In light of the July Fourth Weekend, this is a good time to reflect on the life of a founding father. Thomas Jefferson was a remarkable man who started learning very early in life and never stopped. At age five, he began studying under his cousin’s tutor. At nine, he studied Latin, Greek, and French. At 14, he studied classical literature and additional languages.
At 16, he entered the College of William and Mary. He could write in Greek with one hand while writing the same thing in Latin with the other. At 19, he studied law for five years, starting under George Wythe. At 23, he started his own law practice.
At 25, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses. At 31, he wrote the widely circulated “Summary View of the Rights of British America” and retired from his law practice.
At 32, he was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. The next year, he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Then he took three years to revise Virginia’s legal code and wrote a Public Education bill and a statute for religious freedom.
At 36, he was elected the second Governor of Virginia, succeeding Patrick Henry. Starting at age 40, he served in Congress for two years. At 41, he was the American minister to France, where he negotiated commercial treaties with European nations along with Ben Franklin and John Adams.
At 46, he served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington. At 53, he served as Vice President and was elected president of the American Philosophical Society.
At 55, he drafted the Kentucky Resolution. At 57, he was elected the third president of the United States. At 60, he obtained the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation’s size. At 61, he was elected to a second term as President. At 65, he retired to Monticello.
At 80, he helped President James Monroe shape the Monroe Doctrine. At 81, he almost single-handedly created the University of Virginia and served as its first president. At 83, he died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the same day John Adams died.
John F. Kennedy once hosted a White House dinner for a group of the brightest minds in the nation. He said, “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of the time Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
With that said, consider some of the brilliance of Thomas Jefferson . . .
1. “When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.”
2. “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
3. “It is incumbent upon 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.”
4. “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.”
5. “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
6. “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”
7. “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.”
8. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
9. “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
10. “I believe banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.”
Mr. Jefferson, where are you when we need you most?