Return to Thomas Jefferson (person)

[Thomas Jefferson] was a [complex] person. There were deep [ambiguities] in his thinking, which made any effort at consistency impossible. Alhtough [Federalist] historians have cited these ambiguities as evidence of a [moral] [taint], a [constitutional] [shiftness] of mind, they may in fact be traced to a continuously [ambivalent] personal and [political] history. He valued much more highly the achievements of his father, whom he intensely admired, than the social status of his mother, whose influence he never acknowledged; but from the beginning he was aware of both the asssurance of the [aristoracy] and the real [merits] and talents of men who came from unkown families.When he came to maturity, [Jefferson] was a slaveowner and yet a revolutionist, who could say that man's rights were "[unalienable]" at the very moment when heowned several dozen souls. All his life he circulated among men of wealth, learning, andd distinction, and as befitted one who disliked acrimony he learned to accommodate himself to them- but he also absorbed the most [libera]l and questionable opinions of his age and associated on congenial] terms with men like [THomas Paine] and [Joel Barlow]. In American [politics] he became a leader of [yeomen] farmers- but also of great planters. He was the head of a popular faction that stood against the [commercial] interests- but it was also a propertied [faction] with acquisitive [aspirations] of his own. He wanted with all his heart to hold the values of [agrarian society], and yet be believed in progress. Add to all this the fact that he lived an unusually long [life], saw many changes, and tried to adapt his views to changing circumstances.

One of his most famous quotes is from his [First Inaugural Address]:

"that [man] cannot be trusted with the [government] himself. Can he, then be trusted with the [government] of others?"