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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826)
"The hocus-pocus phantasy of a God, like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs."

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself."

"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man."

-- Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States (1801–1809), principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and one of the most influential founders of the United States. Major events during his presidency include the Louisiana Purchase (1803), the Embargo Act of 1807, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806).

A political philosopher who promoted classical liberalism, republicanism, and the separation of church and state, he was the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779, 1786), which was the basis of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. He was the eponym of Jeffersonian democracy and the founder and leader of the Democratic-Republican Party which dominated American politics for over a quarter-century and was the precursor to today's Democratic Party. Jefferson also served as the second Governor of Virginia (1779–1781), first United States Secretary of State (1789–1795), and second Vice President (1797–1801).

In addition to his political career, Jefferson was also an agriculturalist, horticulturist, architect, etymologist, archaeologist, mathematician, cryptographer, surveyor, paleontologist, author, lawyer, inventor, violinist, and the founder of the University of Virginia. Many people consider Jefferson to be among the most brilliant men ever to occupy the Presidency. President John F. Kennedy welcomed forty-nine Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962, saying, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

Jefferson was born on April 2, 1743 according to the Julian calendar ("old style") used at the time, but under the Gregorian calendar ("new style") adopted during his lifetime, he was born on April 13.

Jefferson was born into a prosperous Virginia family.Third of ten children (two of them were stillborn), his father was Peter Jefferson, a planter and surveyor who owned a plantation in Albemarle County called Shadwell. His mother was Jane Randolph – a cousin of Peyton Randolph. Both parents were from families that had been settled in Virginia for several generations.

In 1752, Jefferson began attending a local school run by William Douglas, a Scottish reverend. In 1757, when Jefferson was 14 years old, his father died. Jefferson inherited about 5,000 acres (20 km²) of land and dozens of slaves, out of which he created his home which would eventually be known as Monticello.

After his father's death, he was taught at the school of the learned James Maury, a reverend, from 1758 to 1760. The school was in Fredericksburg parish, twelve miles from Shadwell, and Jefferson boarded with Maury's family. There he received a classical education and studied history and natural science. At the age of nine, Jefferson began studying the classical languages of Latin and Greek as well as French.

Jefferson entered the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg at the age of 16 and spent two years there, from 1760 to 1762. There Jefferson studied mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy under professor William Small, who introduced the enthusiastic Jefferson to the writings of British Empiricists, including John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Sir Isaac Newton (Jefferson would later refer to them as the "three greatest men the world had ever produced"). At William and Mary, he reportedly studied 15 hours a day, perfected French, carried his Greek grammar book wherever he went, practiced the violin, and favored Tacitus and Homer.

In college, Jefferson was a member of the secret Flat Hat Club, now the namesake of the William and Mary's daily student newspaper. After graduating in 1762 with highest honors, Jefferson studied law with his friend and mentor, George Wythe, and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767.

In 1772 he married a widow, Martha Wayles Skelton (1748-82). They had six children: Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836), Jane Randolph (1774-1775), unnamed son (1777-1777), Mary Wayles (1778-1804), Lucy Elizabeth (1780-1781), and Lucy Elizabeth (1782-1785). Martha Wayles Skelton died September 6, 1782, and Thomas Jefferson never remarried.

In 1778, Jefferson's "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge" led to several academic reforms at his alma mater, including an elective system of study – the first in an American university. In 1779, at Jefferson's behest, William and Mary appointed George Wythe to be the first Professor of Law in an American university. Furthermore, as Governor, he oversaw the transfer of the state capitol from Williamsburg to Richmond in 1780. In 1783, Jefferson was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by William and Mary.

As Governor of Virginia, Jefferson continued to advocate educational reforms at the College of William and Mary, including the nation's first student-policed honor code. Dissatisfied with the rate of changes he wanted to push through, he would go on later in life to become the "father" and founder of the first university at which higher education was completely separate from religious doctrine, the University of Virginia.

Political career to 1800
Jefferson practiced law and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses. In 1774, he wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America which was intended as instructions for the Virginia delegates to a national congress. The pamphlet was a powerful argument of American terms for a settlement with Britain, helped speed the way to independence, and marked Jefferson as one of the most thoughtful patriot spokesmen.

Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, and a source of many other contributions to American political and civil culture. The Continental Congress delegated the task of writing the Declaration to a committee that unanimously solicited Jefferson to prepare the draft of the Declaration alone.

