Author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States
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  • Thomas Jefferson

    Thomas Jefferson (13 April [O.S. 2 April] 1743 - 4 July 1826) was an American Founding Father who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he was elected the second Vice President of the United States, serving under John Adams from 1797 to 1801. A proponent of democracy, republicanism and individual rights motivating American colonists to break from Great Britain and form a new nation, he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level. He was a land owner and farmer.

    United States Declaration of Independence, Author, signer and representative from Virginia


    Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826), by Daniel J. Mahoney, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical essay
    "Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and other key documents of early American constitutionalism. He was almost certainly the founder most instrumental in developing the philosophy of limited government that dominated American political thought until the 20th century. Jefferson was a quintessential Renaissance man, with law and politics as perhaps the least favorite of his many interests, yet he was drawn into the political conflicts of his time because of his devotion to what he called 'the holy cause of freedom.'"


    13 Apr 1743, in Shadwell, Virginia


    4 Jul 1826, in Monticello, Virginia


    Autobiography: 1743 -- 1790, 6 Jan 1821
    Electronic text at The Avalon Project, Yale Law School
    Brief Biography of Thomas Jefferson
    Life of Thomas Jefferson, by B. L. Rayner, 1834
    Revised and edited by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.

    Web Sites

    The Thomas Jefferson Papers
    American Memory Collections at the Library of Congress

    Web Pages

    Thomas Jefferson -
    Short profile and links to essays, videos and other resources about Jefferson
    "One of the most well-known founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. The ideas of liberty he promoted continue to form the basis of the American cultural heritage today."
    Thomas Jefferson - Online Library of Liberty
    Includes portrait, short biography, links to timeline of his life and work, to various versions of Jefferson's works and to selected quotations
    "Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), a Virginian, was the author of the American Declaration of Independence (1776), an active participant in the Revolution, Governor of Virginia (1779), member of Congress, Minister to France, Secretary of State under President Washington, and president of the United States (1800). He was a polymath who wrote on and was knowledgeable about science, architecture, music, agriculture, law, education, geography, and music."


