Analysis

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 507

In her foreword, Judson details her fascination with Monticello and Jefferson and describes how the “urge to bring his philosophy of government, his ideal of freedom, his faith in man, to young Americans became a driving force” until this book was finished. Jefferson’s ideals and beliefs have become a vital part of American heritage, and thus his life should be worthy of emulation by young adults. Jefferson was a complex figure who was influenced by many things: “Hardy frontiersmen brought out a sturdy boldness; from gentlemen in the palace drawing rooms he had learned social graces and the art of conversation. A deep love of nature gave him an eagerness to know sciences; and a joy in reading, fostered by his father, made long hours of study a satisfaction.”

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Jefferson is depicted as a planner. When not actively involved in a matter, he was corresponding his ideas to those who were. This aspect of his life is evident when Virginia’s laws were examined. As Judson states, “While other men were fighting for freedom, he was looking beyond victory, hoping to have laws ready so that freedom gained by the war could be turned to good use and made safe.”

Jefferson never found anything that he could not accomplish. According to Judson, his advice to Patsy, his daughter, was that we “can always do what we resolve to do.” For example, he resolved to write the Declaration of Independence, to build his home on a little mountain with a big view, and to learn and try new agricultural methods. His advice to Patsy emerges as a major theme of his life.

One of Jefferson’s political beliefs that has proved to be influential was that “he wanted to keep the country from rule by a few.” This theme became evident in his struggles with the elitist Alexander Hamilton when they both served in Washington’s cabinet. He also believed that “men must be sure of bodily safety; they must not be slaves, or be punished cruelly for trifling crimes.” Unfortunately, the antislavery concept was one that he was unable to persuade his contemporaries to adopt. Jefferson also believed that “education must be free. Only educated men could vote wisely.” His fourth belief was that “men must be allowed to worship God, each in his own way. There must be no state church.” The latter view is mentioned on his tombstone, which states that he wrote the “Statute of Virginia for religious freedom.”

While president, Jefferson authorized the Louisiana Purchase, which more than doubled the size of the United States. Upon leaving office, Jefferson recognized the necessity of preserving his papers and correspondence, which he planned to sort and index. Jefferson surrounded himself with books on all subjects. Twice, he had to rebuild his library—once after his mother’s house burned and then in 1814 when he sold his collection to the government when its library was destroyed during the War of 1812. Judson explains how this new government library became the basis of the Library of Congress.

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Critical Context