Thomas Jefferson

.. llo. During retirement, Jefferson supervised the farming of his estates and designed a plow which revolutionized agriculture; he tended his library like a garden; he changed the architectural plans for Monticello, and supervised the construction. After three rather active years of retirement, Jefferson accepted the Republican Party’s nomination in 1796 for President. He lost by three votes, which under the prevailing system, meant he was elected Vice President and the Federalist, John Adams, was elected president.

The Federalist Administration turned upon its political opponents by passing the Alien Act, to deport foreign radicals and liberal, propagandists and agitators, and the Sedition Act, to curb the press. The Sedition Act empowered the Administration to fine, imprison, and prosecute any opposition writer and thus the Republicans were muzzled in the remaining years of Adams’ Administration (Randall 523, 528). In 1800, Jefferson and Aaron Burr ran for office. The electoral vote, in marked contrast to the popular vote, resulted in a tie between Jefferson and Burr. The Federalists threatened Jefferson to bargain with them or they would elect Burr. Jefferson, however, stood firm and made no promises, until the Federalists gave up.

As President, Jefferson’s first project was to remove the bias which had recently infected America. His policy of general reconciliation and reform and his success in freeing the victims of the Alien and Sedition laws were generally supported by a favorable Congress (Randall 549). His popularity during his first term was greater than at any time during his career. In this term he was confronted with the most momentous problem of his career. Spain transferred to France its rights to the port of New Orleans, and the stretch of land constituting the province of Louisiana. Louisiana in the strong hands of the French rather than the weak hands of Spain placed an almost overwhelming obstacle in the path of American growth and prosperity.

It was essential that America acquire the Louisiana territory, either through peaceful negotiation or by war. When French dictator Napoleon, suddenly offered to sell for $15,000,000 not only the port of New Orleans but the entire fabulous slice of land from the Mississippi to the Rockies, Jefferson was faced with the problem of taking the offer or wait for a Constitutional amendment authorizing such an act. After tremendous strain, Jefferson authorized the purchase (Smith 266). Thus his first term closed in a blaze of glory when the people, united in their national good fortune, almost unanimously sent Jefferson back for a second term. Busy as he was during these years, Jefferson had found time to follow his favorite intellectual pursuits.

He had not only aided in establishing a National Library, but had made many valuable additions to his own private collection. His second term was full of difficulties. To avoid war, Jefferson promoted the Non-Intercourse Act of 1806 and the Embargo of 1807. The Embargo was heavily criticized and had not been effective. To make matters worse, the domestic front was racked with defections and desertions.

When his term expired on March 3, 1809, he was thrilled to be leaving politics and returning to Monticello (Mclaughlin 376). Jefferson’s daughter Martha said that in retirement her father never abandon a friend or principle. He and John Adams, their earlier political differences reconciled, wrote many letters. Jefferson frequently complained about the time consumed in maintaining his ever increasing correspondence but he could not resist an intellectual challenge or turn down an appeal for his opinion, advice, or help, and continued to discuss with frankness and a brilliant clarity such diverse subjects as anthropology and political theory, religion and zoology (Koch and Peden 40). Jefferson’s major concern during his last years was education and educational philosophy.

He considered knowledge not only a means to an end, but an end in itself. He felt education was the key to virtue as it was to happiness. He reopened his campaign for a system of general education in Virginia. Through his efforts, the University of Virginia, the first American University to be free of official church connection, was established and was Jefferson’s daily concern during his last seven years (Koch and Peden 39). He sent abroad an agent to select the faculty, he chose the books for the library, drew up the curriculum, designed the buildings, and supervised their construction.

The University finally opened in 1825, the winter before his death. Despite his preoccupation with the University, he continued to pursue a multitude of other tasks. In his eightieth year, for example, he wrote on politics, sending President Monroe long expositions later known to the world in Monroe’s version as the Monroe Doctrine (Daugherty 326). Among all his interests, there was one intrusion on his time and thought which caused Jefferson endless embarrassment. His finances, always shaky, finally collapsed.

Jefferson had frequently advanced money to friends who fancied themselves more hard-pressed than he, and occasionally had been forced to make good on their notes when they found it impossible to do so. He had spent money lavishly on his libraries and the arts, on Monticello, and on his children’s education. His passion for architecture cost him a small fortune. At the final stage of his financial distress, Jefferson petitioned the Virginia legislature to grant him permission to dispose of Monticello and its farms by lottery. The almost immediate response of private citizens, in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, on hearing this news was to donate a sum of over $16,000 to aid the leader who had devoted his industry and resourcefulness to all America for half a century (Smith 304).

On July 4, 1826, Jefferson died at Monticello. He was buried on the hillside beside his wife. He had written the script for his headstone himself: Here was buried Thomas Jefferson Author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom and Father of the University of Virginia. On our family vacation last fall to Virginia, my wife and I toured Jefferson’s Monticello home and also viewed his grave site. We both found it very interesting that of all the accomplishments that Jefferson listed on his headstone he apparently did not think it important enough to mention that he had been twice elected and served as president of the United States. Bibliography Bibliography Thomas Jefferson Historical Network ( American Encyclopedia Americana Online Encyclopedia Network, American Presidents, Biographies.