Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States, the first Secretary of State, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, as well as the founder of the University of Virginia. Serving the United States for over five decades, Thomas Jefferson was consistently opposing slavery as he believed every person had the right to personal liberty. From the inception of his political career, Jefferson began proposing legislation that would protect Africans from being imported to the US and gradually emancipating slaves. Married once to 22 year old Martha Wayles Skelton on New Year’s Day in 1772, there is much controversy to this day surrounding Jefferson’s love life.
Martha Wayles Skelton had already been married and widowed prior to courtship with Jefferson and was described as having a slender build, auburn hair and hazel eyes. Living in Monticello, the couple had 5 children in 10 years though only 2 of the children lived to be adults. The strain of so many pregnancy’s in such a short amount of time caused weakness leading to the passing of Martha in September of 1781. Although the ten years of marriage are said to be the best of Jefferson’s life, there is little documentation of this time of the President’s life because of the Monticello raid.
Sally Hemings was a slave at Jefferson’s residence of Monticello who had at least 6 children that are claimed to be fathered by the President. There are no known images or written accounts of Hemings, though her children were light skinned and strongly resembled Jefferson. In 1802 James T. Callender, a political journalist stated that Jefferson had kept a slave concubine named Sally. Neither Jefferson nor Hemings ever commented on the claims, though newspapers ran the story widely throughout the country during the President’s remaining term life. Though Jefferson’s children deny the claims to this day, two of Hemings children were told otherwise from their mother, leading to generations of controversy. The general consensus at this time though is that Hemings did in fact have all her children with Jefferson following his wife’s passing.
Jefferson passed away on the fourth of July 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence with a not too favorable reputation. Critics had attacked his personal life, his contribution as the declaration author and his moral standing. As a strong voice against slavery, opposition found his owning of slaves to be hypocritical and frustrating. Fortunately through his own autobiography, written shortly before his death, time and close friends protecting his name, the Jefferson legacy became and has remained much more favorable.
President Jefferson is the perfect example that time heals all. Less than 100 years following his death, monuments and preservation began to continue the Jefferson legacy. These include the restoration of Monticello and the Jefferson memorial in the nation’s capital of Washington, DC. Jefferson’s face is featured on the rare 2 dollar bill and on Mount Rushmore.
Thomas Jefferson's papers and biographies continue to impress historians and politically minded people to this day for his forward thinking and intelligent concepts.
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