Thomas Jefferson’s Successful Monticello

  • Post last modified:March 28, 2022

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Jefferson’s Initial claim to fame as the author of the Declaration of Independence led to more leadership. He became the third President of the US as well. Still, Thomas Jefferson’s Successful Monticello stood out as an early colonial and then a National success story. Here’s a link back to the Presidential overview site.

Thomas Jefferson Successful Monticello
Jefferson’s Monticello

Thomas Jefferson’s home in the fog! You don’t see pictures like this on Monticello’s websites! When traveling, you take the weather as it happens! Jefferson inherited 5,000 acres, including the land on which Monticello now stands, when Jefferson was 14 years old. His father’s will named a legal guardian for his sons, so Jefferson legally took full authority at the age of 21. He had already finished college and neared a license to practice law by that time. (Here’s a link to more information about Monticello.)

Before entering college, Jefferson had a grasp of French, Greek, and Latin. He continued to develop his language skills in college. Jefferson graduated from William & Mary at the age of 18. From there, he learned the law under George Wythe. Mr. Wythe and other influential people in Virginia recognized Jefferson’s genius and included him in their inner circle.

Thomas Jefferson’s Successful Monticello

Jefferson acquired excellent skills in architecture and designed Monticello to fit his family’s needs. He changed the design and remodeled it several times in his lifetime. The house displays as it looked at the time of his death in 1826.

Construction began on Monticello in 1768 on a hilltop overlooking his 5,000-acre plantation. In 1772, Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton, a 23-year-old widow who was also his third cousin. Martha bore six children, but only Martha and Mary survived more than a few years. Martha’s father died in 1773, and the couple inherited 135 enslaved people, 11,000 acres, and the estate’s debt. The debt took years to satisfy, contributing to his financial problems.

Thomas Jefferson and slavery

Thomas Jefferson had a conflicting relationship with slavery. While a lawyer, he defended seven cases for enslaved people seeking freedom. He pursued legislation to allow masters to take control of freeing their enslaved people. Unfortunately, the legislation failed.

On the other hand, he continued to enslave people throughout his life. Jefferson supposedly fathered children with Sally Hemings, a slave woman in the household. DNA tends to prove it true, but a minority of historians claim the father could be Jefferson’s brother or one of his brother’s sons. Generally, most historians agree that he did father at least one of her children. (When Jefferson’s wife Martha died in 1782, she extracted a promise from Jefferson on her deathbed to never remarry.)

Thomas Jefferson’s Death

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826. Ironically, John Adams died later that same day in Massachusetts. And on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence! The two men were alternatively friends and rivals. Historians view Jefferson as one of the five best presidents in US history. Although his reputation occasionally suffered, primarily due to his ownership of enslaved people and his lack of attention to their freedom, he still ranks among the top five presidents by many historians. Read on for a bit more about him.

Thomas Jefferson’s Successful Monticello and his accomplishments

Jefferson’s place in history in colonial America and the new nation stands among the greatest in our history. The state of Virginia ranks him alongside George Washington as a great man. Although he accomplished many feats as a plantation owner and lawyer, I’m focusing on his accomplishments in bringing about and serving the new nation.

Colonial Times

At the age of 33, Jefferson became a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. As the Revolutionary War began, he also served as a colonel in the Virginia Militia. Jefferson sought out John Adams during that time. They became friends and colleagues. Adams supported young Jefferson’s appointment to the Committee of Five formed to draft a declaration of independence. While committee members pressed Adams to draft the document, Adams persuaded the group to select Jefferson for the task.

Congress took up the discussion of the document on July 1st. Although the committee omitted about one-fourth of the words, the document became final on July 4, 1776. Important omitted parts included a passage critical of King George III and Jefferson’s anti-slavery clause.

By signing the Declaration of Independence, the signers became traitors in the eyes of the British. And the action led to the Revolutionary War.

The Revolutionary War

Although Jefferson held his military commission, he spent more time on the business of governing the State of Virginia than with the military. His leadership provided the necessary force to finalize the state constitution. And he pushed for laws de-establishing the Anglican Church which failed. However, James Madison revived and pushed the bill to become law.

