"We hold these truths to beself-evident:
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain inalienable rights,
among these are life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness."
- Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson -political philosopher, architect, musician,book collector,scientist, horticulturist, diplomat, inventor, and third Presidentof the United States—looms large in any discussion of whatAmericans are as a people. Jefferson left to the future not onlyideas but also a great body of practical achievements. PresidentJohn F. Kennedy recognized Jefferson's accomplishments when he tolda gathering of American Nobel Prize winners that they were thegreatest assemblage of talent in the White House since Jeffersonhad dined there alone. With his strong beliefs in the rights of manand a government derived from the people, in freedom of religionand the separation between church and state, and in educationavailable to all, Thomas Jefferson struck a chord for human liberty200 years ago that resounds through the decades. But in the end,Jefferson‘s own appraisal of his life, and the one that he wrotefor use on his own tombstone, suffices:
"Authorof the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute ofVirginia
for religious freedom, and Father of the University ofVirginia.“
ThomasJefferson: A Chronology
"1743 (April 13)Born at Shadwell. Albemarle County, Va.
"1769-75 Member of Virginia House of Burgesses: very early apart of an increasingly anti-British faction; helped set upVirginia Committee of Correspondence
"1775-76 Attended Continental Congress: chosen to be oncommittee to write the Declaration of Independence and became itsprincipal author
"1776-79 Member of Virginia House of Delegates: involved inrewriting state legal code to reflect republican principlesconcerning landholding, inheritance, and criminal law: draftedVirginia statute for religious freedom with the help of JamesMadison
"1779-81 Governor of Virginia
"1784-89 Ambassador to France; studies of architecture andRoman ruins led him to introduce the classical style in the UnitedStates, of which the Virginia State Capitol, the University ofVirginia, and Monticello, his home, are notable examples.
"1789-93 Secretary of State under President GeorgeWashington; bargained with Alexander Hamilton to locate the FederalCity on the Potomac River
"1797-1801 Vice President under President John Adams;supported states rights: opposed Alien and Sedition Acts asunwarranted infringement of individual liberties and of freedom ofspeech
"1801-09 President; negotiated the Louisiana Purchase thatdoubled the size of the United States; sponsored Lewis and ClarkExpedition to the mouth of the Columbia River; strove to maintainpeace and not be drawn into the war between Great Britain andFrance
"1809-26 Lived at Monticello; drew up plans, supervisedconstruction, and outlined curriculum of the University ofVirginia; corresponded extensively with JohnAdams
"1826 Died on 50th anniversary of the signing of theDeclaration of Independence, July 4, a few hours before JohnAdams
Building the Memorial
Jefferson‘simportance as one of the great figures in the Nation's historydemanded a memorial site of prominence in the Capital City equal tothat occupied by the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.Placing the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin, directly southof the White House Visiting the Memorial achieved this, for thesemonuments, the White House, and the Capitolcompleted the east-west axis and its complementary north-southalignment, creating a monumental heart for the city. In thepreparation of the plans for the memorial, the architect, JohnRussell Pope, was clearly influenced by Jefferson's taste asexpressed in his writings and demonstrated by his works. Thecircular colonnaded structure is an adaptation of the classicalstyle that Jefferson introduced into his country. Rudulph Evans wassculptor of the bronze statue of Jefferson in the center of thememorial. The memorial was dedicated in 1943 on the 200thanniversary of Jefferson's birth, four years after PresidentFranklin Roosevelt laid the cornerstone. The memorial appears atits most beautiful in early spring when the Japanese cherry treesare in bloom. The first of these trees planted along the TidalBasin were presented as a gift from the city of Tokyo to the cityof Washington in 1912.