    273 Years Later, Here's How Thomas Jefferson Is Still Shaping Our Society, 13 Apr 2016
    Brief discussion of the anniversary of Jefferson's birth date, together with a video where professor Aeon Skoble discusses what are rights
    "He was the author of the Declaration of Independence. He served as the third president of our country. He was an undisputedly important American intellectual and innovator. As we commemorate Thomas Jefferson's 273rd birthday (he was born on April 13th, 1743), we could certainly remember him for more than one accomplishment. ... This concept that rights are not granted by a king, a church, or a government was revolutionary ... It's also perhaps one of the main reasons that Thomas Jefferson's birthday will continue to be celebrated by those who care about liberty and individual rights for many years to come."
    Related Topic: Inalienable Rights
    Agenda for Liberty: A Biography of John Lilburne, by Jim Powell, The Triumph of Liberty, 4 Jul 2000
    Lengthy biographical essay
    "In his scaffold speech, Rumbold ... affirmed Leveller principles. 'I am sure there was no man born marked of God above another,' he declared, 'for none comes into the world with a saddle upon his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him.' Thomas Jefferson adapted Rumbold's phrasing in one of his last letters, June 24, 1826: 'All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.'"
    Albert Jay Nock: A Gifted Pen for Radical Individualism, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Mar 1997
    Biographical essay, including his early life, editorship of The Freeman, and notable books and essays
    "Then Nock focused on book-length biographical essays. The first was Mr. Jefferson (1926), which skipped the most famous events of the Founder's life to focus on the development of his mind. Nock drew extensively on Charles Beard's The Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy. Claude Bowers's Jefferson and Hamilton, published the same year, sold more copies at the time and did more to revive the reputation of Jefferson, who had been a forgotten man since the Civil War. But it is Nock's book that remains in print."
    Bureaucracy and the Civil Service in the United States, by Murray Rothbard, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1995
    Historical account of the evolution of the United States Civil Service and attempts to reform it, from its beginnings through the early 20th century
    "... Jefferson is a classic case of corruption of principle from being in power. The first Jefferson Administration ... was certainly one of the finest libertarian moments ... Expenses were lowered, the army and navy were sharply reduced, the bureaucracy was cut, the public debt retired, and the federal excise tax, and the Alien and Sedition Acts, were repealed."
    Editorial: Turgot and the Battle Against Physiocracy, by Leonard Liggio, Literature of Liberty, 1979
    Editorial essay for volume II, number 1; discusses those who influenced Turgot and those influenced by him
    "So highly did Thomas Jefferson esteem the liberalism of Turgot that in the honored place of the entrance hall to Monticello he placed a Houdon portrait bust to this Enlightenment hero. Jefferson revered Turgot’s strong support of the American Revolution and his contributions to a major debate on constitutional principles. ... [John] Adams's friend, the Abbé Mably, a founder of modern socialism's denial of private property, published a work on the American constitutions which disturbed such republicans as Jefferson."
    First Principles, by Charley Reese, 24 Mar 2007
    "Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural speech, listed what he called 'the essential principles of our government and consequently those which ought to shape its administration.' ... Jefferson said that should we wander from these principles in error or alarm, we should retrace our steps to regain the road that leads to peace, liberty and safety."
    Give Me Liberty, by Rose Wilder Lane, 1936
    Originally published as an article titled "Credo" in the Saturday Evening Post; describes her experiences in and history of Soviet Russia and Europe, contrasting them with the history of the United States, emphasizing the individualist themes
    "Jefferson saw that the whole West—that is to say, the eastern half of the Mississippi valley—would be lost unless the United States could get a port on the Gulf. All that he wanted was a port, just one little bay. Two American commissioners in Paris, with no authority whatever to do so, bought the whole of Louisiana from Napoleon. It belonged to Spain, but Napoleon sold it, his armies could settle the matter with Spain. And two Americans bought it, paid fifteen million dollars for it. Jefferson was aghast when he heard the news. He came within an inch of repudiating the purchase."
    Honoring Jefferson, by Joseph Sobran, 1 Jul 2004
    "A master of several languages and many sciences, Jefferson sought to reduce political philosophy to simple terms every American could understand. The Declaration distills the political philosophy of John Locke, which Jefferson regarded as the consensus of reasonable men of his own generation."
    Independence Day Propaganda, by Anthony Gregory, 4 Jul 2011
    Argues that the American Revolution, albeit of a libertarian flavor, had several unsavory shortcomings
    "Thomas Jefferson deployed the Marines on an ultimately failed mission in the Barbary war, attempted to suspend habeas corpus and create a department of education, imposed a brutal embargo on English goods that decimated the economy and destroyed privacy rights, and conducted the Louisiana Purchase in bold defiance of the Constitution."
    Jefferson on American Liberty, by Gary M. Galles, Mises Daily, 4 Jul 2002
    "Jefferson once asked a seminal question: 'Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?' Our founding documents were designed, in part by Jefferson's hand, to answer that question for America. ..."
    Life and Works of Antoine Louis Claude, Comte Destutt de Tracy, by David M. Hart, 1 Jan 2002
    Biographical essay on French philosopher Destutt de Tracy
    "The impact of Tracy's political and economic ideas was considerable. His Commentary and Review of Montesquieu's Spirit of Laws (1811) was much admired by Thomas Jefferson, who translated it and had it published in America at a time when a French edition was impossible due to Napoleon's censorship. ... Tracy's multi-volume work Elements of Ideology (1801-1815) is his magnum opus. Volume 4, which appeared in 1815 and which dealt with political economy, was also translated and published by Jefferson in 1817."
    Module 3: Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence
    Third module of the Cato Home Study Course, includes link to listen or download audio program (two parts, 1:18:20 and 1:13:52), questions and suggested readings
    "Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), in drafting the Declaration of Independence, had, as he later said, 'turned to neither book nor pamphlet in writing it'; he attempted simply 'to place before mankind the common sense of the subject.' This is strong evidence of the degree to which libertarian ideas, such as those articulated by John Locke in the previous century, had come to permeate popular American thinking on morality and politics. It is notable how many of phrases from Locke's Second Treatise of Government are echoed in the Declaration of Independence."
