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    who is considered the principal author of the declaration of independence?

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    Thomas Jefferson

    Thomas Jefferson, a spokesman for democracy, was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809).

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    Thomas Jefferson

    THE 3RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

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    Thomas Jefferson, a spokesman for democracy, was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809).

    In the thick of party conflict in 1800, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a private letter, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

    This powerful advocate of liberty was born in 1743 in Albemarle County, Virginia, inheriting from his father, a planter and surveyor, some 5,000 acres of land, and from his mother, a Randolph, high social standing. He studied at the College of William and Mary, then read law. In 1772 he married Martha Wayles Skelton, a widow, and took her to live in his partly constructed mountaintop home, Monticello.

    Freckled and sandy-haired, rather tall and awkward, Jefferson was eloquent as a correspondent, but he was no public speaker. In the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, he contributed his pen rather than his voice to the patriot cause. As the “silent member” of the Congress, Jefferson, at 33, drafted the Declaration of Independence. In years following he labored to make its words a reality in Virginia. Most notably, he wrote a bill establishing religious freedom, enacted in 1786.

    Jefferson succeeded Benjamin Franklin as minister to France in 1785. His sympathy for the French Revolution led him into conflict with Alexander Hamilton when Jefferson was Secretary of State in President Washington’s Cabinet. He resigned in 1793.

    Sharp political conflict developed, and two separate parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans, began to form. Jefferson gradually assumed leadership of the Republicans, who sympathized with the revolutionary cause in France. Attacking Federalist policies, he opposed a strong centralized Government and championed the rights of states.

    As a reluctant candidate for President in 1796, Jefferson came within three votes of election. Through a flaw in the Constitution, he became Vice President, although an opponent of President Adams. In 1800 the defect caused a more serious problem. Republican electors, attempting to name both a President and a Vice President from their own party, cast a tie vote between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. The House of Representatives settled the tie. Hamilton, disliking both Jefferson and Burr, nevertheless urged Jefferson’s election.

    When Jefferson assumed the Presidency, the crisis in France had passed. He slashed Army and Navy expenditures, cut the budget, eliminated the tax on whiskey so unpopular in the West, yet reduced the national debt by a third. He also sent a naval squadron to fight the Barbary pirates, who were harassing American commerce in the Mediterranean. Further, although the Constitution made no provision for the acquisition of new land, Jefferson suppressed his qualms over constitutionality when he had the opportunity to acquire the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803.

    During Jefferson’s second term, he was increasingly preoccupied with keeping the Nation from involvement in the Napoleonic wars, though both England and France interfered with the neutral rights of American merchantmen. Jefferson’s attempted solution, an embargo upon American shipping, worked badly and was unpopular.

    Jefferson retired to Monticello to ponder such projects as his grand designs for the University of Virginia. A French nobleman observed that he had placed his house and his mind “on an elevated situation, from which he might contemplate the universe.”

    He died on July 4, 1826.

    The Presidential biographies on WhiteHouse.gov are from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Frank Freidel  and Hugh Sidey. Copyright 2006 by the White House Historical Association.

    Learn more about Thomas Jefferson’s spouse, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson.

    Source : www.whitehouse.gov

    Declaration of Independence: Right to Institute New Government

    Drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776 became the defining event in Thomas Jefferson's life. Drawing on documents, such as the Virginia Declaration of Rights, state and local calls for independence, and his own draft of a Virginia constitution, Jefferson wrote a stunning statement of the colonists' right to rebel against the British government and establish their own based on the premise that all men are created equal and have the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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    Thomas Jefferson

    Declaration of Independence: Right to Institute New Government

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    Sections: Monticello | Virginia Republic | Declaration of Independence | Federal Republic | The West | Revolutionary World | Legacy | Jefferson's Library

    Drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776 became the defining event in Thomas Jefferson's life. Despite Jefferson's desire to return to Virginia to help write that state's constitution, the Continental Congress appointed him to the five-person committee for drafting a declaration of independence. That committee subsequently assigned him the task of producing a draft document for its consideration. Drawing on documents, such as the Virginia Declaration of Rights, state and local calls for independence, and his own draft of a Virginia constitution, Jefferson wrote a stunning statement of the colonists' right to rebel against the British government and establish their own based on the premise that all men are created equal and have the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Through the many revisions made by Jefferson, the committee, and then by Congress, Jefferson retained his prominent role in writing the defining document of the American Revolution and, indeed, of the United States. Jefferson was critical of changes to the document, particularly the removal of a long paragraph that attributed responsibility of the slave trade to British King George III. Jefferson was justly proud of his role in writing the Declaration of Independence and skillfully defended his authorship of this hallowed document.

    Influential Precedents

    Instructions to Virginia's Delegates to the first Continental Congress written by Thomas Jefferson in 1774

    Thomas Jefferson, a delegate to the Virginia Convention from Albemarle County, drafted these instructions for the Virginia delegates to the first Continental Congress. Although considered too radical by the Virginia Convention, Jefferson's instructions were published by his friends in Williamsburg. His ideas and smooth, eloquent language contributed to his selection as draftsman of the Declaration of Independence. This manuscript copy contains additional sections and lacks others present in the published version, A Summary View of the Rights of British America.