During the American Revolution, Jefferson served as governor of Virginia (1779-1781), and afterwards as minister to France (1785–1789). He did not attend the Constitutional Convention. He did generally support the new Constitution, although he thought the document flawed for lack of a Bill of Rights.

After returning from France, Jefferson served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington (1790–1793). After battling inside the cabinet with Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson and James Madison founded and led the original Democratic-Republican Party (then called the "Republican Party" and the precursor of the modern Democratic Party).

He worked with Madison and his campaign manager John J. Beckley to build what historians call the First Party System. Jefferson strongly supported France against Britain when war broke out between those powerful nations in 1793. However, when the Jay Treaty proved that Washington and Hamilton supported Britain, Jefferson retired to Monticello. He was later elected Vice President (1797–1801)

With a Quasi-War with France underway (that is, an undeclared naval war), the Federalists under John Adams started a navy, built up the army, levied new taxes, readied for war and also enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. Jefferson interpreted the Alien and Sedition Acts as an attack on his party more than on dangerous enemy aliens.

He and Madison rallied support by anonymously writing the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions that declared that the Constitution only established an agreement between the central government and the states and that the federal government had no right to exercise powers not specifically delegated to it. Should the federal government assume such powers, its acts under them could be voided by a state. The Resolutions' importance lies in being the first statements of the states' rights theory that led to the later concepts of nullification and interposition.

Working closely with Aaron Burr of New York, Jefferson rallied his party, attacking the new taxes especially, and ran for the Presidency in 1800. Federalists counterattacked Jefferson, a Deist, as an atheist and enemy of Christianity. He tied with Burr for first place in the Electoral College, leaving the House of Representatives (where the Federalists still had some power) to decide the election.

Hamilton convinced his Federalist friends that Jefferson would be much less of a threat than Burr. The issue was resolved by the House, on February 17, 1801, when Jefferson was elected President and Burr Vice President.

Presidency 1801-1809

Jefferson's Presidency, from 1801 to 1809, was the first to start and end in the White House; it was also the first Democratic-Republican Presidency. Jefferson is the only Vice President to later win an election and serve two full terms as President of the United States.

Jefferson's term was marked by his belief in agrarianism, individual liberty, and limited government, sparking the development of a distinct American identity defined by republicanism. During this term, Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase and commissioned the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Jefferson was re-elected in the 1804 election. His second term was dominated by foreign policy concerns, as American neutrality was imperiled by war between Britain and France.

Jefferson was a strict constructionist who compromised on his original principles during his Presidency. He strayed from the principles of keeping a small navy, agrarian economy, strict constructionalism, and a small/weak government. A group called the tertium quids criticised Jefferson for his abandonment of his early principles.

Events during his Presidency
1. The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States.
2. First Barbary War (1801)
3. Louisiana Purchase (1803)
4. Marbury v. Madison (1803)
5. Creation of the Orleans Territory (1804)
6. Land Act of 1804
7. Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified (1804)
8. Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806)
9. Creation of the Louisiana Territory (later renamed the Missouri Territory) in 1805
10. Tertium quids create a divide in the Democratic-Republican Party
11. Embargo Act of 1807, an attempt to force respect for U.S. neutrality by ending trade with the belligerents in the Napoleonic War
12. Abolition of the external slave trade in 1808

Father of a university
After leaving the Presidency, Jefferson continued to be active in public affairs. He also became increasingly obsessed with founding a new institution of higher learning, specifically one free of church influences where one could specialize in many new areas not offered at other universities. A letter to Joseph Priestley, in January 1800, indicated that he had been planning the university for decades before its establishment.

His dream was realized in 1819, with the founding of the University of Virginia. Upon its opening in 1825, it was then the first university to offer a full slate of elective courses to its students. One of the largest construction projects to that time in North America, it was notable for being centered about a library, rather than a church. In fact, no campus chapel was included in his original plans. Until his death, he invited university students and faculty of the school to his home, Edgar Allan Poe among them.

Jefferson's death
Jefferson died on the Fourth of July, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the same day as John Adams' death. Thomas Jefferson was in very high debt when he died. His possessions were sold at an auction on Monticello. In 1831 Jefferson's 552 acres were sold for $7,000 to James T. Barclay. In 1836 Barclay sold the estate and 218 acres of land to the United States Navy Lieutenant Uriah P. Levy for $2,700.

