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Thomas Jefferson


"God who gave us life gave us liberty.1 Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.2 "

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Attribution: Note 1. “Draft of Instructions to the Virginia Delegates in the Continental Congress,” The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, vol. 1, p. 135 (1950)

Note 2. “Notes on the State of Virginia,” query 18, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 3, p. 267 (1894)

This is an except from the inscription on the northeast quadrant of the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C., selected by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission, from several writings of Jefferson’s.

Thomas Jefferson


3rd President of the United States (1801–9), author of the Declaration of Independence. Born April 13, 1743, at Shadwell in Goochland (now in Albemarle) County, VA. After graduating from the College of William and Mary in 1762 he studied law. As a delegate to the Second Continental Congress (1775–76), he served as a member of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Except for minor alterations by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin and some others made on the floor of Congress, that document was wholly the work of Jefferson. In 1779, Jefferson succeeded Patrick Henry as governor of Virginia. In 1800 Jefferson tied with Aaron Burr in the presidential election but was elected after a long deadlock by the House of Representatives. Jefferson was the first President inaugurated in Washington, D.C., a city he had helped to plan. After 1809, Jefferson retired at Monticello. During these years he was able to help found of the University of Virginia. President of the American Philosophical Society (1797–1815), Jefferson was a scientist, an architect, and a philosopher-statesman, vitally interested in literature, the arts, and every phase of human activity.

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