Jefferson: A great man of his time

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{caption}Don Ellzey{/caption}

{standaloneHead}Jefferson: A great man of his time{/standaloneHead}


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ...”

– Declaration of Independence

These are considered among the greatest words in the English language, and they have had an impact worldwide.

As most school kids know, these words were penned by Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.

Jefferson had a way with words, which is why his colleagues asked him to write the Declaration of Independence. While Jefferson was the main author of the Declaration, the congressional committee of John Adams, Ben Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston played an important role.

Jefferson and the other patriots of his time were truly brave men. Had the revolution failed, they would surely have all been executed as traitors.

Jefferson served as the third president of the United States. Along with writing the Declaration of Independence, he is credited with being the force behind the Louisiana Purchase, which nearly doubled the size of America, abolished the slave trade and founded the University of Virginia.

He was a tall man, about six feet three inches with long, slender limbs and carrot colored hair. He was nicknamed “Long Tom” because of his height.

Jefferson was a fiddle player, having wooed his wife with violin serenades. Although born an aristocrat, he was at heart a common man who rejected the trappings of nobility and dressed in sometimes dirty, tattered clothing.

He suffered from migraine headaches all his life, and bathed his feet in cold water to avoid colds.

He wanted to see America evolve as an agricultural nation, not an industrialized nation.

Although he was a great writer, he was a terrible public speaker and had a stutter. When he had to speak publicly, he frequently mumbled and spoke in an inaudible voice that made it difficult for people to hear him.

He was introverted and thoughtful. He was also well known for keeping any promise.

Like many other great men who were leaders and creators, he was a product of his time, with all the traditions, customs and beliefs, good or bad, that were common to his era.

Thomas Hulbert, founder and creative director of Native Cool Media, says Jefferson’s main negative trait is that because he was a man of his time, we in our time cannot accept this as pure circumstance. We view all his negatives as a conscious decision not to hold the same values that we hold today.

Because there is no evidence that Jefferson was sympathetic to our values, many in today’s society demonize him to justify their own failure to understand history and the time in which he lived.

The Declaration of Independence was unanimously ratified by the 13 states on July 4, 1776.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were alternately close friends and bitter political rivals. As they entered old age, their friendship increased, and they corresponded regularly.

Ironically, they both died on the same day, July 4, 1826, 50 years after the ratification of one of the greatest documents ever produced by man.

As he lay dying, Adams opened his eyes and whispered his last words to those around him, “Thomas Jefferson lives.”

Jefferson had died a few hours earlier.

Don Ellzey gets email at

(1) comment


Thank you for sharing this information on President Jefferson. In particular, I enjoyed your idea that many people today "demonize him to justify their own failure to understand history and the time in which he lived." To fail to recognize his dedication in achieving our freedoms is a sad commentary on education today. Jefferson was indeed a rebel of the time and, through his ability to write, led our country to loosen the shackles of British rule. Modern men and women would do well to acknowledge the value of education and the study of history as a lens through which we can build a future that has learned from previous mistakes while building upon a solid foundation that has weathered over 200 years of constant change.

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