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Thomas Jefferson -English Honours 12 Essay, Research Paper
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence,
a principle leader in the American Revolution, and the third president of the
United States of America. Jefferson was also regarded as a great thinker and
diplomat, and was a renowned contributor to the foundation of the country.
Jefferson was well educated, an active committeeman, a skillful
draftsman and had a wide range of knowledge of English history and political
philosophy. His wisdom in various areas helped him to add substance to his
beliefs, which other philosophers theory’s lacked. Jefferson was among the
most brilliant American exponents of the Enlightenment; the movement of
the eighteenth century which emphasized the possibilities of human reason.
Jefferson had the motivation and the opportunity to apply Enlightenment
political philosophy to the duty of nation-building.
The Declaration of Independence, drafted principally by Jefferson, is
the document in which American citizens proclaimed their freedom from the
British Rule. The Declaration’s expressive diction and political importance,
rank it as one of the greatest historical documents produced. Jefferson sought
to reform society, in terms of the philosophy of the Enlightenment and of
republican government. He strongly believed in the, “preservation of the
general government in it’s whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of
our peace at home and safety abroad” (Declaration of Independence). He
emphasized that with a strong government, which supported the natural
rights of the American citizens and a united country, society would be
preserved as well. The content of the Declaration of Independence greatly
impacted the lives of American citizens and changed the way society
In the first sections of the Declaration of Independence, “Life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness”, are regarded as the basic principles in a free
country. Jefferson emphasized his belief that the purpose of the government
is to defend, establish and protect the natural rights of society. The
government, in Jefferson’s opinion, should promote the happiness and
freedom of the American citizens. Jefferson held the view that, ” The equal
rights of men, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged
to be the only legitimate objects of government”. The main point of the
Declaration of Independence, was to justify self-government and to support
the American citizen’s right to exercise self-government, individually, and as
During the revolutionary era, Jefferson studied Enlightenment
philosophy, which inspired him to support the Patriots. One of his most noted
contributions to their cause was an extremely effective pamphlet, “A
Summary View of Rights of British America” (1774). in this he emphasized
the natural rights of the people and denied parliamentary authority over the
colonies. He believed that the United States had no link with Britain, other
than the King. After, “A Summary View of the Rights of British America”,
was published, Jefferson’s authorship became well-known, and he came to be
acknowledged as a successful political theorist.
Popular sovereignty, self-government and democracy were regarded as
extremely important, by Jefferson. He believed that with those aspects the
people would ensure that the government would stay on the right track. It also
meant that the government would be responsive to the will of the people.
Jefferson was of the opinion that, ” A representative government is one in
which the will of the people is an effective ingredient” (Thomas Jefferson to
Benjamin Austin, 1816). Jefferson believed that the government in a free
society is not any different from the citizens. Under American self-
government, the citizen, himself, is part of the government. Jefferson defined
self-government as one in which, “every member composing it, has a voice”.
He knew that if each citizen held the right of self-government, then a united
country posses the same right. As Jefferson pointed out, “What is true of
every member in society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since
the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the
individuals” (Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789)
It was believed by Jefferson that by placing power in the hands of the
people who are concerned for the rights and lives of society, the government
becomes the ultimate protection for the liberty of the people. Jefferson’s main
desire was to establish liberty. He wanted the government to go beyond
mearly protecting individual right, but to become a representative front for
the United States. Jefferson stated that the principle purpose of the
government was, “to inform the minds of the people, and to follow their will”
(Thomas Jefferson to C.F. Dumas, 1787).
Thomas Jefferson died at Monticello, Virginia, on July 4, 1826, on the
fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He was an
Americain Revolutionary leader and an invaluable contributer to building the
foundation for the United States of America. His primary committments to
liberty, democracy and the formation of self-goveremnt were accomplished.
He succeeded his intent, which was to help found a nation in which liberty
was strongly established. Jefferson brought America beyond the primitive
right to property, to the pursuit of happiness. The Americain goverment never
quite achieved the vision which Jefferson had for it, however, even in it’s
limited accomplishment, it continues to have much of the spirit and essence
which Jefferson inspired.
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