In 1778, while in the Virginia House of Delegates, Jefferson accepted the task to revise the state’s laws. He drafted 126 bills in three years. And Jefferson served as Governor for two one-year terms, starting in 1779 and 1780. Also, he transferred the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond. In 1981, General Benedict Arnold’s army invaded Virginia and razed the city of Richmond. General Cornwallis dispatched troops to capture Jefferson and other members of the Assembly. However, the Virginia Militia repelled the British.

Although the war effectively ended in 1781 with Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown, a peace treaty enactment didn’t happen until 1783.

The new nation

By 1787, the new nation found the Articles of Confederation to be ineffective. Jefferson remained ambassador to France and didn’t attend the Constitutional Convention. Although the Continental Congress limited their authority to revise the Articles of Confederation. Instead, the 55 men meeting in Philidelphia that summer produced the first written constitution in the history of the world.

With George Washington leading the convention, the framers drafted today’s constitution. However, Jefferson’s influence became immense. Upon reading the document, he strongly and emphatically pushed for a Bill of Rights. Although all the states ratified the constitution, many did so with a promise by the founders to fulfill the need. And, at the first Congress, the Bill of Rights, inspired by Jefferson and drafted by James Madison became a part of the constitution.

George Washington appointed Jefferson as Secretary of State. And when Washington completed his two terms, Jefferson became Vice President under John Adams. During his Vice Presidency, Jefferson perfected the art of presiding over the Senate. He also developed a “falling out” with John Adams and ran against him in the 1800 Presidential election. Of course, he won the election and served as President of the United States for two full terms.

Thomas Jefferson’s Presidency

As president, Thomas Jefferson’s accomplishments led to him being considered one of the five best presidents of the US. After all, he’s on Mount Rushmore! During his term, Jefferson cut the national debt by nearly 1/3. On the domestic front, he appointed three Supreme Court justices, founded the US Military Academy at West Point, and greatly expanded the Library of Congress.

Jefferson’s leadership saw the first US foreign war, against the Barbary Coast pirates. He also oversaw the Louisiana Purchase, nearly doubling the size of the US. Some call the purchase as the most formative event in American history. And the purchase effectively ended European influence in the new nation.

The Lewis and Clark expedition opened the new area and more land to the west to settlement and national expansion. The Expedition identified many Native American tribes throughout the new territory. Although Jefferson expressed the belief that Native American people were not inferior people as many of his time believed. He expressed that Native American people should be assimilated into American culture. His critics believed his views contributed to seizing their land and pushing them to inferior places.

Overall, many of his accomplishments set precedents for future leaders.

Post-Presidency & Thomas Jefferson’s Successful Monticello

Following his presidency, Jefferson continued his life-long learning. He read classic writings and the current affairs of the times. Jefferson reconciled with John Adams and they began a life-long correspondence. He typically spent several hours each day writing letters to many correspondents.

His most important post-presidential achievement became the establishment of the University of Virginia in 1819. He became the principal designer of the campus. His decision to make the library the center of the campus instead of a church remained controversial but represented his long-held belief in the separation of church and state.

Upon the deaths of John Adams and Jefferson on July 4th, 1826, John Adams’s son, then president John Quincy Adams called the coincidence of their deaths on the nation’s anniversary “visible and palpable remarks of Divine Favor.”

There: I went on too long! I hope to curtail further presidential posts, but Jefferson played such a major role in US history!

Classic Rock Recollection

“Wooden Ships” by Jefferson Airplane

I can see by your coat my friend that you’re from the other side
There’s just one thing I got to know
Can you tell me please who won
You must try some of my purple berries
I been eating them for six or seven weeks now
Haven’t got sick once

Probably keep us both alive, yeah

Wooden ships on the water very free and easy
Easy you know the way it’s supposed to be
Silver people on the shoreline leave us be
Very free and easy

Written by: David Crosby, Paul Kanter, and Steven Stills
(because of the name of the band!)

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