    Thomas Jefferson. Instructions to Virginia's Delegates, 1774. Manuscript. Manuscript Division (39)

    Bookmark this item: //www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jeffdec.html#039

    Fairfax County Resolves, July 18, 1774

    The Fairfax County Resolves were written by George Mason (1725–1792) and George Washington (1732/33–1799) and adopted by a Fairfax County Convention chaired by Washington and called to protest Britain's harsh measures against Boston. The resolves are a clear statement of constitutional rights considered to be fundamental to Britain's American colonies. The Resolves call for a halt to trade with Great Britain, including an end to the importation of slaves. Jefferson tried unsuccessfully to include in the Declaration of Independence a condemnation of British support of the slave trade.

    George Mason and George Washington. Fairfax County Resolves, 1774. Manuscript. Manuscript Division (40)

    Bookmark this item: //www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jeffdec.html#040

    George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights

    The Virginia Declaration of Rights was drafted by George Mason and Thomas Ludwell Lee (1730–1778) and adopted unanimously in June 1776 during the Virginia Convention in Williamsburg that propelled America to independence. It is one of the documents heavily relied on by Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence. The Virginia Declaration of Rights can be seen as the fountain from which flowed the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The document exhibited here is Mason's first draft to which Thomas Ludwell Lee added several clauses. Even a cursory examination of Mason's and Jefferson's declarations ...

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    George Mason and Thomas Ludwell Lee. Draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776. Manuscript. Manuscript Division (41)

    Bookmark this item: //www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jeffdec.html#041

    Thomas Jefferson's Draft of a Constitution for Virginia, predecessor of The Declaration Of Independence

    Immediately on learning that the Virginia Convention had called for independence on May 15, 1776, Jefferson, a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, wrote at least three drafts of a Virginia constitution. Jefferson's drafts are not only important for their influence on the Virginia government, they are direct predecessors of the Declaration of Independence. Shown here is Jefferson's litany of governmental abuses by King George III as it appeared in his first draft.

    Source : www.loc.gov

    Writing of Declaration of Independence

    On June 11, 1776, Congress selected a "Committee of Five," including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, to draft a declaration of independence.

    Writing of Declaration of Independence

    Author: History.com Editors Updated: Mar 23, 2022 Original: Feb 22, 2010 DNY59/Getty Images

    Contents

    Jefferson’s Early Career

    At the Second Continental Congress

    “We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident…”

    The Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

    A Complicated Legacy

    At the Second Continental Congress during the summer of 1776, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia was charged with drafting a formal statement justifying the 13 North American colonies’ break with Great Britain. A member of a committee of five that also included John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert Livingston of New York and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Jefferson drew up a draft and included Franklin’s and Adams’ corrections. At the time, the Declaration of Independence was regarded as a collective effort of the Continental Congress; Jefferson was not recognized as its principal author until the 1790s.

    Jefferson’s Early Career

    Born into one of the most prominent families in Virginia (on his mother’s side), Jefferson studied at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg and began practicing law in 1767. In 1768, Jefferson stood as a candidate for the Virginia House of Burgesses; he entered the legislature just as opposition was building to the taxation policies of the British government. That same year, Jefferson began building Monticello, his hilltop estate in Albemarle County; he would later greatly expand his holdings in land and slaves through his marriage to Martha Wayles Skelton in 1772.

    Did you know? After leaving Washington, Thomas Jefferson spent the last two decades of his life at Monticello. He died on July 4, 1826—hours before his good friend and former political rival John Adams—on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

    In 1774, Jefferson wrote “A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” in which he claimed that the colonies were tied to the king only by voluntary bonds of loyalty. Published as a political pamphlet without Jefferson’s permission, this document extended Jefferson’s reputation beyond Virginia, and he became known as an eloquent voice for the cause of American independence from Britain. In the spring of 1775, shortly after skirmishes broke out between colonial militiamen and British soldiers at Lexington and Concord, the Virginia legislature sent Jefferson as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

    At the Second Continental Congress

    The 33-year-old Jefferson may have been a shy, awkward public speaker in Congressional debates, but he used his skills as a writer and correspondent to support the patriotic cause. By the late spring of 1776, more and more colonists favored an official and permanent break from Great Britain; in mid-May, eight of the 13 colonies said they would support independence.

    On June 7, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia formally presented a resolution before the Congress, stating that “[T]hese United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” It became known as the Lee Resolution, or the resolution for independence.

    On June 11, Jefferson was appointed to a five-man committee–alongside John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York–that was charged with drafting a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain. Jefferson was the only southerner on the committee, and had arrived in Philadelphia accompanied by three of his many slaves. Still, it was he who was given the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence, which would become the foremost statement of human liberty and equality ever written.

    According to an account Jefferson wrote in 1823, the other members of the committee “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught [sic]. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections…I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.”

    “We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident…”

    The body of Jefferson’s draft contained a list of grievances against the British crown, but it was its preamble to the Constitution that would strike the deepest chords in the minds and hearts of future Americans: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    The Continental Congress reconvened on July 1, and the following day 12 of the 13 colonies adopted Lee’s resolution for independence. The process of consideration and revision of Jefferson’s declaration (including Adams’ and Franklin’s corrections) continued on July 3 and into the late morning of July 4, during which Congress deleted and revised some one-fifth of its text.

    Source : www.history.com

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