Levy then bought the surrounding land and started to purchase original furnishings. Lieutenant Levy is called "the Savior of Monticello" because of this. Levy died in 1862 as a result of the Civil War. In his will, he left the Monticello to the United States to be used as a school for orphans of navy officers. Thomas Jefferson is buried on his Monticello estate. His epitaph, written by him with an insistence that only his words and "not a word more" be inscribed, reads:

Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia

Appearance and temperament
Jefferson was six feet, two-and-one-half inches (189 cm) in height, slender, erect and sinewy. He had angular features, a very ruddy complexion, strawberry blond hair and hazel-flecked, grey eyes. In later years, he was negligent in dress and loose in bearing. He was a poor public speaker who mumbled through his most important addresses. There was grace, nevertheless, in his manners; and his frank and earnest address, his quick sympathy (though he seemed cold to strangers), and his vivacious, desultory, informing talk gave him an engaging charm. Beneath a quiet surface, he was fairly aglow with intense convictions and a very emotional temperament. Yet he seems to have acted habitually, in great and little things, on system. He deliberately insulted the British minister in 1801--and he responded by creating a center of intrigue in Washington.

Though it is a biographical tradition that he lacked wit, Don Quixote and the works of Molière seem to have been his favorites; and though the utilitarian wholly crowds romanticism out of his writings, he had enough of that quality in youth to prepare to learn Gaelic in order to translate Ossian, and sent to James Macpherson for the originals.

As President he discontinued the practice of delivering the State of the Union Address in person, instead sending the address to Congress in writing (the practice was eventually revived by Woodrow Wilson); he ended up giving only two public speeches during his Presidency. He burned all of his letters between himself and his wife at her death, creating the portrait of a man who at times could be very private.

Interests and activities
Jefferson was an accomplished architect who was extremely influential in bringing the Neo-Palladian style popular among the Whig aristocracy of Britain to the United States. The style was associated with Enlightenment ideas of republican civic virtue and political liberty. Jefferson designed his famous home, Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia; it included automatic doors, the first swivel chair, and other convenient devices invented by Jefferson. Nearby is the only university ever to have been founded by a President, the University of Virginia, of which the original curriculum and architecture Jefferson designed.

Today, Monticello and the University of Virginia are together one of only four man-made World Heritage Sites in the United States of America. Jefferson is also credited with the architectural design of the Virginia State Capitol building, which was modeled after the Maison Carrée at Nîmes in southern France, an ancient Roman temple. Jefferson's buildings helped initiate the ensuing American fashion for Federal style architecture.

Jefferson's interests included archeology, a discipline then in its infancy. He has sometimes been called the "father of archeology" in recognition of his role in developing excavation techniques. When exploring an Indian burial mound on his Virginia estate in 1784, Jefferson avoided the common practice of simply digging downwards until something turned up. Instead, he cut a wedge out of the mound so that he could walk into it, look at the layers of occupation, and draw conclusions from them.

Thomas Jefferson enjoyed his fish pond at Monticello. It was around three feet deep and motar lined. He used the pond to keep fish that were recently caught as well as to keep eels fresh. This pond has been restored and can be seen from the west side of Monticello.

Jefferson was also an avid wine lover and noted gourmet. During his years in France (1784-1789) he took extensive trips through French and other European wine regions and sent the best back home. He is noted for the bold pronouncement: "We could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good." While there were extensive vineyards planted at Monticello, a significant portion were of the European wine grape Vitis vinifera and did not survive the many vine diseases native to the Americas.

In 1812, he wrote A Manual of Parliamentary Practice that is still in use.

After the British burned Washington and the Library of Congress in August 1814, Jefferson offered his own collection to the nation. In January 1815, Congress accepted his offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6,487 books, and the foundation was laid for a great national library. Today, the Library of Congress' website for federal legislative information is named THOMAS, in honor of Jefferson. The range of his interests is remarkable. For many years he was President of the American Philosophical Society.

Political philosophy
In his May 28, 1818 letter to Mordecai Manuel Noah, Jefferson expresses his faith in humankind and views on the nature of democracy.Jefferson's vision for America was that of an agricultural nation of yeoman farmers minding their own affairs. It stood in contrast to the vision of Alexander Hamilton, who envisioned a nation of commerce and manufacturing. Jefferson was a great believer in the uniqueness and the potential of America and can be seen as the father of American exceptionalism.

