Thomas Jefferson

By: Bobby Roberts

There have been many great minds in history. People of the past and present helped to build this country up from a rebellious colony to a world power. We have many people to thank and to be remembered for their heroism and bravery for democracy. We also have many to remember from the legislation side of starting a government and making laws suited not only their generation, but for generations afterwards. One man fits all these categories and so much more, and that man was Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson is and was the greatest mind in American history. John F. Kennedy, another great mind in American history, said this at a 1962 Nobel Prize winner banquet at the White House. "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." (Lockwood and Harris 55)

To know how Thomas Jefferson came to be such a great mind, we need to know about his early life. Jefferson was born into a distinguished family where his mother's side was very established in colonial Virginia, along with a father who owned a plantation. Jefferson's father died when he was fourteen, so it put him in charge of an estate, slaves and Virginian aristocracy. Jefferson's father's wish for his son, to be well educated was well met, when Jefferson became a law student by the age of nineteen. After a great number of courtships, Jefferson never found true love until Martha Skelton came into his life. Skelton and Jefferson were married two years later. ("Thomas Jefferson")

Jefferson, after finding his true love, was ready to help this country in the revolution. However, after two years of marriage, Martha's father passed away leaving Jefferson with another 135 slaves, which doubled his count at his place, Monticello. Besides all the outside interference, he was nominated to go to a delegation to make a document for freedom. Jefferson was chosen in the group to come up with a draft. The following quotation is from the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem likely to effect their safety and happiness." (Zulick)

The draft that Jefferson was to write would live in history as our Declaration of Independence. No one in the delegation would have ever thought that it would live in fame. However, Jefferson did not have all the say so when it came to the final copy. Everyone had input. One of the very important things left on the cutting room floor was Jefferson's theory about slavery and its immorality. He wanted it abolished. Knowing that slavery was wrong, the rest of the committee vetoed that part knowing that the country would go to shambles if slavery would be outlawed. At the time, the colonies that they needed slavery for economic purpose because slaves were more profitable than indentured servants were. Jefferson, a slave owner himself, was aware of all this, but he himself could not afford to lose his slaves either. Jefferson was just thinking ahead of his time, and looking out for mankind in the future. (Lockwood and Harris 61)

The future of the newborn United States of America after the Revolutionary War definitely had its place for Thomas Jefferson (though after taking sometime off from governmental politics to cope with the death of his only true love, Martha in 1782). He mourned, refusing to eat for a whole week, and some say he buried himself in politics to help him try to forget Martha. While trying to keep his mind off her, Jefferson drafted and passed many bills as a congressman from Virginia. In 1796 he took a huge step to try to run for president. Jefferson was unhappy with the United States becoming more and more friendly towards Great Britain. Jefferson received second in the race, so it made him Vice-President, although in four years, he won against Adams.

Jefferson definitely learned some things from being Secretary of State under Washington and Vice-President under John Adams. He ran the presidency with some difficulties, Adams's strong federalist Supreme Court appointments were against all of Jefferson's policies and the War of 1812 was evidently on the way and unstoppable. Jefferson's presidency was not the best, but it could have been a catastrophe.

It would take a psychic to come up with a document that would suit a current generation and generations to come, without having flaws that stick out like a thumb. Of course the Declaration of Independence wasn't perfect, but the underlying idea was more than accepted. It takes a great mind to think of that, endure tragedy, and help run this country smoothly. Thomas Jefferson was and is the greatest mind in American history, and there is always room and need for another to follow his example.