Jefferson, War and Peace, 1776 to 1784

Jefferson, War and Peace, 1776 to 1784

Jefferson, War and Peace, 1776 to 1784

Jefferson, War and Peace, 1776 to 1784

Excerpt

THE ADOPTION of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, represents a milestone in the career of Thomas Jefferson in more ways than one. It marked not only the culmination of his increasing efforts on behalf of the colonies from the tyranny of British rule, but it gave him liberty, at last, to turn his attention to the problems facing his own Virginia and enabled him to devote the powers of his exceptional mind to their solution. That rare phenomenon, a prophet in his own country, he was destined to lead his people out of the morass of surviving feudalism in which the late eighteenth century still found them floundering. For the next five years, indeed almost until the moment he sailed for France as Minister Plenipotentiary, the best of his energies were to be dedicated to the service of his state and to the enlightenment of his compatriots.

During this brief period he swept away the lingering inheritance of centuries of darkness. Through "the generous energy" of his mind, he bestowed upon Virginia, and through her upon all the United States of America, an ideal of freedom such as man had hitherto not dreamed of. His revisal of the laws of Virginia anticipated all that we like to think America stands for, and which we, in turn, seek to confer upon those countries of the world which, rightly or wrongly, we consider benighted. Firm in the belief that "Almighty God hath created the mind free and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint," he laid a foundation "for a government truly republican." By his statute for religious freedom he freed his country from the bonds of an abyssmal bigotry, by abolishing entail and primogeniture he eradicated "every fibre of ancient or future aristocracy," by his revision of . . .

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