In 1743, on April 2, Thomas Jefferson was born. But the old Julian calendar was superseded in 1752, so we now mark his birthday as April 13.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. He authored the State of Virginia’s Statue of Religious Freedom, which disestablished the Episcopalian Church, thus officially beginning the long process of what he referred to as “building a wall of separation between Church and State.”
He followed Patrick Henry as Governor of Virginia, and was in that position when it was attacked by British forces (led by Benedict Arnold and Gen. Cornwallis). He later served as the first Secretary of State of the new union, and then as its second Vice President and third President. He wrote one book, Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), and translated several others, including Volney’s Ruins of Empires (1802) and Destutt de Tracy’s A Treatise on Political Economy (1817). He designed the first campus of the University of Virginia, and managed its founding.
Thomas Jefferson was a man of achievement, yes; but mostly he is associated with the idea of freedom.
Yet, he was also a slave-owner. His several attempts to limit the severity and extent of slavery were mostly beaten back. And his personal involvement with slaves (he likely sired several children with his late wife’s half sister, a slave) was even more tangled.
Some people say this disqualifies Jefferson from current praise.
I’m not in that camp. It seems to me less than honest not to esteem him for helping us declare that “all men are created equal” . . . and outright foolish to ignore Mr. Jefferson’s lifelong agitation for a more equal freedom under law.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
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