Useful Notes / Thomas Jefferson

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The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.note 

"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing."
Thomas Jefferson

"Thomas Jefferson survives."
John Adams’ last words, July 4, 1826note 

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 ‒ July 4, 1826) was a Founding Father and the third [[President of the United States (1801‒09), immediately succeeding John Adams and preceding James Madison. He is best known for being the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776. The first President from the Democratic-Republican Party, Jefferson previously had a prominent career in politics, serving as George Washington's Secretary of State and John Adams' Vice President. A highly intelligent man skilled in several subjects, his other areas of expertise included theology, architecture, and earth sciences.

For a long time, Jefferson was invoked as the intellectual visionary of the Revolution, the author of the Declaration, the critic of Christianity and upholder of the separation of Church and State. In the course of the latter half of the twentieth century, Jefferson's opinions on racism and slavery have coloured how most people have viewed him, and greatly inform subsequent fictional portrayals to this effect. These days, Jefferson is sometimes seen as the emblem of American hypocrisy, claiming that "All Men Are Created Equal" while possessing hundreds of slaves. This is seen as doubly hypocritical in the light of the validation of the long-denied rumor of his affair with Sally Hemings via a DNA test, accepted by a sizable consensus of American historians (and Jefferson's descendant, journalist Lucan Truscott IV) with a dissenting minority. Sally Hemings was a half-sister of his late wife, the daughter of a black slave and a Virginia landholder. Jefferson began a relationship with Sally and fathered several children with her, all of whom were themselves slaves and who were the only ones to receive manumission on Jefferson's death. Recent portrayals invoke his relationship with Sally more than they do his actual accomplishments.

In spite of such criticisms, Thomas Jefferson is one of the most important men in American history, whose legacy endures even today for a variety of reasons. He did make major antislavery moves like abolishing the slave trade in America, which was done at the same time as England's abolition and the enforcement of the West Africa Squadron. This ended the international slave trade from Africa, but internal slavery within America continued until Abraham Lincoln abolished it. Jefferson also oversaw the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory into the United States and doubled America's territory overnight, though historians today give credit to the Haitian Revolution (which Jefferson supported covertly but opposed in public) for halting Napoleon Bonaparte's plan to retake old French territories, forcing him to cut his losses instead.

As a politician, he promoted democracy for the common man. Jefferson was highly skeptical of contemporary aristocrats and corporations, and he criticized the rule of the wealthiest classes and plutocracy numerous times, even often including slavery as a great sin of the upper classes. He also supported the social goals of the The French Revolution, in contrast to his rival Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson's criticism of Christianity and promotion of Deism made him a consistent voice for the separation of Church and State among Americans, and indeed he would be denounced by contemporaries like Hamilton for this, but also cited by later religious freedom advocates like Christopher Hitchens as a role model. His writings are still of great value, and today defenders see his personal failings as evidence of a personality who was far more complex than previously believed; whose failure to fully achieve his radical goals and sentiments makes him representative of the ambiguous achievements of The American Revolution. He was also responsible for founding the University of Virginia, which later became Edgar Allan Poe's alma mater and is invoked sometimes as a polymath.

It is without question though that Jefferson was one of the most influential figures in American history. He created the political party which would later become today's Democratic Party, and his writings were very important to numerous later American political figures like Abraham Lincoln.

Appears in the following works:

  • Played by Ken Howard in 1776 and Independence.
    • Jefferson was also one of the several presidents Howard played in the musical flop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • In HBO's miniseries about John Adams, he's played by Stephen Dillane.
  • In the Merchant-Ivory film Jefferson in Paris, Jefferson is played by Nick Nolte, with Thandie Newton as Sally Hemings and Gwyneth Paltrow as Patsy Jefferson.
  • Briefly mentioned in the 90's Batman storyline "Dark Knight, Dark City", where he turns out to have been a demon-summoning cultist before becoming a politician.
  • Voiced by Ben Stiller(!) on the PBS show Liberty's Kids.
  • In an episode of 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan discovers that he is a descendant of Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Tracy then has a Dream Sequence in which Jefferson is played by Alec Baldwin.
    • Inspired by this, Tracy tries to self-finance a movie about Jefferson with him playing all the roles.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington", Lisa goes to the Lincoln Memorial for inspiration, but it's too crowded, so she goes to the Jefferson Memorial. Jefferson takes offense:
    Jefferson: No one ever comes to see me. I don't blame them. I never did anything important. Just the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, the dumbwaiter… No, don't go! I'm so lonely…
  • An extremely negative portrayal of Jefferson as a hypocrite who trampled on the democratic principles he advocated appears in Gore Vidal's Burr. Since the book is from Burr's perspective (confirmed by Word of God to be an Unreliable Narrator), it also provides a very different portrayal of him than most Americans are familiar with.
  • Sort-of example: The Jefferson Memorial is the site of Project Purity in Fallout 3. After activating it, the muddy, irradiated water clears to show his statue standing proudly.
  • The film Almost Heroes is set in his administration. The protagonists meet Aaron Burr at a party.
  • In the Married... with Children episode "Here's Looking at You, Kid", Bud is supposed to help Kelly study history; instead, he tells her that Jefferson's wife was black, he was "a real Renaissance man […] an architect and a dry-cleaner" and he wrote "Movin' on Up" (the Theme Song for The Jeffersons).
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja briefly depicts Jefferson as a time-traveler. With a jetpack.
  • Jefferson's early death in 1809 is the Point of Divergence for the Alternate History Decades of Darkness.
  • In an episode of Family Ties while working on a term paper about Thomas Jefferson, Alex falls asleep and dreams of being at the Continental Congress in 1776 where Thomas Jefferson looks like Alex's dad Steven. Alex gets a job as Jefferson's house boy and ends up helping him decide to write the Declaration of Independence.
  • Jefferson appears in More Information Than You Require, where his cosmopolitan interests (specifically, his friendship with the mole-men) prove instrumental in the development of American democracy. The book also features an extremely alternate universe version of Sally Hemings.
  • A Cahill from the Janus Branch of The 39 Clues.
  • His invention of the swivel chair gives us one of the most priceless and hilarious scenes from Series 1 of Downton Abbey:
    Lady Grantham: Good heavens, what am I sitting on!?
    Matthew Crawley: Er … swivel … chair.
    Lady Grantham: Another modern brainwave?
    Matthew Crawley: Hardly. They were invented by Thomas Jefferson.
    Lady Grantham: Why does every day involve a fight with an American?
    • This takes place in 1913.
  • Jefferson appears as the leader of La Résistance in the Alternate History Tyranny of King Washington DLC for Assassin's Creed III.
  • He inexplicably shows up as a Big Bad in Mountain Time.
  • Jefferson is one of the main antagonists in Hamilton. He's played by Daveed Diggs.

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