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Thomas Jefferson - Personality Study

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Emma Long

on 9 October 2012

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Transcript of Thomas Jefferson - Personality Study

Thomas Jefferson Motives Negative Actions and Achievements Positive Actions and Achievements One of Thomas Jefferson's motives was his desire to break the traditional link between religion and government, which he achieved by creating the Virginia Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. Jefferson believed in a ‘divine creator who had set creation in motion' but believed that the world did not require any further intervention by a deity in the universe. For Jefferson, God was not a personal saviour and he viewed all established religions as cultural 'artefacts'. As such, he opposed the use of religion by the government as a means of granting privileges or imposing duty upon American citizens. Jefferson argued that using religion in such a way enslaved the human mind, therefore violating the idea of liberty upon which a democracy should be based. Another motive of Jefferson's was his wish for the development of a system of free public education. He believed that all white male Virginians should be educated to literacy at lower schools while the 'naturally superior' of mind should be supported in a system of higher education. These intellectually talented men would then become the natural leaders of the nation. Jefferson asserted that the only barrier to a student's admittance to the university should be his own intellectual limits. Thomas Jefferson was motivated by the idea of equality for all. This is evident in the Declaration of Independence, which he drafted. This declaration stated that "all men are created equal". Contrary to this however, Jefferson owned many slaves who worked on his plantation in Virginia. Religion Education Equality for All According to Thomas Jefferson, one of the main priorities for him as President was the establishment of a "wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another" but would otherwise allow them to regulate their own affairs. He wanted a government that would respect the authority of the individual states, operate with a smaller bureaucracy, and cut its debts. As such, he reduced the number of people employed within the public service. In addition, the Army was cut to two regiments, with similar reductions in the Navy. Changes to the Government History highlights both virtues and faults, and this is certainly evident with Thomas Jefferson. He is usually remembered as one of the greatest presidents of the United States, who contributed to the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, and the establishment of the University of Virginia. However, it is known today that he was also a slave owner, who believed in the racial inferiority of African Americans. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The Declaration of Independence Between June 11 and June 28, 1776 Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. The document not only declares the colonies now an independent nation but justifies the reasons why the colonies broke away from Britain. It also conveys the political philosophy that all men are equal regardless of ancestor and parents. The Declaration of Independence expresses the ideals of the American Revolution and has accentuated the American ideals of freedom and democracy more than any other document. Due to this, Thomas Jefferson is considered as a Founding Father of the United States. The Declaration of Independence helped shaped the values and morals of Americans. It also helped to unite the colonies of America into an independent nation. The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom After drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson campaigned for religious freedoms in the new state government. He believed the State should not support a particular religious sect. With this he passed the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, only opposed by those who believed the Statute was attacking Christianity. The Statute of Religious Freedom was a piece of legislation which allowed religious freedom to take place in America. During Jefferson’s time the idea of religious freedom was revolutionary as religious minorities frequently were suppressed and persecuted. The bill gave individuals the right to follow their own religious paths. University of Virginia In 1819 Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He envisioned a university in which the students were educated in being leaders of practical affairs and for the public. The University of Virginia was the first non-sectarian university in the United States. Thomas Jefferson not only founded the University but also was extremely involved in the designing of the University itself. Jefferson planned the course for the students, recruited the first staff members and designed the Academical Village which was a green space surrounded by the buildings of the university Slavery Although Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence which stated, “All men are created equal”, Thomas Jefferson was the owner of hundreds of slaves which worked on his plantation. He claimed that most former slaves could not survive independently thus his reluctance in granting his slaves freedom. During the time in which he had the most slaves, Jefferson became the second largest slaveholder in Albemarle County. He freed only seven of his male slaves, all members of the Hemings’ family. Embargo Act In 1807 Jefferson issued the Embargo Act in resistance to Britain and France. During this time the Napoleonic wars were taking place and America being neutral, traded goods to both Britain and France. France attacked American ships which had set out to trade with Great Britain and so the Embargo act was implemented. The act prevented the US from importing and exporting goods, mainly from the French and British. The act put many American merchants out of business and