Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy

By Francis D. Cogliano | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter 5
Jefferson's Epitaph


Thomas Jefferson died at Monticello on 4 July 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. In the months before his death, Jefferson prepared for the posthumous struggle over his place in history. As we have seen, he filed and organized his papers, which he left to his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, anticipating their future publication. He also designed his tombstone. He left specific instructions that his grave should be marked by a six-foot obelisk set atop a three foot square cube, of 'coarse stone'. Jefferson composed a simple epitaph that he wanted inscribed on the monument, '& not a word more'. It read:

Here was buried Thomas Jefferson

Author of the Declaration of American Independence

Of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom

& Father of the University of Virginia

Jefferson explained that he had chosen these three actions from his myriad accomplishments 'because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered'. He sketched the monument and wrote out his instructions and folded the paper with a copy of the epitaph he had composed for his wife, Martha, when she had died forty-four years earlier, in 1782. The instructions were discovered among his papers after his death and the tombstone was erected according to Jefferson's wishes.1

Why did Jefferson choose his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, as well as his role in founding the University of Virginia, as the actions for which he most wanted to be remembered? He had, after all, served as a congressman, governor of Virginia, American ambassador to France, secretary of state, vice president and president of the United States as well as president of the American Philosophical Society. By eschewing these


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 276

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?