In particular, he was confident that an underpopulated America could avoid what he considered the horrors of class-divided, industrialized Europe. Jefferson was influenced heavily by the ideas of many European Enlightenment thinkers. His political principles were heavily influenced by John Locke (particularly relating to the principles of inalienable rights and popular sovereignty) and Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Political theorists have also compared Jefferson's thought to that of his French contemporary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Jefferson believed that each individual has "certain inalienable rights." That is, these rights exist with or without government; man cannot create, take, or give them away. It is the right of "liberty" on which Jefferson is most notable for expounding. He defines it by saying "rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’, because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."

Hence, for Jefferson, though government cannot create a right to liberty, it can indeed violate it. And, the limit of an individual's rightful liberty is not what law says it is, but is simply a matter of stopping short of prohibiting other individuals from having the same liberty. A proper government, for Jefferson, is one that not only prohibits individuals in society from infringing on the liberty of other individuals, but also restrains itself from diminishing individual liberty.

Jefferson's commitment to equality was expressed in his successful efforts to abolish primogeniture in Virginia, that is the rule by which the first born son inherited all the land. He explained his views in a October, 1785, letter to Madison:

I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for sub-dividing property, only taking care to let their subdivision go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree is a politic measure, and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the unequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there is in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock to man to labour and live on. If, for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be permitted to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not, the fundamental right to labor the earth returns to the unemployed.... It is too soon in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent, but it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.

Jefferson believed that individuals have an innate sense of morality that prescribes right from wrong when dealing with other individuals --that whether they choose to restrain themselves or not, they have an innate sense of the natural rights of others. He even believed that moral sense to be reliable enough that an anarchist society could function well, provided that it was reasonably small. On several occasions he expressed admiration for the government-less society of the native American Indians:

He said in a letter to Colonel Carrington: "I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments." However, Jefferson believed anarchism to be "inconsistent with any great degree of population. Hence, he did advocate government for the American expanse provided that it exists by "consent of the governed."

In the Preamble to his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it's foundation on such principles & organising it's powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness.

Jefferson's dedication to "consent of the governed" was so thorough that he believed that individuals could not be morally bound by the actions of preceding generations. This included debts as well as law. He said that "no society can make a perpetual constitution or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation." He even calculated what he believed to be the proper cycle of legal revolution: "Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it is to be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right."

He arrived at 19 years through calculations with expectancy of life tables with taking into account what he believed to be the age of "maturity" when an individual is able to reason for himself. He also advocated that the National Debt should be eliminated. However, he did not believe that living individuals had a moral obligation to repay the debts of previous generations. He said that repaying such debts was "a question of generosity and not of right".

Jefferson's very strong defense of States' Rights, especially in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, set the tone for hostility to expansion of federal powers down to 1860. However, some of his foreign policies did in fact strengthen the government. Most important was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, when he used the implied powers to annex a huge foreign territory and all its French and Indian inhabitants. His enforcement of the Embargo Act, while it failed in terms of foreign policy, demonstrated that the federal government could intervene with great force at the local level, in controlling trade.

Views on the judicary
Although trained as a lawyer, Jefferson was never comfortable in court. He believed that judges should be technical specialists but should not set policy. He denounced the 1801 Supreme Court ruling in Marbury v. Madison as a violation of democracy, but he did not have enough support in Congress to propose a Constitutional amendment to overturn it. He continued to oppose the doctrine of judicial review:

To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem [good justice is broad jurisdiction], and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.

Religious views
The Declaration of Independence incorporates concepts from Deism.On matters of religion, Jefferson in 1800 was accused by his political opponents of being an atheist and enemy of religion. But Jefferson wrote at length on religion and most of his biographers agree he was a deist, a common position held by European intellectuals in the late 18th century. As Avery Cardinal Dulles, a leading Roman Catholic theologian reports, "In his college years at William and Mary he [Jefferson] came to admire Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke as three great paragons of wisdom. Under the influence of several professors he converted to the deist philosophy." Dulles concludes:

In summary, then, Jefferson was a deist because he believed in one God, in divine providence, in the divine moral law, and in rewards and punishments after death, but did not believe in supernatural revelation. He was a Christian deist because he saw Christianity as the highest expression of natural religion and Jesus as an incomparably great moral teacher. He was not an orthodox Christian because he rejected, among other things, the doctrines that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God. Jefferson's religion is fairly typical of the American form of deism in his day.

