Thomas Jefferson was a man that changed the country we live in and love, by leading this great nation of the United States through some of its hardest times in history. He took risks and challenged the way the government was previously run by George Washington and John Adams, the first two great Presidents of this country. In the year of 1776, Jefferson wrote both the constitution for Virginia and the Declaration of Independence, which eventually became one of his most famous works. Jefferson served in many critical political positions throughout his life. Beginning with the governor, then moving to Congress, then finally reaching the highest office in the land, the President of the United States of America. While most Americans view Thomas Jefferson as an honorable and outstanding man because of his work as a Founding Father, Jefferson was surrounded by many mysteries within his personal life. He was accused of having fathered a child with Sally Heming, one of his slaves. This accusation resulted in a great deal of controversy encompassing him throughout most of his life.
The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson is not your typical autobiography. I say this because unlike most autobiography authors, Jefferson does not tell the story of his life in his book. Thomas Jefferson started writing the autobiography when he was seventy-seven years old as he states in the opening paragraph with “At the age of 77, I begin to make some memoranda and state some recollections of dates & facts concerning myself, for my own more ready reference & for the information of my family” (Jefferson 1). Throughout the autobiography, Jefferson discusses in little detail his specific role in each of the political movements in which he was involved. Jefferson starts his autobiography out by giving a very brief description of his childhood. He then moves into his adulthood and tells about how he married, Martha Skelton. Jefferson then proceeds straight into describing how The Declaration of Independence came to be. He begins by writing about the meeting of the congressmen, then moves into discussing the many repeals and votes, and then ends the chapter with the signing of the document on July 4th, 1776.
The autobiography then continues by discussing the Articles of Confederation. It is where we first are exposed to the topic of slavery and white inhabitants. It is also where we start to see the thoughts of the congressmen when it comes to the subject of slaves in the colony and how they should be accounted for when it comes to votes in the colony’s election process. The colony leaders describe the slaves as being property and compare them to livestock like cattle, horses, and sheep. They even state“…that negroes should not be considered as members of the state more than cattle & that they have no more interest in it” (Jefferson 26). This one quote helps to summarize how the members of the colony had no care for the slaves that they possessed; they just used the slaves for free labor to try and better their own lives.
Thomas Jefferson is most famously known to have been the third President of the United States of America and for writing the Declaration of Independence. Although Jefferson did more for America than most people know, he also did things that many people question. Jefferson always had controversy surrounding him and his slaves. So, was it possible that Jefferson was a hypocrite about slavery, and only wrote what the population wanted to hear to try and convince them that he was the great leader that everybody thought? Jefferson should not be viewed as a hypocrite because even though he did own slaves, he inherited them from his father and needed the labor to live the life that he wanted. Jefferson wanted to make significant changes in the country, but he knew if he did he wouldn’t have been able to gain many followers. Maybe, if Jefferson would have made his serious changes, he could have changed history as we know it today. There might not have ever been a Civil War, or the Civil Rights Movement if Jefferson would have been able to free all slaves in America at the time.
Fowler, Robert Booth. “Mythologies of a Founder.” Thomas Jefferson and the Politics of Nature. Ed. Thomas S. Engeman, University of Notre Dame Press, 2000. 123-141. Rpt. In Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Ed. Jessica Menzo and Russel Whitaker. Vol. 103. Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.
“Jefferson and his Slaves.” The Wilson Quarterly 28.1(2004): 96. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.
Jefferson, Thomas. Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2005. Print.
“Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.” Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: A Brief Account Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.