Influence of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson's advocacy of independence and liberty as basic human rights informed the establishment and future of the United States. His reasonable yet eloquent writings often influenced the course of events during his own time and frequently relate to the affairs of law and government in the present day.

How Did Thomas Jefferson Influence the American Revolution?

As a writer, Thomas Jefferson clarified the colonists' reasons for rebelling against the British crown. His sharp intellect and innate understanding of the issues at hand informed his draft of the Declaration of Independence, a single voice for a country in turmoil.

Prior to the Declaration, Jefferson's pen likewise influenced events leading up to the Revolutionary War. In 1774, he wrote "The Albemarle Resolves," in which he made the statement that no entity had authority over the people of Virginia and that certain rights were inherent to all people.

This treatise laid the groundwork for Jefferson's next political essay, "A Summary View of the Rights of British America," in which he expanded the Resolves to apply to all of the colonies. His words would have served to further stir the push for independence from intolerable British tyranny.

How Did Thomas Jefferson Influence History?

Besides helping to inspire the colonies to break from Great Britain, Thomas Jefferson's writings laid out other concepts that have survived to the present day. For example, he supported an individual's freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state in his 1774 missive to the state Convention, "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom."

His essays on the evils of slavery certainly seem hypocritical, given that he owned hundreds of slaves, but on a philosophical level, Jefferson made strong arguments for the eventual abolition of slavery in America. From his statement in the Declaration of Independence that all are created equal to calling slavery morally depraved and hideous, Jefferson's words rather than actions provided a philosophical basis for abolition during Abraham Lincoln's era.

While serving as vice president to John Adams, Jefferson wrote "A Manual of Parliamentary Practice," a guide to proper procedures in legislative meetings. The current United States Senate, while not directly following Jefferson's handbook, does follow many of his rules of decorum and order.

As President of the U.S., Jefferson doubled the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase, and commissioned Lewis and Clark's expedition to explore the vast new frontier. This opened the way for new settlements to the west of the colonies.

After his presidency, the founding father turned his energies to the establishment of the University of Virginia, the first non-religious university in the nation that continues to the present day as an icon of education. He also sold much of his large personal library to the government. This acquisition formed the foundation of the Library of Congress.

How Did Thomas Jefferson Influence the Bill of Rights?

When the Constitutional Congress debated and finally approved the U.S. Constitution, Thomas Jefferson was serving in Paris as ambassador to France. However, he kept up a correspondence with his friend and colleague James Madison, who attended the Congress. Jefferson had strong opinions about how the new government should be ordered, and upon his return stateside, pushed for a Bill of Rights.

The founding father believed above all in a strong government that protected its people from harm, but also that government should not be too controlling, because liberty was non-negotiable. His was the strongest voice in the argument that a Bill of Rights was essential to protecting individual freedoms. Among these, Jefferson counted freedom of speech, the right to assemble and freedom of religion.

Jefferson's ally, James Madison, drafted the Bill of Rights and Congress approved its addition to the constitution at the end of 1791. Today, this document directs Supreme Court decisions and provides Americans with a fundamental guide to citizenship.

What Was Jefferson's Influence on Science and the Arts?

Jefferson's architectural designs had a particularly strong influence on future architecture. His work reflected the importance of classical symmetry and order. He designed the Virginia State Capitol building, his own homes at Monticello and Poplar Forest, and the University of Virginia campus. Jeffersonian architecture is marked by neo-Classical influence, French design elements, the use of octagonal forms, and portico and piedmont entryways.

As a botanist at Monticello, Jefferson experimented with propagation in his greenhouse as well as designing formal gardens containing native and imported plants. One result of this interest was his invention of a plow for hillside cultivation.

Who Did Thomas Jefferson Influence?

Jefferson not only influenced prominent politicians around him during his lifetime but also others down through the ages who would use his political and ethical ideals as guidelines for governance. Jefferson's influence continues to be significant in almost every aspect of public and private life.