Biographer Peterson summarizes Jefferson's theology:

First, that the Christianity of the churches was unreasonable, therefore unbelievable, but that stripped of priestly mystery, ritual, and dogma, reinterpreted in the light of historical evidence and human experience, and substituting the Newtonian cosmology for the discredited Biblical one, Christianity could be conformed to reason. Second, morality required no divine sanction or inspiration, no appeal beyond reason and nature, perhaps not even the hope of heaven or the fear of hell; and so the whole edifice of Christian revelation came tumbling to the ground. "

At the time the Baptists supported his effors to disestablish the state church; thus D. James Kennedy, a prominent evangelical theologian, says that Jefferson was "a true friend of the Christian faith." But Kennedy concludes, "Jefferson was not, in my opinion, a genuine Christian."

Jefferson used deist terminology in repeatedly stating his belief in a creator, and in the United States Declaration of Independence used the terms "Creator", "Nature's God", and "Divine Providence". Jefferson believed, furthermore, it was this Creator that endowed humanity with a number of inalienable rights, such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". His experience in France just before the Revolution made him deeply suspicious of (Catholic) priests and bishops as a force for reaction and ignorance.

Jefferson was raised in the Church of England, at a time when it was the established church in Virginia and only denomination funded by Virginia tax money. Before the Revolution, Jefferson was a vestryman in his local church, a lay position that was part of political office at the time. Jefferson later expressed general agreement with his friend Joseph Priestley's Unitarianism.

Jefferson did not believe in the divinity of Jesus, but he had high esteem for Jesus' moral teachings, which he viewed as the "principles of a pure deism, and juster notions of the attributes of God, to reform [prior Jewish] moral doctrines to the standard of reason, justice & philanthropy, and to inculcate the belief of a future state."

Like other deists, Jefferson did not believe in miracles. He made his own condensed version of the Gospels, primarily leaving only Jesus' moral philosophy, of which he approved. This compilation was published after his death and became known as the Jefferson Bible.

"...[I]t [the Jefferson Bible] is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw."

Church and state
During the Revolution, Jefferson played a leading role in implementing the separation of church and state in Virginia. Previously the Anglican Church had tax support. As he wrote in his Notes on Virginia, a law was in effect in Virginia that "if a person brought up a Christian denies the being of a God, or the Trinity …he is punishable on the first offense by incapacity to hold any office …; on the second by a disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy …, and by three year' imprisonment." Prospective officer-holders, presumably including Jefferson, were required to swear that they did not believe in the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. In 1779 Jefferson drafted "A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom," and he regarded passage of this bill as a high achievement. For Jefferson, separation of church and state was not an abstract right, but a necessary reform of the religious "tyranny" of one Christian sect over many other Christians.

From 1784 to 1786, Jefferson and James Madison worked together to oppose Patrick Henry's attempts to again assess taxes in Virginia to support churches. Instead, in 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom, which he had first submitted in 1779, and was one of only three accomplishments he put in his own epitaph. The law read:

"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, nor 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 shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

Jefferson sought what he called a "wall of separation between Church and State", which he believed was a principle expressed by the First Amendment. This phrase has been cited several times by the Supreme Court in its interpretation of the Establishment Clause. In an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, he wrote:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State"

He used the phrase "wall of separation" again in an 1808 letter to Virginia Baptists:

"Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.

"We have solved ... the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries."

During his Presidency, Jefferson refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and thanksgiving. Moreover, his private letters indicate he was skeptical of too much interference by clergy in matters of civil government. His letters contain the following observations: "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government" (Letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813), and, "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." "May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government". Jefferson's harshest comments however, seemed to have been directed toward the spiritual descendants of John Calvin:

"The serious enemies are the priests of the different religious sects, to whose spells on the human mind it's improvement is ominous. Their pulpits are now resounding with denunciations against the appointment of Dr. Cooper whom they charge as Monarchist in opposition to their tritheism. Hostile as these sects are in every other point, to one another, they unite in maintaining their mystical theology against those who believe there is one God only. The Presbyterian clergy are the loudest. The most intolerant of all sects, the most tyrannical, and ambitious; ready at the word of the lawgiver, if such a word could be now obtained, to put the torch to the pile, and to rekindle in this virgin hemisphere, the flames in which their oracle Calvin consumed the poor Servetus ..."

Jefferson's desire to erect a "wall of separation" did not include a desire to inhibit the personal religious lives of public officials. Jefferson himself attended certain public Christian services, including at times the weekly church services held in the House of Representatives, during his Presidency. He also had friends who were clergy, and he supported some churches financially. Moreover, he personally believed, as did Deist John Locke, that human rights were endowed by a God: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever".

