Who was Thomas Jefferson? Most people would answer that he is the author of the Declaration of Independence, a former president or a founding father. All of these answers would be correct, however, there are more interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson that many people are unaware of. Aside from earning an array of political titles, Jefferson did work trying to improve poverty, education and diplomacy both in and outside of the United States of America, yet these actions are frequently unheard of. It’s time to unearth Jefferson’s efforts in these areas by taking a look at the top 10 interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson.
Top 10 Interesting Facts About Thomas Jefferson
- He served as a U.S. Minister to France. Jefferson had a vast appreciation for the French culture. He was enamored with its cuisine, art and architecture. However, he also developed a distaste for France’s aristocracy and was dissatisfied with the state of poverty in France. Jefferson was disheartened with the mass amounts of poverty in France and is quoted saying, “I find the general fate of humanity here, most deplorable.”
- Jefferson supported poorhouses. Poorhouses were institutions that tended to members of the lower class. Jefferson strongly believed that poorhouses were underfunded and had failed in achieving their mission. Throughout his political career, Jefferson endorsed and sought to reform poorhouses.
- He wanted all children to have access to education. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson states that all children should learn some sort of “some art, trade or business”, but first, they should attend public school for a minimum of three years. He wished to ensure education for all children, specifically those who could not afford it, even if it came at public expense.
- Jefferson wrote his personal views on poverty into the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson spent much of his political career trying to save ordinary citizens from oppressive aristocrats. Jefferson touches on his personal views in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote that all men are born with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In Jefferson’s eyes, all men were born equal.
- He believed in self-reliance. Jefferson believed the government should assume responsibility for the poor, but he also wished to go beyond this. Jefferson wanted to make the poor self-reliant so they could prosper. Many of his poverty proposals were geared towards urgent needs and were meant to be used as a temporary solution until a person could get back on their feet.
- Jefferson believed in health care. Jefferson believed in the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Jefferson thought that “without health, there is no happiness.” Throughout his life, Jefferson made numerous attempts to improve health care. While he was in Paris, Jefferson worked alongside health care reformers to try to revise the French health care system. He carried his passion for health back with him to the United States and fought to reduce disparities in health amongst Americans.
- He supported the French Revolution. From one revolution to another, Thomas Jefferson believed that all people should have liberty, and he was a vigorous advocate of the French Revolution. During the revolution, Jefferson allowed Marquis de Lafayette and his fellow rebels to host meetings in his private residence. He also assisted Lafayette in drafting the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
- Jefferson wanted slaves to receive an education. In a letter that Jefferson wrote to Robert Pleasants, he advocated that Virginia’s educational system should provide education for slaves to prepare them for freedom. Jefferson pushed Peasants to introduce this legislation. Jefferson saw education as a means of empowering the powerless to empower themselves.
- Jefferson was a diplomat. Jefferson made numerous contributions to U.S. foreign policy. While the Minister in France, he negotiated a highly successful commercial treaty with Prussia. As President, he solved longstanding quarrels with France over navigation rights in the Mississippi River when he purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte.
- He was George Washington’s Secretary of State. Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary of State. He was appointed in 1790 and served until 1793. During his time as Secretary of State, Jefferson successfully enacted a policy of neutrality in the war between England and France.
These top 10 interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson illustrate how even more than 200 years ago, founding fathers were working to address issues that the world still faces today. As for Jefferson, if being the author of the Declaration of Independence and President of the United States wasn’t already enough, these top 10 interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson reveal his efforts to improve poverty, education and hostile foreign relations.
– Gabriella Gonzalez