5 Things About Jefferson You Didn’t Know
Thomas Jefferson was probably one of the best of our Founding Fathers. While we know that he was the third President of the United States, the main writer of the Declaration of Independence, and a man of the Enlightenment. However, there is a lot about Thomas Jefferson that we don't know about. He was very secretive in many ways. Here are five bits of trivia, you may not have known about this great man.
Did you think George W. Bush was a terrible speaker? You should have put him up against Jefferson to see who couldn't pronounce "Nuclear". Jefferson's lucky that they didn't have television and YouTube around when he was in office, because he never would have been elected once, let alone twice. If anybody was in need of Toastmasters (an international public speaking group), it was this guy. When he had to speak publicly, he frequently mumbled and spoke in an inaudible voice that made it very difficult for people to hear him. That’s not to say that his speeches were not well written and meaningful. He just wasn’t able to give them in front of crowds. John Adams once said, “During the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together.” His fear of public speaking made him an incredibly private president who tried to avoid the spotlight. For this reason, he started the tradition of sending the State of the Union message to Congress in writing so he would not have to present it. This tradition was followed until 1913 when it was broken by Woodrow Wilson.
The question always comes up whether Jefferson believed in the separation of Church and State or didn't he? Was he religious or was he an atheist? Well, the answer is....YES. He was "sort of" both. Although, Jefferson was raised as an Anglican, he didn't follow the religion in his private life. Jefferson was a very pious man who believed in God and the teachings of Jesus. He even compiled and translated his own version of what Jesus had said. However, he didn't think that Jesus was divine. In fact, he was an opponent of organized religion, all together. He believed that faith was a very personal matter and you didn't need to know his relationship with God and people certainly didn't have the right to tell another on how they should worship. In 1802, he wrote about his beliefs to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
We've heard about all of the things that Thomas Jefferson was into, like being a horticulturist, politician, lawyer, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, and inventor, but did you know that he also loved a good glass of wine and playing violin? Jefferson had one of the largest wine stashes in the United States. His home, Monticello, had an enormous wine cellar that was 17 ½ feet long, 15 feet wide, and 10 feet high - filled to the brim with wine. Jefferson was always ready for a good party. When he wasn't drinking some wine, Jefferson was a very gifted violin player. When he was young, he practiced playing the violin for several hours every afternoon. He also loved to sing and heard singing or humming to himself under his breath.
Despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves for his entire life and had an affair with his slave Sally Hemings (a relationship that resulted in five children), he was against the institution of slavery all together. This is a classic case of "Do as I say, not as I do." When he represented Virginia at that Continental Congress of 1783, he proposed a bill that would outlaw slavery in all new territories acquired by the federal government. Unfortunately for African-Americans for the next 80 years, his proposal was defeated by one vote. In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, he included a stinging rebuke of Great Britain for its sponsorship of the slave trade. This was later dropped at the request of South Carolina and Georgia. In 1807, he signed a bill that abolished the slave trade. It is believed that the reason that Jefferson had slaves was because he was terrible at money management. He was always in debt. He had accumulated his slaves by notes and mortgages, making him unable to free them until he had paid back his debt - something which never happened. However, he did free several of his slaves right before his death.
I am probably going to catch a lot of flack by stating this, but Jefferson didn't really come up with the Declaration of Independence on his own. In fact, he copied most of it and put it into flowery words. By Jefferson's own admission, the Declaration contained no original ideas, but was instead a statement of sentiments widely shared by supporters of the American Revolution. As he explained in 1825:
Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.
Jefferson's most immediate sources, aside from the congressional resolution of May 10 and 15, were two documents written in June 1776: his own draft of the preamble of the Constitution of Virginia, and George Mason's draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Ideas and phrases from both of these documents appear in the Declaration of Independence. They were in turn directly influenced by the 1689 English Declaration of Rights, which formally ended the reign of King James II. The English political theorist John Locke is usually cited as one of the primary influences on the Declaration. The Scottish Declaration of Arbroath (1320) and the Dutch Act of Abjuration (1581) have also been offered as models for Jefferson's Declaration.