Born Apr. 13, 1743, in Albemarle County, Va.; died July 4, 1826, at Monticello. American statesman and public figure.
On his mother’s side Jefferson was descended from a family of rich Virginia landowners. He received a broad education. From 1769 to 1774 he was a deputy to the Virginia legislature. He helped organize a revolutionary group in Virginia—the Committee of Correspondence, which was modeled after similar committees in other colonies. In 1775, Jefferson was elected a deputy to the Continental Congress, which had decided on the separation of the North American colonies from Great Britain. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence, which Congress accepted during the War for Independence in North America (1775-83). Jefferson intended to extend the rights enunciated in the declaration to Negro slaves, but the slaveowners were opposed. He played an active role in the democratization of the social structure of Virginia.
As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates between 1776 and 1779, Jefferson took part in a review of extant legislation. The feudal order in landownership—primogeniture, semifeudal rent, and prohibition of the sale of lots of land—was abolished. He was the author of the Statute on Religious Freedom, and he worked hard for its adoption, influencing the constitutions of other states and the constitutional provision for the separation of church and state in the USA. In 1784, Jefferson urged Congress to nationalize the lands of the West and prohibit slavery in all newly admitted states. However, the latter suggestion was accepted only in connection with the Northwest Territory. From 1779 to 1781,Jefferson was governor of Virginia, from 1785 to 1789, US minister in Paris, and from 1790 to 1793, secretary of state in G. Washington’s first administration. He welcomed the Great French Revolution, but he considered it expedient for the USA not to participate in the military struggles in Europe.
Jefferson was an outstanding representative of the left revolutionary wing of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Expressing the interests of farmers and the petite bourgeoisie, he criticized the American Revolution for its incompleteness and pointed to the necessity for a democratic solution of the agrarian question, the abolition of slavery, and the granting of political rights to all the people. He considered the Constitution of 1787 insufficiently democratic and argued that it required a supplementary bill of rights. Jefferson carried on a long polemic with the leader of the Federalist Party, A. Hamilton, who represented the interests of the powerful bourgeoisie of the Northeast. Jefferson considered private property a natural right of man and saw in it the basis of the harmony of interests of society, influenced by the Physiocrats, he exaggerated the role of agriculture, considering it the main source of social wealth. Later, he recognized the necessity for the development of American industry and supported a strict equilibrium between agriculture, industry, trade, and banks. He advocated a democratic solution of the agrarian question.
Jefferson’s disagreement with the policies of Washington’s administration forced him to retire from office. He led the opposition Democratic-Republicans, and his democratic slogans were supported by the people. In 1796, Jefferson was elected vice-president, and from 1801 to 1809 he was president of the USA. As president, Jefferson pursued a moderate policy of compromise among the various strata of society. During his presidency many reactionary laws that had been adopted during the presidency of his predecessor, J. Adams, were abolished, and the army, navy, and government bureaucracy were reduced. In foreign affairs, Jefferson’s presidency was distinguished by the acquisition of French Louisiana in 1803 and the establishment of diplomatic relations with Russia in 1808-09. In 1807 he declared an embargo that prohibited the export of all goods from the USA, in the hope that this would cause difficulties for Great Britain and France, which had been seizing American merchant vessels. However, the embargo hurt primarily the economy of the USA, and it was lifted in 1809.
After he left the presidency, Jefferson retired from political life. Progressive forces in the USA draw on the best Jeffersonian traditions in the struggle for peace and democracy.
Papers, vols. 1-17. Edited by J. P. Boyd. Princeton, N.J., 1950-65. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vols. 1-20. Washington, D. C., 1903-04.
Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 16, p. 17.
Foster, W. Ocherk politicheskoi istorii Ameriki, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1955. (Translated from English.)
Efimov, A. V. Ocherki istorii SShA, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1958.
Ocherki novoi i noveishei istorii SShA, vol. 1. Moscow, 1960.
Zakharova, M. N. “O genezise idei T. Dzheffersona.” Voprosi istorii, 1948, no. 3.
Al’ter, L. B. Burzhuaznaia politicheskaia ekonomiia SShA. Moscow, 1971. Pages 64-70.
Parrington, V. Osnovnye techeniia amerikanskoi mysli, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English.)
Kimball, M. Jefferson. [Series 1-3.] New York [1943-50].
Cunningham, N. E. Jeffersonian Republicans.… Oxford, 1958.
Peterson, M. D. The Jefferson Image in the American Mind. New York, 1960.
Malone, V.Jefferson and His Time, vols. 1-3. Boston, 1948-62.
A. A. FURSENKO