Thomas Jefferson The Cornerstone Of American Law Thomas Jefferson George Washington

Thomas Jefferson is one of those almost mythic figures from early American history that stand tall as one of the great heroes of the revolution and the early definition of what this country was going to become. Sometimes it’s easy to look at a figure that stands so tall in history and think, perhaps some of that is myth. But when you look at the history of the times, he was every bit as great as our adoration of him suggests he was.

Thomas Jefferson’s service to the new American union lasted over fifty years. He not only contributed to the core philosophical underpinnings upon which our democracy I based, he served in a variety of offices and made some phenomenal contributions to the developing country including…

* 1775 – Served in the Continental Congress

* 1776 – Wrote the Declaration of Independence

* 1779-1781 – Governor of Virginia

* 1783 – Elected to Congress

* 1784-1789 – Commissioner and minister to France

* 1790-1793 – America’s first Secretary of State under George Washington

* 1797-1801 – Served as Vice President of the United States

* 1801-1809 – Third President of the United States

* 1803 – Approved of and helped launch the Lewis and Clark Expedition

* 1803 – Purchased the Louisiana Territory for the United States

* 1815 – Launched the Library of Congress

* 1825 – founded the University of Virginia

This phenomenal record of achievement is virtually unmatched in any public service record of comparable public servants. But Jefferson’s contribution were more than just offices served, he was one or two or three key philosophical thinkers of his time that laid the ideological foundations of America.

It is impossible to overemphasize the accomplishment he writing the Declaration of Independence. This document has taken on such a central position in American history that it is viewed with the reverence usually reserved for religious documents. It so eloquently communicates the beliefs and the values of the American system of government that Jefferson can be seen as a true minister and prophet of those ideals.

Thomas Jefferson also believed strongly in Manifest Destiny and the westward expansion of the country as far as the Pacific Ocean. He provided the inspiration, the funding and the political muscle to launch the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition that was responsible for discovering vast new lands and treasures in the heartland of America and providing inspiration to a country to “go west young man” and to achieve that dream of becoming a nation that stretched “for sea to shining sea”.

Jefferson had a thirst for knowledge that was virtually unquenchable. He passed that passion for learning on in the building of the University of Virginia. But his contribution to education that has made such a huge mark on American society was the building of the American library system by which citizens of any community can have access to large volumes of information at no cost. It was an amazing experiment in public education. But today few of us can imagine a world where we cannot at any time just “go check it out at the library”. Libraries have become that central to the American way of life.

It seems that Thomas Jefferson made an impact on every aspect of society from the educational systems of the growing country to government and even making his viewpoints on religious freedom an important part of how America approached this crucial topic. The entire concept of “separation of church and state” was one that Jefferson championed.

It should be noted that in his writings it was clear that the separation of church and state works because it is there to restrict government from illegally restricting the religious rights of citizens. Sometimes we misinterpret Jefferson’s concepts that this governmental restriction is there to limit religious freedom when in fact, it is there to encourage all the religious freedom that the citizens of America need to honor and worship with complete openness and to never fear that the government will hinder who, what, when, where or how they go about expressing their religious ideas.

It’s important to look back at the genius of this man, Thomas Jefferson and be grateful that he was the man of the hour for such an important time in the development of the great nation of the United States of America.

There are just a few truly great documents that represent the foundation stones upon which the American system of government was built. One is the Declaration of Independence. Another is The Bill of Rights. But when it comes to the legal girding that we always go back to in order to test if a law in this land can stand or fall, it is the Constitution of the United States of America that is that backbone that defines right and wrong for us.

Indeed you might even say that the sole reason we have a Supreme Court is to have a living body that is here to decide on, interpret and enforce constitutional law. And what is the worse accusation anyone can make about any act that is in question from a government agency? “That’s unconstitutional” is that accusation. That is how powerful this document is in American life, legal definitions and culture.

The historical context of the signing of The Constitution was The Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia. That city witnessed many such historic events which enshrine its place in the history of the country to be sure. The framers of that Constitution would have to be considered without question the most intelligent and well educated men certainly of their time and maybe of any time. That document was so well crafted that it has lasted as a legal standard for over 200 years with no signs that its power will diminish for hundreds of years more. But in that context, the Constitution is the oldest document of its kind in existence in the world and the original is carefully protected but on display in Washington DC.

The Constitution reflected the best of some of the oldest legal documents of similar intent that went back hundreds of years into history. As such the Constitution includes ideas drawn from the Magna Carta, the French political philosopher Montesquieu, The Code of Hammurabi, the law of the Old Testament, ancient Greek political ideology from such writers as Polybius as well as Common Law from England. So while the core ideas of the Constitution draw from some of the greatest systems of government and ideologies from history, the outcome is a unique format for governing a people that was so untried that it was considered to be “The Great American Experiment.”

The Constitution is divided into seven “articles” each of which discusses one of the divisions of government. Articles one through three discuss the three branches of government including the legislative, the executive and the judicial. Article four goes into depth about the rights and powers reserved to the states. It is clear to see that the framers knew the importance of leaving much of the power of governing at the local and state level and that those rights needed to be preserved at the foundational document of the society, The Constitution.

Other articles discuss the ratification process and federal power. But the wisdom of the framers of The Constitution lie in article five which outlines a process of amendments which leaves room for additional work to be done to keep the Constitution up to date to changes that need to be made. As such the Constitution has remained a living document for all of these years and will continue to be seen in that light for many decades and centuries to come.

Thomas Jefferson is one of those almost mythic figures from early American history that stand tall as one of the great heroes of the revolution and the early definition of what this country was going to become. Sometimes it’s easy to look at a figure that stands so tall in history and think, perhaps some of that is myth. But when you look at the history of the times, he was every bit as great as our adoration of him suggests he was.