    No More Great Presidents, by Robert Higgs, The Free Market, Mar 1997
    Discusses the results of a 1996 poll of historians asking them to rank U.S. presidents, focusing on those ranked Great, Near Great and Failure, and offers his own ranking
    "The one exception, Jefferson, confined his presidential bellicosity to authorizing, with Congressional consent, the naval engagements against the Barbary pirates. (Of course, he had been a revolutionary official during the War of Independence.) ... Other early presidents who were not entirely reprehensible in office include Jefferson and Jackson, though each committed grave derelictions."
    The American Heritage of "Isolationism", by Gregory Bresiger, Future of Freedom, May 2006
    "... when ... Thomas Jefferson, took office in 1801, he, too, paid homage to Washington's foreign-policy advice. Jefferson, despite his differences with the Federalists, promised no 'entangling alliances.' Isolationism, or non-interventionism, was, for a short time, the established policy of the United States."
    The Challenge to the U.S. Postal Monopoly, 1839-1851 [PDF], by Kelly B. Olds, Cato Journal, 1995
    Analysis of the operation of the U.S. Post Office in the 1840s, including estimates of subsidies to various groups, and discussion of the private competitors and the effects they had on the postal service
    "Giving out the postage revenues to groups with political power became the Post Office's second function. Measured monetarily, it was the Post Office's primary function. Thomas Jefferson, suspicious of the Post Office, had written: 'I view [the Post Office] as a source of boundless patronage to the executive, jobbing to members of Congress and their friends and a bottomless abyss of public money ...' The government resisted subsidizing the Post Office until the 1850s, partly out of fear of that which Jefferson prophesied."
    The Latest Defamation of Jefferson, by Thomas DiLorenzo, 31 Mar 2006
    "Jefferson was the apostle of states' rights, enunciated in his famous Kentucky Resolve of 1798; Lincoln waged the bloodiest war in American history to destroy the Jeffersonian states' rights doctrine. Jefferson authored America's Declaration of Secession from the British empire, known as the Declaration of Independence."
    Related Topic: Abraham Lincoln
    The Physiocrats, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Dec 2010
    Discusses the 18th century French economists and their influences on Adam Smith, on American agriarianism and on Henry George
    "In a letter (1785) to John Jay, Jefferson wrote, 'Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, & they are tied to their country & wedded to its liberty & interests by the most lasting bonds.' ... Other agrarians, such as Jefferson, seemed to incorporate whatever Physiocratic ideas they found valuable. The Physiocratic influence upon Jefferson may have deepened when Du Pont emigrated to America (1799) and the two men become personal friends. Arguably, Jefferson's land policies that were key to 19th-century Western settlement derived their tone from the Physiocrats."
    The Rocky Road of American Taxation, by Charles Adams, Mises Daily, 15 Apr 2006
    Adapted from the author's For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization
    "When Jefferson ran for president in 1800, his anti-federalist tax platform endeared him to the hearts of the people and assured his victory. ... when Jefferson tells us rebellions are good tonic for government, in his frame of reference he was talking about tax rebellions."
    The Trouble With Thomas Jefferson: The eloquent Founder's original sin, by Damon Root, Reason, Jan 2009
    Review of the book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed
    "Think about what Calhoun is saying here. The idea that 'all men are created equal' has slowly developed in the American consciousness, producing the 'poisonous fruits' of the anti-slavery movement. Jefferson may or may not have intended such an outcome; he certainly did little actively to bring it about, though he did denounce slavery and its brutalizing impact on white society. But the libertarian ideas that inspired Jefferson, the ones coursing through the Declaration of Independence and later through the Constitution, nonetheless did bring it about. Douglass welcomed that result; Calhoun despised it."
    Related Topic: Frederick Douglass
    Thomas Jefferson's Sophisticated, Radical Vision of Liberty, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jul 1995
    Biographical essay, highlighting Jefferson's "felicity of expression" that led him to write the famous words in the Declaration of Independence
    "Jefferson expressed a sophisticated, radical vision of liberty with awesome grace and eloquence. He affirmed that all people are entitled to liberty, regardless what laws might say. If laws don’t protect liberty, he declared, then the laws are illegitimate, and people may rebel. While Jefferson didn’t originate this idea, he put it in a way that set afire the imagination of people around the world. Moreover, he developed a doctrine for strictly limiting the power of government, the most dangerous threat to liberty everywhere."
    Thomas Paine-Passionate Pamphleteer for Liberty: A Singleminded Private Individual Aroused Millions to Throw Off Their Oppressors, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jan 1996
    Biographical essay, highlighting Paine's writings in Common Sense, American Crisis, Rights of Man and Age of Reason
    "Although Federalist critics savaged President Thomas Jefferson for defending Paine, he courageously invited his friend to the White House. When Jefferson's daughters Mary and Martha made clear they would rather not associate with Paine, Jefferson replied that Paine 'is too well entitled to the hospitality of every American, not to cheerfully receive mine.'"
    Would-Be Rulers without Clothes, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, May 2008
    Examines Hillary Clinton's assertion about "wanting" a universal health care plan
    "It's what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote, 'All men are created equal' in the Declaration of Independence. He certainly did not mean that people are equal in intelligence, talent, energy, ambition, physical strength, and so on. And he couldn't have meant that they should merely be equal before the law, because that would be a low bar indeed; we can imagine a society in which the law treats everyone rather poorly but nonetheless equally. ..."


    Mr. Jefferson, by Albert Jay Nock, 1926
    Table of contents: Youth - Beginnings - 1784-1789 - 1784-1789 (continued) - Washington, Hamilton, Adams - Eight Years of "Splendid Misery" - Recommencements - Advesperascit


    Thomas Jefferson, by Ken Burns, 1997
    First segment of the three-part documentary on the life of Thomas Jefferson, broadcast over PBS stations, directed and produced by Ken Burns, narrated by Ossie Davis and with Sam Waterston as the voice of Jefferson

    The introductory paragraph uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.