Thomas Jefferson

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Words say a lot. In the Declaration of Independence they said more. The words chosen are the words that founded a country, a powerful well respected country nonetheless. Now to choose a single man and give him the responsibility to construct a document that will only die with this country is heavy. A burden none other than Thomas Jefferson could bear. Now I do not believe that any one person or even group of people would be able to perfectly fulfill this task in a month. Thomas Jefferson intelligently did not incorporate all of his own beliefs into this; instead he called upon major philosophers and stole their words. Although the Declaration of Independence did a great job of uniting people into a country I believe Jefferson’s influences were second rate and own views poorly reflected.

In the Preamble of the Declaration Jefferson almost directly quotes a well known philosopher John Locke. John Locke is considered to have created and coined the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property” Also many ideas were taken from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, which was a popular document denouncing British rule. Many say that Jefferson, as well as many of the other founding fathers, was influenced by the Age of Enlightenment. The age of Enlightenment was a philosophical period in the 1800’s that involved a lot of liberal beliefs. These influences built the skeleton for the Declaration of Independence, but were they right? When Jefferson used the word rights he made it clear that it was important. The ideas Jefferson drew off of incorporated a belief in natural rights. Jefferson tired to do this idea justice in the Declaration of Independence but unfortunately failed. Our rights he stated were life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With the exception of the first, they sound and mean well, but are impossible to fully endorse. To run a country no one will ever be able to be fully free, or pursue every thing that makes them happy.

Now these beliefs were popular at the time, and thought up by brilliant minds, but these were not authentic thoughts of Thomas Jefferson, and if he truly believed his words in the Declaration would have been a hypocrite. He himself was the owner of a large estate. On that estate he had people helping him manage it. These people were slaves. Now in looking at the preamble of the Declaration of Independence it is clear that there are no prejudice statements, in fact he states that a self- evident truth is that all men are created equally. Not only does he say that but also takes it a step further to say they are righted freedom. Now this seems to be in discord with what his actions say. He included in the preamble a statement that allows revolution when the rights are infringed upon. Well it seems that this country was created with the Civil War written into it. Thomas Jefferson would be much more truthfully represented in his book “Notes on the State of Virginia”

Notes on the State of Virginia was a book addressing questions asked about the state of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson was more honest in this book about his views on what he wanted for the nation. In that he discussed some of his most favorite subjects, education and architecture. He talked about how the college would be set up, the professors that would be required and how it would be financed. He discussed his views on other buildings and their set ups, the design and placement of all buildings he saw as required. His letters also help show his real thoughts on government and other issues like his view on African Americans but I believe that as a whole his book Notes on the State of Virginia portray his actual beliefs best.

In general Thomas Jefferson contributed in a great way to this country. I have been highly critical of him as a person but the good he left this country with was far more noticeable than the mistakes he made. One of the major beliefs he possessed that helped people look past his errors was that of evolving politics, not stationary. He thought that when the government wasn’t right it should be righted and when new innovations were made and better ideas created they should be adopted. He was a man that accomplished much in his life, a man who changed the world, and that is why regardless of his transcription of the Declaration of Independence he is a portrait of human greatness.


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