicted under them.

One of his most significant achievements was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. He bought from France a vast territory that stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains for $15 million. This doubled the size of the nation and opened up new opportunities for exploration and settlement.

Slavery and race

One of the most controversial and contradictory aspects of Jefferson's life was his relationship with slavery and race. He owned more than 600 slaves during his adult life and profited from their labor. He also fathered several children with his slave (and sister-in-law) Sally Hemings, who was a half-sister of his late wife Martha.

At the same time, he denounced slavery as a "moral depravity" and a "hideous blot" on the nation. He believed that slavery violated the natural rights of human beings and the principles of the American Revolution. He also feared that slavery would lead to violence and civil war between whites and blacks.

However, he did not take effective actions to end slavery or to improve the conditions of enslaved people. He freed only two slaves during his lifetime and five more in his will. He opposed some measures to restrict or abolish slavery within the U.S., such as the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which banned slavery in the territory north of the Ohio River. He also criticized some slave owners who voluntarily manumitted their slaves.

He advocated for a gradual emancipation of all slaves within the U.S. and their colonization in Africa or elsewhere. He believed that blacks and whites could not live together peacefully in a free society because of their inherent physical and cultural differences. He also expressed racist views about blacks' inferiority, immorality, and incapacity for self-government.

Jefferson's views on slavery and race were influenced by his upbringing, his education, his environment, his experiences, and his times. They were also shaped by his personal interests, his political goals, his moral values, and his scientific inquiries. They were complex, contradictory, and evolving throughout his life.

Retirement and death

Jefferson retired from public life in 1809 after completing his second term as president. He returned to his home, Monticello, where he devoted himself to writing, farming, and corresponding with his friends and fellow founders.

He also founded the University of Virginia in 1819 as a secular institution of higher learning. He designed its buildings, curriculum, faculty, and library. He considered it one of his greatest achievements and called it "the hobby of my old age".

He maintained a close friendship with John Adams, his former rival and successor. They exchanged letters on various topics, such as politics, philosophy, religion, and history. They also reconciled their differences and expressed their mutual respect and admiration.

He died on July 4, 1826 at the age of 83. He passed away a few hours before Adams, who died on the same day at the age of 90. They both died on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

He left behind a legacy that influenced American history and culture in many ways. He was widely regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile minds of his generation. He was also celebrated as one of the most eloquent and visionary leaders of the American Revolution.


In conclusion, Thomas Jefferson was a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life. He was a founding father, a president, a diplomat, a writer, a philosopher, a scientist, an architect, a farmer, and a slave owner. He made significant contributions to the cause of liberty and democracy in America and beyond. He also faced many challenges and controversies that tested his principles and actions.

He was not a perfect man nor a flawless hero. He was a complex human being who had strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, achievements and failures. He was shaped by his times but also transcended them. He was a man of contradictions but also a man of convictions.

He left us with many words of wisdom and inspiration that still resonate today. Here are some of them:

  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

  • "I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

  • "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

  • "I cannot live without books."

  • "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."


Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about Thomas Jefferson.

  • What was Thomas Jefferson's religion?Thomas Jefferson was a Deist who believed in a supreme being who created the universe but did not intervene in human affairs. He rejected the doctrines of orthodox Christianity, such as the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and the miracles. He also supported the separation of church and state and religious freedom for all people.

  • What was Thomas Jefferson's invention?Thomas Jefferson invented or improved several devices, such as the swivel chair, the polygraph, the wheel cipher, the spherical sundial, the moldboard plow, and the dumbwaiter. He also designed his own house, Monticello, which had many innovative features.

  • What was Thomas Jefferson's nickname?Thomas Jefferson had several nicknames, such as "Father of the Declaration of Independence", "Sage of Monticello", "Man of the People", "Apostle of Liberty", and "Long Tom".

  • What was Thomas Jefferson's favorite food?Thomas Jefferson was a gourmet who enjoyed a variety of foods from different cultures. He was especially fond of French cuisine, wine, cheese, ice cream, macaroni, and vegetables from his garden.

  • What was Thomas Jefferson's hobby?Thomas Jefferson had many hobbies and interests, such as reading, writing, gardening, farming, horseback riding, violin playing, architecture, archaeology, astronomy, and natural history.



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