Who Was Thomas Jefferson?

Thomas Jefferson, one of the true American lions, was a man of enormous accomplishments. Jefferson was driven by a undiminished vision, progressive and essentially religious, and by an unswerving and undiminished optimism. While chiefly a politician--he was a Albemarle representative in the Virginia House of Delegates, Governor of Virginia, Minister Plenipotentiary to France, Secretary of State in Washington's administration, Vice-President and two-term President--he was also a husbandman, lawyer, politician, political philosopher, educationalist, moralist, religionist, meteorologist, paleontologist, architect, philologist, musician,  aesthetician, and tinkerer and inventor, inter alia. This site has come about in some effort to expiscate (to fish out) the breadth and depth of Jefferson's vision, by coming to know the man, chiefly through his writings. In the pages of this site, I offer numerous essays, book reviews, and videos on Jefferson, a timeline of his life, and a library listing the books I have published on Jefferson--autographed copies of several are for sale--and several e-books which you can purchase.

 
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Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

“Architecture is my delight,” said Jefferson, according to another recollection of Margaret Bayard Smith, “and putting up and pulling down, one of my favorite amusements.” Begun in 1768, it was mostly finished in 1809, after his presidency. No other structure tells us so much about the mind of Jefferson as does Monticello. That it was mostly ever under construction of some sort indicates that putting up and pulling down was done at least as much for its own sake as for the telos--that a building as well as a person was ever in the process of consruction/reconstruction. UNESCO lists Monticello and the University of Virginia’s Central Grounds, each of fine illustration of the neo-Classicism he introduced to the young country, among sites of “outstanding value,” along with Versailles, the Great Wall of China, the Acropolis of Athens, and the Taj Mahal.

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Jefferson the Man

"Political events are scarcely interesting to a man who looks on them from high ground. There is always war in one place, evolution in another, pestilence in a third, interspersed with spots of quiet. These chequers shift places but they do not vanish, so that to an eye which extends itself over the whole earth there is always uniformity of prospect.” TJ to James Curie, 27 Sept. 1785

“The plan of my journey, as well as of my life, being to take things by the smooth handle, few occur which have not something tolerable to offer me.” TJ to Madame de Tott, 5 Apr. 1787

“There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.” TJ to Martha Jefferson Randolph, 23 Dec. 1790

“I have the consolation too of having added nothing to my private fortune, during my public service, and of retiring with hands as clean as they are empty. ” TJ to Le Comte Diodati, 29 Mar. 1807

“Men come into business at first with visionary principles. It is practice alone which can correct & conform them to the actual current of affairs. In the meantime those to whom their errors were first applied have been their victims.” TJ to James Madison, 25 May 1788

 

 
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Science & Progress

"Education … engrafts a new man on the native stock, and improves what in his nature was vicious and perverse into qualities of virtue and social worth. And it cannot be but that each generation succeeding to the knowledge acquired by all those who preceded it, adding to it their own acquisitions and discoveries, and handing the mass down for successive and constant accumulation, must advance the knowledge and well-being of mankind, not infinitely, as some have said, but indefinitely, and to a term which no one can fix and foresee." Rockfish Gap Report, 1818

“It is often said there have been shining examples of men of great abilities, in all businesses of life, without any other science than what they had gathered from conversation and intercourse with the world. But, who can say what these men would not have been, had they started in the science on the shoulders of a Demosthenes or Cicero, of a Locke, or Bacon, or a Newton?” TJ to John Brazier, 1819

“If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it.” TJ to M. Jullien, 23 July 1818

“Our views are catholic for the improvement of our country by science.” TJ to George Ticknor, 1823