dramatically damaged the American economy as it restricted US trade more than France and Britain. France and Britain could easily trade with other countries instead such as Latin America, thus its effects in Europe were not as what Jefferson had hoped. In this way the Act damaged the American economy and did not achieve its aim to pressure France and Britain. Relocation of Indians During Jefferson’s presidency, he supported policies to remove Indian homelands and culture in 1801-1809. This was because he wanted the Indian’s land for agriculture purposes and to “domesticate” the native Indians by discouraging hunting which he described as “savage” and encouraging farming. Jefferson’s beliefs supported by many others forced the Indians to either assimilate into “white culture” by selling their tribal land to the government for agriculture purposes or being removed west into “empty land”. Louisiana Purchase The Louisiana Purchase is considered one of Jefferson’s most significant achievements in 1803. He managed to buy 828,000 acres of land west of America from Napoleon Bonaparte and France for $233M in today’s money- this is equal to 42 cents per acre. This purchase resulted in a very important expansion of America which improved trade success. The United States had twice as much land as they had before the purchase. Without this purchase the US may have remained a fragmented nation. Artist depiction of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson creating the Declaration of Independence Map of the Louisiana Purchase Slaves in America The Embargo Act Map of the relocation of Indians The Declaration of Independence University of Virginia The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom Thomas Jefferson Artist's impression of Thomas Jefferson's slaves Legacy History's Judgement Thomas Jefferson Motives Negative Actions and Achievements Positive Actions and Achievements Legacy History's Judgement Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in the creation of the Declaration of Independence, and it is one of the most important parts of his legacy. The Declaration was a document drafted by Jefferson, with the help of others, and announced the intent of the colonies to separate themselves from the motherland (Great Britain) for good. The Declaration is also well known for the phrase “all men are created equal”. The Declaration led not only to national independence, but also to the formation of a new republic unlike any other government of the time. Declaration of Independence Another part of Jefferson’s legacy was his authorship of the "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom”. This was written in 1777, introduced into the Virginia General Assembly in 1779, and on January 16, 1786, was enacted into state law. It stated that everybody had the freedom to choose their own religion. The Statute broke the traditional link between the church and the state. It was the foundation for the “Religion Clauses in the Constitution's Bill of Rights”, and today, is still part of Virginia’s constitution. Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom Thomas Jefferson is also remembered for his founding of the University of Virginia in 1819. It was the first nonsectarian university in the United States and also the first to use the elective course system. Jefferson was closely involved in the design of the University. For example, he planned the curriculum, recruited the first faculty, and designed the Academical Village. Founding of the University of Virginia The rights that Jefferson advocated for are known as part of his legacy. Among these was the right to freedom. Freedom in government, opinion, religion, speech, business and society were all insisted upon by Jefferson. Rights University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson is usually remembered as one of the ‘greatest presidents of the United States’ and is most often judged in a positive light. He is thought highly of due to his work on the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the founding of the University of Virginia, which were all included on his epitaph. He is also well known for advocating for freedom. Jefferson will always be remembered and praised for his contribution to the Declaration of Independence. However, some of the very principles included in the Declaration, most notably that “all men are created equal”, have been turned against him, as successive generations of critics have condemned him as a hypocritical slave owner. He owned hundreds of slaves, yet was opposed to the ultimate continuation of slavery. Today historians often disagree as to the extent to which Jefferson was committed to the anti-slavery cause. Jefferson and his contemporaries struggled, often unsuccessfully, to reconcile the conflicting claims of power and liberty, and of slavery and freedom. There is also controversy surrounding Jefferson, regarding his alleged relationship with Sally Hemings. During his first term as president, a political journalist claimed that Jefferson had been in a relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, and was the father to her six children. During the 20th century, some historians accepted the possibility of the relationship, although most disagreed. DNA tests were conducted in 1998; however, the results were inconclusive. Although some historians have noted that there is evidence to support other possible fathers, the majority now believe that Jefferson was in fact the father of Hemings children. Jefferson has stated that he believed in the racial inferiority of African Americans. Whilst this was the most common attitude of the time, he is today criticised for this belief. He concluded that “the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” Historians view Jefferson's reasoning as an example of how even the ‘most brilliant of minds’ can fail to escape the cultural baggage and context of its age. 'Greatest President' Hypocrisy Jefferson-Hemings Relationship Racial Inferiority Thomas Jefferson's epitaph Bibliography
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