AMERICAN POLITICAL TRADITIONS - CHAPTER 2

AMERICAN POLITICAL TRADITIONS - CHAPTER 2 - /(I) EARLY LIFE...

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//(I) EARLY LIFE Jefferson was born into an eminent place in Virginia's aristocracy. Peter Jefferson was a self-made man, but Jane Randolph, his mother, came from the distinguished Virginia family. Peter Jefferson died in 1757, leaving Tom with over 2700 acres and from 100-200 slaves. Jefferson was a benevolent slave master. Charles M. Wiltse: "He remains always aloof from the masses, and if he claims equality for all men, it is not because he feels that men are equal, but because he reasons that they must be so." Jefferson seemed to have a gentle condescension towards the people. //EDUCATION Educated at the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg. After graduation he fell into the expected pattern of the Virginia gentry, among whom political leadership was practically a social obligation. At 24 he was admitted to the bar, at 26 elected to a seat in the House of Burgesses, which he held for 6 years. At 29, he married a young widow and settled at Monticello. His marriage brought him lots of land but also a debt of 4000 pounds. He developed anti-British sentiment from his dealings with the creditors. //EARLY ACCOMPISHMENTS In 1774 he wrote a bold tract applying the national-rights doctrine to the colonial controversy, which won immediate attention throughout the colonies. Under his leadership the Virginia reformers abolished primogeniture and entail and laid the base for freedom of thought and religion by disestablishing the Anglican Church and forbidding legal and political disabilities for religious dissent. They also attempted, not so successfully, to found a good common-school system. While this reform was considerable, many historians have exaggerated it. The truth is that, with the exception of the bill for religious freedom, the old institutions fell without effortlessly. Primogeniture did not really exist in Virginia and only applied when the landowner died without leaving a will. Entail was actually a nuisance to the aristocracy because it interfered with the sale of estates. During the years before 1776 many petitions came into the Virginia legislature from leading families asking that their lands be exempted from entail. As a member of a committee to revise the legal code, Jefferson did draft a law for gradual emancipation but never introduced it. He explained that the public would not agree with it. //RISE TO FAME After an unhappy experience as war Governor of Virginia, Jefferson, 38, was driven by the death of his wife back into active service for Congress. From 1785 to 1789 he was American Minister to France. While his friends at home were watching the failure of the Articles, he was touring Europe and observing feudal remnants and the exploitation of workers. //FRENCH REVOLUTION
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This note was uploaded on 08/31/2010 for the course AMER HIST 45213 taught by Professor Platt during the Spring '10 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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AMERICAN POLITICAL TRADITIONS - CHAPTER 2 - /(I) EARLY LIFE...

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