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Happy birthday, Tom

By Staff | Apr 13, 2011

On this date in 1743, one of America’s greatest presidents – Thomas Jefferson – was born.

Ironically, Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, died July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years to the day after the document was signed.

Jefferson was also responsible for the greatest single territorial expansion in U.S. history. While many consider the War of 1812 as a draw, with the British leaving only because they had tired of fighting, the outcome could have been far different if the United States had not secured the massive territory in the Louisiana Purchase. It was Jefferson, of course, who sent Lewis and Clark on one of America’s greatest missions to explore the northwestern part of America and even beyond into British territory which the U.S. ultimately claimed as its own.

Jefferson also founded the University of Virginia which opened in 1825, the year before his death.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Jefferson’s life was his relationship with Sally Hemingson with whom he had six children after he was widowed. It’s important to put the relationship into perspective, though.

Jefferson freed all the Hemings children and after his death his daughter, Martha Randolph, gave Hemings her freedom as well. We can only ponder what sort or relationship Jefferson would have had with Hemings had he been president today.

Another policy of Jefferson’s – acceptable in his day but despised today was forced removal of America’s native population.

Then Jefferson was a product of his times. He could in all honesty author the Declaration of Independence which gave freedom to only part – but not all – of the people living in America.

Like his relationship with Sally Hemingson, we can only envision what Jefferson would have authored in the Declaration had he written it today:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity or creed, 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.”