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Important Men in World History #2

Updated on August 28, 2011

Important Men in World History - Thomas Jefferson

Second in a series highlighting the contributions of men to the world, by Dexter Yarbrough.

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." - Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was a great American. He spent his childhood roaming the woods near his Virginia home and studying his books. At the age of 9, he studied Latin, Greek and French. At the age of 14, he studied classical literature and additional languages. Thanks to the wealth of his father, Jefferson had an excellent education.

Thomas Jefferson entered William and Mary College at the age of 16, where he studied science, philosophy, literature, science and mathematics. He excelled as a student and is a great example of using the education available to become a better person. Jefferson also studied law, beginning at the age of 19, and by the age of 31, he was considered one of the nation's best legal minds.


Jefferson Memorial
Jefferson Memorial

Philosophy

While he may have been shy in person, Thomas Jefferson used his pen as a mighty weapon. In 1774, he wrote a pamphlet entitled "A Summary View of the Rights of British America." This pamphlet stated the position for independence and foreshadowed many of the ideas included in the Declaration of Independence, the written document for which he is most famous. Due to Jefferson's prose style of writing, the Declaration of Independence strongly asserts fundamental human rights (unfortunately, not for black slaves and American Indians) and America's statement of its philosophy of government.

Jefferson favored states rights over a strong central government and supported the idea that states could nullify federal laws. He wanted a smaller government with very little intervention in daily life. He opposed taxes levied on imports and exports and saw this country as a simple, peaceful land.

Banking

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation then by deflation, the banks and the corporations will grow up around them, will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs." - Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson served as secretary of state under President George Washington, but quarrels with Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton over his vision of a centralized national bank caused Jefferson to resign his post in 1793. Hamilton had a pro-federal interpretation of the Constitution, while Jefferson favored a literal interpretation of it. As such, Hamilton, using the ambiguity of the balance of power between the federal and state governments, as worded in the Constitution, consistently took the side of greater federal power at the expense of the states. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton established the country's first national bank - against the fervent opposition of Thomas Jefferson.

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." - Thomas Jefferson.


Presidency

At the age of 57, Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the United States. He believed in a "wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another" but which otherwise left them free to regulate their own affairs. In an effort to minimize the influence of the central government, he reduced the number of government employees, slashed Army enlistments and cut the national debt.

Thomas Jefferson's brilliant negotiation and ties to France led to the Louisiana Purchase for $15 Million Dollars, doubling the size of the nation. This deal troubled him because he did not want to overstep the central governments powers as outlined in the Constitution (it made no mention of the power to acquire new territory).

Jefferson preferred to live a simple lifestyle during his time in office. He often greeted guests in informal home clothing and often wore a pair of old bedroom slippers.

Sally Hemings
Sally Hemings

Contradictions

Although he disliked pomp and circumstance, Jefferson did know how to live well. For example, when he left the presidency, his wine bill exceeded $10,000 ( a handsome sum back then). And of course there is the issue of slavery. As a young politician, he argued for the prohibition of slavery in new American territories, however he didn't free his own slaves. This is the same man who wrote "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...." The issue of his long-term sexual relationship with his slave Sally Hemings is also a private side of Thomas Jefferson that conflicted with his public life.

Conclusion

Thomas Jefferson was a well-educated man who believed in a promising future for his young nation. He espoused beliefs that the central government should be less-intrusive in the lives of the people. His antagonism towards a centralized national bank and the problems it would cause was prophetic.

Jefferson left a legacy in which America continues to celebrate today. While he had some issues in his private life, causing him internal conflict which he never resolved, he nonetheless should be remembered as an important man in world history. - Dexter Yarbrough

Next up in the series - Charles Dickens

Comments

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    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hi Dahoglund! Thanks for commenting. Excellent remarks!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Jefferson was an amazing philosopher. It may not be surprising that he could not keep up in practice what he was involved with philosophically. In other words he was a bit better at theory than practice. Also there were external forces concerning certain issues, such as slavery. In practical politics in might not have been possible to fight the slavery issue at that time and still get anything else passed. It was dicey even at the time of the Civil War.

      up votes and shared

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks Cherrycrime26. I liked that movie as well. He was some kind of man!

    • cherrycrime26 profile image

      January Moon 

      7 years ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

      Great Hub, The movie on his life was great as well, voted up!

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      I hear you, Ghost! I hear you!

    • profile image

      Ghost32 

      7 years ago

      Man. Hoping to find something here I didn't know, I was (and am) in absolute shock. Tell you what, if I had me a slave who looked like Sally...can't blame the dude, dude!

      Helen of Troy + fast forward = Sally of Monticello!

      Right. Knew about Sally Hemings but didn't even know there WAS a portrait of her "out there".

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Hi Feenix! Thanks so much. Glad you liked it!

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 

      7 years ago

      Dexter, I am adding this hub to my personal "hub-U-rary".

      This post is very well-written and informative. In fact, it was quite educational for me. I learned a lot of things about Thomas Jefferson that I was unaware of.

      You are an excellent writer, my friend.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      You are more than welcome, Lady_E! Thanks for reading!

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Very interesting to know. Thanks.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Hi Allexia26! You are so right!

    • allexia26 profile image

      Puroney 

      7 years ago

      Nice hub, about Jefferson, I really did not know that he was against creating a Central Bank, but if America only listened.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Hi Cardisa! Glad it was of interest to you!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks for the bio on Thomas Jefferson. I did not know all that! Great hub!

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks, Traqqer!

    • Traqqer profile image

      Traqqer 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      A lot of good details...thanks for not sparing the embarrassing contradictions as well.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Orangecountyjill - She was indeed!!! Thanks!

    • orangecountyjill profile image

      OC Jill 

      7 years ago from Orange County, California

      and on a side note...Sally Hemings was absolutely beautiful! Great article!

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      @ Ahostagesituation - Thank you! Yes, Thomas Jefferson was a great writer and a good man. Of course, he had some flaws as well. I agree, he had great vision.

      @Suziecat7 - Thank you and I agree! And thanks for being my 100th follower!

      @David - Thank you so much!

    • David Warren profile image

      David Warren 

      7 years ago from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta

      GReat Hub! Two thumbs up! Voted up and AWESOME!

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 

      7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Haven't seen a "Wise and frugal government" for some time. Great Hub.

    • ahostagesituation profile image

      SJ 

      7 years ago

      Dexter, this is awesome! It's amazing what can be done in writing, and he was a brilliant writer. I read this and I think how the path to hell is often paved with good intentions. You can hear the integrity of his vision, as well as some of the contradiction. Very admirable man. I like your interest in political figures, extremely interesting. Awesome hub!

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Will, I couldn't agree with you more!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      He was so right about a central bank. By creating the Federal Reserve Bank, we have given private bankers the key to the endless printing press with the silent agreement that they manipulate the currency as the politicians wish.

      It was a license to steal, and steal they did. Most Americans today don't even realize that all those gold and silver coins that were confiscated by the banks actually belonged to the people who deposited them in those same banks for safekeeping! Those people were our ancestors.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile imageAUTHOR

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      You are so right, POP! Agreed and thanks!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      7 years ago

      Wonderful hub, Dexter. If only Jefferson's belief in small responsible government could be alive and well in Washington today. Bravo, up and useful and awesome.

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