Tuesday, January 29, 2008

#3 - Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809

The gentleman from Virginia will always hold a special place in the Brave Astronaut's heart. His memorial in Washington, DC was the place where I asked Mrs. Brave Astronaut to marry me. Of course, there is also 1776, but that is sometimes hard because Jefferson is being played by the White Shadow. He is most certainly in my top 5 of greatest presidents. (A list will appear at the conclusion of this series.)

There is no doubt that Jefferson was extremely intelligent. An inventor, a student of the Enlightenment, he was America's DaVinci. When President John F. Kennedy welcomed forty-nine Nobel Prize winners to the White House he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

He was a very accomplished man before coming to the Presidency. A graduate of the College of William and Mary at the age of 18, he served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and was twice named a delegate to the Continental Congress. He became part of the Declaration Committee and is considered to be the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. In the waning years of the American Revolution, Jefferson was Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. He succeeded Benjamin Franklin as Minister to France and then returned home to serve as George Washington's Secretary of State.

Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, was our first "Republican" president. He found himself at odds with the Federalists and Alexander Hamilton and helped to found a new party, the Democratic-Republicans. In 1796, he came within three votes of becoming the second president of the United States. Never an enthusiastic candidate, he reluctantly became Vice President, under John Adams. In 1800, a tie in the electoral college between Jefferson and Aaron Burr, threw the election into the House of Representatives, where the Federalists were in control. Alexander Hamilton disliked both men, Jefferson and Aaron Burr, but hated Jefferson less and manipulated the votes to secure the presidency for Jefferson. This was but one of the events that would cost Hamilton his life, who would be killed in a duel by Aaron Burr in 1804.

As President, Jefferson oversaw the doubling of the size of the United States, when he secured the purchase of the Louisiana territory in 1803. He then sent Lewis and Clark to the West to explore the new lands.

Following his two terms as President, the "Sage of Monticello" returned home to his hilltop retreat. He realized one of his last dreams, when he founded the University of Virginia, which he helped to design. One of his most lasting contributions was, following the burning of Washington by the British in 1814, Jefferson donated his library collection to the United States to rebuild the Library of Congress.

When he died on the Fourth of July, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was nearly destitute. He was buried on the grounds of Monticello, which he left to the United States for use as school for orphans of navy officers, under a monument that reads:


These were his words and he insisted that no other words be included. Finally, I am sure that someone will ding me for not touching on the Sally Hemmings issue. But, I don't really care. The man's wife was dead, he found solace in the arms of another woman. Unfortunately for the time, it was not socially acceptable. And yes there are issues with how things have been resolved, but they're getting better.

The Facts:
  • born April 13, 1743, Shadwell, Virginia
  • Governor of Virginia, 1779-1781
  • Minister to France, 1785-1789
  • Vice President of the United States, 1797-1801
  • President of the United States, 1801-1809
  • died July 4, 1826 (before John Adams), Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, DC
  • The Jefferson Memorial was dedicated on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birth. Each year, a celebration is held on the steps of the memorial to commemorate Jefferson. (I know this because Mrs. BA and I stumbled on it once.)
  • Jefferson appears on Mount Rushmore, the nickel, the two-dollar bill, and the $100 US Savings Bond.
  • Adding to the coincidence of Adams and Jefferson dying on the same day, they were the only two presidents to have signed the Declaration of Independence.

1 comment:

Lana Gramlich said...

Where's Jefferson when you need him? *sigh*