Jefferson and slavery
Jefferson's personal records show he owned more than 650 slaves in his lifetime, some of whom were inherited from his parents and through his wife. Some find it hypocritical that he both owned slaves and yet was publicly outspoken in his belief that slavery was immoral. Many of his slaves were considered property that was held as a lien for his many accumulated debts.

His ambivalence regarding slavery can be seen, for example, in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, which Jefferson wrote, in which he condemned the British crown for sponsoring the importation of slavery to the colonies, charging that the crown "has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere..."

This language was dropped from the Declaration at the request of delegates from South Carolina and Georgia. In 1769, as a member of the Virginia state legislature, Jefferson proposed for that body to emancipate slaves in Virginia, but he was unsuccessful. In 1778, the legislature passed a bill he proposed to ban further importation of slaves into Virginia; although this did not bring complete emancipation, in his words, it "stopped the increase of the evil by importation, leaving to future efforts its final eradication."

The Sally Hemings controversy
A subject of considerable controversy since Jefferson's time was whether he was the father of any of the children of his slave Sally Hemings. Hemings, the daughter of John Wayles, Jefferson's former father-in-law, was the half sister of Jefferson's deceased wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. A full account of the Hemings controversy, including discussion of DNA findings, can be found in the Sally Hemings article.

Three studies were released in the early 2000s, following the publication of the DNA evidence. A study by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation which runs Monticello states that "it is very unlikely that...any Jefferson other than Thomas Jefferson was the father of her children." A study commissioned by the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society concludes that the Jefferson paternity thesis is not persuasive. The National Genealogical Society Quarterly then published articles reviewing the evidence from a genealogical perspective and concluding that the link between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings was valid.

David N. Mayer, a member of the Scholars Commission, says in his own writings that there is "the possibility that Jefferson's brother Randolph or one of Randolph Jefferson's five sons could have fathered one or more of Sally Hemings' children." He states that "eight of these 25 Jefferson males lived within 20 miles (a half-day's ride) of Monticello—including Thomas Jefferson's younger brother, Randolph Jefferson, and Randolph's five sons, who ranged in age from about 17 to 26 at the time of Eston's birth."

All of these men could have passed down the Y chromosome that links patrilineal descendants of Eston Hemings to the Jefferson family. However, only Thomas Jefferson is documented as having been at Monticello at the time Eston Hemings and all of his siblings were conceived; only Thomas Jefferson exercised ownership control over Sally Hemings and her children; and only Thomas Jefferson was described in print as the father of those children before the DNA findings.

There is less evidence to support the allegation, published by James Callender in 1802, that Jefferson and Sally Hemings conceived a son named "Tom." That son was reportedly conceived in France. Madison Hemings stated that his mother and Thomas Jefferson did conceive a child in France, but that it "lived but a short time." The descendants of Thomas Woodson continue to publish arguments that he was the reported "Tom," sent away from Monticello to avoid scandal, but there is no DNA link between that family and Jefferson.

Monuments and memorials
The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

Jefferson on Mount Rushmore.On April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birth, the Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. The memorial combines a low neo-classical saucer dome with a portico. The interior includes a 19 foot statue of Jefferson and engravings of passages from his writings. Most prominent are the words which are inscribed around the monument near the roof: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Jefferson, together with George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, was chosen by President Calvin Coolidge to be depicted in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial.

Jefferson's portrait appears on the U.S. $2 bill, nickel, and the $100 Series EE Savings Bond.

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church (Unitarian Universalist) is located in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On July 8, 2003, the NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson was commissioned in Norfolk, Virginia. This was done in commemoration of his establishment of a Survey of the Coast, the predecessor to NOAA's National Ocean Service.

Jefferson and John Adams were the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to become Presidents.

One of the most famous quotations attributed to Thomas Jefferson, "That government is best which governs least", didn't come from Jefferson at all. The quotation actually came from Henry David Thoreau in On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Thoreau was paraphrasing the motto of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, “The best government is that which governs least.”

Jefferson was a vegetarian for the most part and used meat only as a condiment. Peas were his favorite food.

The information on which this page is based has been drawn from research on the Internet. For example, much use has been made of, to whom we are greatly indebted. Since the information recording process at Wikipedia is prone to changes in the data, please check at Wikipedia for current information. If you find something on this page to be in error, please contact us.
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