Thomas Jefferson

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THOMAS JEFFERSON

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3d PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. As the author of the Declaration of Independence and

the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, he is probably the most conspicuous champion of political and spiritual freedom in his country's

history. He voiced the aspirations of the new nation in matchless phrase, and one may doubt if any other American has been so often

quoted. As a public official--legislator, diplomat, and executive--he served the province and commonwealth of Virginia and the young

American republic almost 40 years.

While his services as a Revolutionary patriot have beenhonored by his countrymen with only slight dissent, his later and more controversial

political activities have been variously interpreted. Believing that the government was not being conducted in the spirit of 1776, he turned

against the administration in WASHINGTON's second term and remained in opposition during the presidency of John ADAMS.

Jefferson, who was president from 1801 to 1809, was the acknowledged head of his political party, and his election to the highest office

has been interpreted as a vindication of the right of political opposition. His ELECTION checked in the United States the tide of political

reaction that was sweeping the Western world, and it furthered the development of political democracy. Throughout his life he sought to

do that, though the term he generally used was republicanism.

Opinions differ about his conduct of foreign affairs as president. He acquired the vast province of Louisiana and maintained neutrality in a

world of war, but his policies failed to safeguard neutral rights at sea and imposed hardships at home. As a result, his administration

reached its nadir as it ended. Until his last year as president he exercised leadership over his party that was to be matched by no other

19th century president, and he enjoyed remarkable popularity. He was rightly hailed as the "Man of the People," because he sought to

conduct the government in the popular interest, rather than in the interest of any privileged group, and, insofar as possible, in accordance

with the people's will.

He was a tall and vigorous man, not particularly impressive in person but amiable, once his original stiffness wore off. He was habitually

tactful and notably respectful of the opinions and personalities of others, though he had slight tolerance of those he believed unfaithful to

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