“Question with boldness.”
“Hold to the truth.”
“Speak without fear.”
These profound words — all spoken or written by Thomas Jefferson, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers — are needed now more than ever at this critical time in our nation. In recognition of Jefferson’s birthday, April 13th, 1743, let’s take a closer look at this remarkable man who did more than most to cement our liberties into law.
Jefferson spoke eight languages and could write in 11. He was a voracious reader who owned an extensive library of books, and was an esteemed philosopher, architect, naturalist, statesman, musician, gourmet and more.
At the age of 33, Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, whose impact transformed the world. The Declaration became not only the first of America’s founding documents, but blazed a path for the rest of the world to recognize and declare such immutable principles as “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
At age 57, Jefferson was elected the third President of the United States, and prior to that he served as the second Vice President of the U.S. (under John Adams) and was the first Secretary of State appointed by George Washington.
Jefferson was an ardent abolitionist who introduced the very first anti-slavery law in the U.S. to the Continental Congress. Unfortunately, it failed by just one vote. Undeterred, Jefferson then proposed a plan of gradual emancipation to the Virginia State Legislature. Jefferson, who inherited his slaves at the age of 14, longed to free them. However, Virginia law prohibited this. In lieu of this, Jefferson paid his slaves for their work from his personal funds to the point of putting himself into debt. This led him to sell his entire library of books to Congress to pay his creditors.
In a mysterious coincidence — or perhaps divine timing — Jefferson at age 83, and his fellow Founding Father and friend John Adams at 90, took their final breaths of life within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, the day which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It was an amazingly poetic end to two of the most important lives in American history.