Thomas Jefferson’s service to the new American union lasted over fifty years. He not only contributed to the core philosophical underpinnings upon which our democracy I based, he served in a variety of offices and made some phenomenal contributions to the developing country including…

* 1775 – Served in the Continental Congress

* 1776 – Wrote the Declaration of Independence

* 1779-1781 – Governor of Virginia

* 1783 – Elected to Congress

* 1784-1789 – Commissioner and minister to France

* 1790-1793 – America’s first Secretary of State under George Washington

* 1797-1801 – Served as Vice President of the United States

* 1801-1809 – Third President of the United States

* 1803 – Approved of and helped launch the Lewis and Clark Expedition

* 1803 – Purchased the Louisiana Territory for the United States

* 1815 – Launched the Library of Congress

* 1825 – founded the University of Virginia

This phenomenal record of achievement is virtually unmatched in any public service record of comparable public servants. But Jefferson’s contribution were more than just offices served, he was one or two or three key philosophical thinkers of his time that laid the ideological foundations of America.

It is impossible to overemphasize the accomplishment he writing the Declaration of Independence. This document has taken on such a central position in American history that it is viewed with the reverence usually reserved for religious documents. It so eloquently communicates the beliefs and the values of the American system of government that Jefferson can be seen as a true minister and prophet of those ideals.

Thomas Jefferson also believed strongly in Manifest Destiny and the westward expansion of the country as far as the Pacific Ocean. He provided the inspiration, the funding and the political muscle to launch the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition that was responsible for discovering vast new lands and treasures in the heartland of America and providing inspiration to a country to “go west young man” and to achieve that dream of becoming a nation that stretched “for sea to shining sea”.

Jefferson had a thirst for knowledge that was virtually unquenchable. He passed that passion for learning on in the building of the University of Virginia. But his contribution to education that has made such a huge mark on American society was the building of the American library system by which citizens of any community can have access to large volumes of information at no cost. It was an amazing experiment in public education. But today few of us can imagine a world where we cannot at any time just “go check it out at the library”. Libraries have become that central to the American way of life.

It seems that Thomas Jefferson made an impact on every aspect of society from the educational systems of the growing country to government and even making his viewpoints on religious freedom an important part of how America approached this crucial topic. The entire concept of “separation of church and state” was one that Jefferson championed.

It should be noted that in his writings it was clear that the separation of church and state works because it is there to restrict government from illegally restricting the religious rights of citizens. Sometimes we misinterpret Jefferson’s concepts that this governmental restriction is there to limit religious freedom when in fact, it is there to encourage all the religious freedom that the citizens of America need to honor and worship with complete openness and to never fear that the government will hinder who, what, when, where or how they go about expressing their religious ideas.

It’s important to look back at the genius of this man, Thomas Jefferson and be grateful that he was the man of the hour for such an important time in the development of the great nation of the United States of America.

It is impossible to reflect on the truly great leadership that has been one of the real blessings of this nation without including the name of George Washington in that list. In fact, in almost anyone’s “top ten” list of truly great presidents, Washington would almost certainly top the list. His stature in American history is legendary and the respect Americans have for this their first president borders on adoration of myth.

In fact, there is a lot of myth and some humor about our first president that reflects the love people have for this great leader. From the many quips about his supposed wooden teeth to the thousands of places around the nation that proclaim “George Washington slept here”, to the mythical story of how he threw a silver dollar across the Potomac as a child or his response when he was caught cutting down a cheery tree and responded to the accusation “I cannot tell a lie”, Washington’s myth is strong in the national memory of this great leader.

Washington never set out to become the greatest president of all time or even to be in a position of leadership in the new country he helped to start. He was the one who originated the concept of a “citizen president” and he believed so strongly in that concept that he refused to run for a third term because his time as citizen leader was over. This tradition was sustained with little exception until it was codified into part of our constitution in the form of the 22nd amendment.

But before Washington was a great political leader, he showed his tremendous leadership skills on the field of battle. He learned the art of warfare serving honorably in the French and Indian war and his influence and the respect he had earned during that conflict netted him the title of commander and chief of the American Army when the continental congress created that role in 1775. Small wonder when he ascended to the presidency some years later, he carried the responsibility of commander and chief with him to the presidency where it continues to reside today even though few of our modern presidents have the military credentials of Washington.

When commanding the troops during the revolutionary war, a famous incident that has been captured beautifully by artists was his decision to cross the Delaware in New Jersey to stage a surprise attack and win the battle against the British. It was yet another brilliant maneuver that showed his firm grasp of military strategy and only served to add to his fame and reputation as an outstanding leader of men.

After the war, Washington again was interested in retiring from public life but he was never one to turn away when his nation needed him. And needed him it did as he presided over the Continental Congress to assure the successful drafting of the US Constitution. Of the many great accomplishments of his life, his ability to provide leadership and inspiration to that assembly to produce this masterpiece of American political ligature would certainly be ranked as perhaps his finest hour.

George Washington was rewarded for his superior leadership skills when he was given the awesome responsibility of serving as the nations first President of the United States. His wisdom and insight into what the nation needed at east stage of its early development made him the man of the hour for a struggling republic. Few recognize that one of his greatest contributions to the presidency was recognizing that the nation was torn and weary of war. So using his considerable influence and negotiating skills, Washington signed a number of important treaties that resulted in years of peace that were needed to turn the country from thoughts of war to thoughts of building a great nation.

Washington never tired of providing leadership for two terms as the first American president and it was he who decided not to serve a third term and returned once again to private life. But his impact on the nation and the world was profound and long lasting. It was the kind of nation shaping influence that truly earned him the title associated to him to this day of “father of the nation.”

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