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THOMAS JEFFERSON, third President of the United States, born at Shadwell, Va., April 2, 1743; died at Monticello, Va., July 4, 1826. He was educated at the College of William and Mary; studied law under George Wythe, the leader of the Virginia bar, to which Jefferson was admitted at the age of twenty-four. His career in public life commenced in 1769, when he was elected a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. He took an earnest part in the measures which were a prelude to the Revolution. He was made chairman of the committee of five appointed to draw up the Declaration of Independence, and that document was mainly written by him.
In 1779 Jefferson was chosen Governor of Virginia. In 1783 he was elected to Congress. In 1784 he was sent to France as jointplenipotentiary with Franklin and Deane. In 1789 he returned to the United States for a short visit, only to be notified that Washington had appointed him Secretary of State. He resigned early in 1794.
In 1796 Jefferson became Vice-President, for the term of four years, beginning March 4, 1797. At the next presidential election the choice devolved upon the House of Representatives, who elected Jefferson. At the next election Jefferson was reëlected by a large majority.
At the close of his second term, in 1809, Jefferson retired from public life, after a nearly continuous service of forty-four years.
The “ Writings of Thomas Jefferson ” were published, by order of Congress, in 1853, in nine octavo volumes. They include a brief autobiography, treatises, and essays on various subjects, official reports, messages, and addresses, and a selection from his correspondence. The principal “Lives of Jefferson” are those by St. George Tucker (1837), Henry S. Randall (1858), James Parton (1874), and John T. Morse, in the “ American Statesman” series (1884). Of special interest is “ The Domestic Life of Thomas Jefferson,” by his great-granddaughter, Sarah H. Randolph (1871).
“Upon the whole,” says Prof. M. C. Tyler of the Declaration, “this is the most commanding and the most pathetic utterance, in any age, in any language, of national grievances and of national purpose.”
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, 1776. Copy prepared by Jefferson to show his draft and the wording adopted by
Congress. CONGRESS proceeded on Monday, July 1, to consider the declaration of Independence, which had been reported & lain on the table the Friday preceding, and on Monday referred to a comme of the whole. The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many. For this reason those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offence. The clause too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender under those censures; for tho' their people have very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. The debates having taken up the greater parts of the 2d, 3d, & 4th days of July were, in the evening of the last, closed; the declaration was reported by the comme, agreed to by the house, and signed by every member present except Mr. Dickinson. As the sentiments of men are known not only by what they receive, but what they reject also, I will state the form of the declaration as originally reported. The parts struck out by Congress shall be distinguished by a black line drawn under them; & those inserted by them shall be placed in the margin or in a concurrent column.
A Declaration by the representatives of the United States of
America, in General Congress assembled. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate & equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with
inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, lib
erty, & the pursuit of happiness: that to secure these
rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just 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, & to institute new government, laying it's foundation on such principles, & organizing it's powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses & usurpations begun at a distinguished period and pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, & to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; & such is now the necessity which constrains them to
expunge their former systems of government. The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of unrerepeated mitting injuries & usurpations, among which appears no solitary fact to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest but all having all have in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood.
He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome & necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate & pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained ; & when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, & formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.