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One of My Most Admired People in History

I read Thomas Jefferson’s biography when I was only 9 years old. And I’ve been inspired by his life ever since.

I’ve visited his beloved Monticello in Virginia twice. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it.

He was remarkable man who started learning very early in life and never stopped.

  • At 5, began studying under his cousin’s tutor.
  • At 9, studied Latin, Greek and French.
  • At 14, studied classical literature and additional languages.
  • At 16, entered the College of William and Mary.
  • At 19, studied Law for 5 years starting under George Wythe.
  • At 23, started his own law practice.
  • At 25, was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses.
  • At 31, wrote the widely circulated “Summary View of the Rights of British America”.
  • At 32, was a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress.
  • At 33, wrote the Declaration of Independence.
  • At 33, took three years to revise Virginia’s legal code and wrote a Public Education bill and a statute for Religious Freedom.
  • At 36, was elected the second Governor of Virginia succeeding Patrick Henry.
  • At 40, served in Congress for two years.
  • At 41, was the American minister to France and negotiated commercial treaties.
  • At 46, served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington.
  • At 53, served as Vice President and was elected president of the American Philosophical Society.
  • At 55, drafted the Kentucky Resolutions and became the active head of Republican Party.
  • At 57, was elected the third president of the United States.
  • At 60, obtained the Louisiana Purchase doubling the nation’s size.
  • At 61, was elected to a second term as President.
  • At 65, retired to Monticello.
  • At 80, helped President Monroe shape the Monroe Doctrine.
  • At 81, almost single-handedly created the University of Virginia and served as its first president.
  • At 83, died on the 50th anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence along with John Adams

Thomas Jefferson knew because he himself studied the previous failed attempts at government. He understood actual history, the nature of God, his laws and the nature of man. That happens to be way more than what most understand today. Jefferson really knew his stuff.

John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the white House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time. He made this statement: “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Here are some of Jefferson’s more notable quotes:

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.  A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property—until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

Just some of the reasons Jefferson has had my admiration for so many years.

  1. December 19th, 2010 at 18:42 | #1

    Michael:

    It was great to read your piece on Thomas Jefferson, and your listing of some of the noteworthy accomplishments of his life. He was truly a quiet genius, one of the best-read men of his day. To this day, he remains one of the pre-eminent Renaissance men of the past 300 years.

    He was a man of incredibly wide-ranging interests and, like a lot of great people, also a man of many contradictions. He was against the emergence of political factions, yet he became the first leader of the Democratic-Republican party which, back then, was the party of the common man. He stood for political and personal integrity, yet he participated in what some historians regard as one of our dirtiest presidential campaigns in history, with his partisans making crude personal attacks on John Adams, who had previously been — and would later again be — a personal friend of Jefferson. He was for limited national debt and limited powers of the presidency … yet, as President, he wisely jumped at the chance to acquire the huge Louisiana Territory from Napoleon and seek Congressional authorization after the fact — even though it meant a whopping increase in the indebtedness of the U.S.

    It’s been over 25 years since I visited Jefferson’s Monticello myself, but to go there is to be inspired by Jefferson’s brilliance — not only to learn about many of his well-known accomplishments in the world of statecraft, politics and diplomacy, but to appreciate the amazing breadth of his interests. He routinely came up with mechanical inventions to make life at Monticello easier. He was an accomplished horseman, and continued to ride around his estate until shortly before his death at 83. He was a farmer, an astronomer, a lawyer, a musician, a scientist, a linguist, a student of history, an educator, a geographer, a prodigious political philosopher… the list goes on.

    I recently read a bio on Jefferson. It’s not necessarily the most authoritative or best-written bio, but it’s well done, a worthy read and, as a bonus, has half the volume dedicated purely to the direct writings of Jefferson. I did a brief writeup awhile back on it on my LinkedIn profile (http://www.linkedin.com/in/danruchman) which if I recall, for anyone interested, also may contain a link back to more info on the book at Amazon.com. (No, this is NOT a plug for the book or for Amazon.com, just a statement about an interesting book!).

    Jefferson was, in a word, amazing. There are few people in history who left, as their legacy, not a body of work or a host of brilliant discoveries or inventions but, rather, the philosophical and practical underpinnings for an enduring nation — the only nation ever conceived and formed not around a person, but around an idea. May we continue to honor that legacy.

    Best regards,

    Dan Ruchman

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