Personal opinion based ranking (1 meaning burn the man, 5 being complete indifference, 10 being still awful but could be a lot worse):
4. I know it feels repetitive, but hear me out. I consider Thomas Jefferson to be on the same level as John Adams. I have heard a lot of positive things about him—people tend to admire him for being an academic and a renaissance man—but he was also historically racist and just an all around asshole. He was the other side of the rivalry that I mentioned in the last article; he and John Adams hated each other. Granted, his side of the rivalry was a lot less interesting as Adams refused to go to Jefferson’s inauguration and his dying words were used to scorn him, but still. I almost placed him at a 3, because not only is he an asshole, he isn’t even as interesting as some of the other assholes that have run this country, but I figured that would be a petty thing to put him down for.
Background, context, and commentary:
Jefferson was born into a wealthy family in Virginia. His father ran a plantation that he was raised on and destined to inherit. He had a privileged enough childhood to focus heavily on his studies, but by the time he was a teenager his father had died and he had to take care of the plantation. He grew up and proceeded to graduate from the College of William and Mary and then went to study law.
He married about a decade later to a woman named Martha Wayles Skelton. His relationship with his family was, in my opinion, the most interesting and most horrific part about him, but we’ll see about that later. He had six children with Martha before she died while pregnant with their last child. Four of their six died before they turned eighteen, so Jefferson was left with only the remaining daughters. He claimed to be supportive of individual liberty all his life, but refused to free his slaves or acknowledge that they are not less than white people.
He didn’t get along with quite a few people during his political career, the most notable being John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. The first time he ran for president he ran against John Adams. He lost, so he was placed in the role of Vice President to the man he hated. The second time he ran against Adams again, but this time he won. During his presidency he was responsible for the Louisiana purchase, started the Lewis and Clark expedition, and attempted to keep us out of war but ended up putting us into one. Take these as you will.
Five interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson
1.He was an awful public speaker Thomas Jefferson was historically bad at public speaking and most likely had a fear of it as well. He was always known to be an academic, but public speaking was not one of his better skills.
2. He collected books I really don’t like the idea of comparing myself to Thomas Jefferson, but I can’t help it in this case. I, too, have an unhealthy love for books that will inevitably lead to my financial downfall. He had a collection of nearly 6,500 volumes that he eventually sold to the Library of Congress. He sold them to pay off some of the massive debts he had acquired then proceeded to use the money to buy even more books.
3. He really liked ice cream What is assumed to have happened was that he tried ice cream while working in France and, because he was rich, made it so he had access to it when he got back to America. This could have been what led to the more common usage of it today.
4. He played the violin I’m not sure if I have to elaborate on this one. He learned it in his schooling years and continued throughout the rest of his life.
5. He had an affair with one of his slaves who was also supposedly his wife’s half-sister Sound complicated? Sound like rich white men abusing their slaves because they felt like they’re entitled? That’s because that's what it is! The story is that Martha Wayles’s father had an affair with one of his female slaves who then gave birth to Sally Hemings, and when she grew up Thomas Jefferson had an affair with her. It’s likely that he fathered many of Sally’s children as well.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading about how screwed up our history was and please join me next week to do the same with our next president: James Madison. If I made any errors or there is something I missed please let me know. I have far too much presidential knowledge in my head so everything that you read were things that I already had floating around.
Madelyn Rogers is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Cad.