Thomas Jefferson: Thoughts on War and Revolution: Annotated Correspondence

Thomas Jefferson: Thoughts on War and Revolution: Annotated Correspondence

Thomas Jefferson: Thoughts on War and Revolution: Annotated Correspondence

Thomas Jefferson: Thoughts on War and Revolution: Annotated Correspondence

Synopsis

While Jefferson is responsible for a voluminous body of literature, this is the first time an editor has focused principally on his comments regarding war and revolution. The format of the selected letters, as Jefferson wrote them, is preserved whenever possible, and they are presented for the interest of a general readership as well as for students of military, diplomatic, or political history. The addressees are identified, particularly those who have been lost to history, and, where indicated, explanatory notes are provided to assist the reader in placing the correspondence in its particular historical, political, or conceptual context; readers are encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions as to the intention of a particular piece of correspondence.

Excerpt

All honor to Jefferson, the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for
national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity
to introduce into a merely revolutionary document an abstract truth, applicable to
all men and all times, and so to embalm it there that today, and in all coming days,
it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing
tyranny and oppression!

—Abraham Lincoln, April 6, 1859

From a historical perspective, it can be argued that Thomas Jefferson continues to capture the collective imagination because, quite simply, the United States continues to echo his ideals. In 1776, as a young lawyer from Virginia, he drafted the Declaration of Independence for the Continental Congress, therein articulating what would emerge as a fundamental, if bold statement of revolutionary principles—that all men are created equal and meant to be free.

Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 in Albemarle County, Virginia, inheriting from his father, a planter and surveyor, some 5,000 acres of land, and from his mother, a Randolph, high social standing. He studied at the College of William and Mary and then read law. In 1772, he married Martha Wayles Skelton, a widow, and took her to live in his partly constructed mountaintop home, Monticello. Freckled and sandy haired, he was rather tall and awkward. And while eloquent as a correspondent, he was certainly no public speaker and in the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, he contributed his pen rather than his voice to the patriot cause. Still, as the “silent member” of the Congress, at 33 Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. Then, in following years, he worked to make its words a real-

1 Malone 1948, 226.

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