I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. — Thomas Jefferson

America First - Lawton Evans

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was born near Charlottesville, Virginia, April 13, 1743. His father was a sturdy backwoods surveyor, of giant size and strength, whom his son always remembered with pride and veneration. His mother belonged to one of the prominent families of Virginia, and from her young Jefferson inherited his love for nature, music, and books.

Jefferson's father owned a farm of nearly two thousand acres, on which he had thirty slaves; he raised large crops of wheat and tobacco. He was a stern, though kind, just, and generous man. He often said to his son, "Never ask another to do for you what you can do for yourself." He died when Thomas was fourteen years of age.

From early childhood, Jefferson was a bright boy. He had his mother's gentle and thoughtful disposition, and, by nature, took readily to reading. His love of outdoor sports saved him from overstudy. He became a keen hunter, was a dead shot with a rifle, a fine dancer, and rode a horse with great skill.

He entered William and Mary College, at Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia, when he was seventeen years of age. The college stood at one end of the main street, the old capitol at the other. On the same street there was situated an inn, known as Raleigh Tavern, in which was a room called "The Apollo," used as a dancing-hall. Here Jefferson was one of the leaders. He was described as a tall, thin young student, "with red hair, a freckled face, and pointed features," whom everybody liked, and who was brilliant at the college.

After graduating, he began to study law. When he became twenty-one years of age, he celebrated the event by planting an avenue of trees near his home. Some of those trees are still standing, a memorial to his love of nature and his desire to make things beautiful.

Among the friends of Jefferson, at this time, was a jovial young fellow, noted for his "mimicry, practical jokes, and dancing." Nobody thought he amounted to much, for he was most always frolicking. He and Jefferson became bosom friends, and spent much of their time together. They saw in each other qualities of mind of which the world did not yet know.

One day, while Jefferson was standing at the door of the capitol, a member of the House of Burgesses was delivering a most eloquent address. Everybody was amazed at the wonderful oratory of the man. Jefferson recognized him as his friend, Patrick Henry, who was making his famous speech against the Stamp Act.

Jefferson never forgot the scene. The sublime words that poured from Henry's lips took his breath away, and he listened as one enraptured. He resolved, from that moment, that he too would serve his country, and at once redoubled his studious habits, often spending as long as fifteen hours a day over his books. The result was, Jefferson became one of the most accomplished scholars in America. He was a brilliant mathematician, and knew five languages besides his own.

At the age of twenty-four, Jefferson began to practice law. His voice was not strong, and he was never a good speaker. His manner was hesitating and embarrassed, and his ideas did not find easy expression in spoken words. But he was a great writer and thinker, and, in a few years, he was known as the best lawyer in Virginia.

Jefferson was also a farmer. He loved to look over his broad fields and to attend to his growing crops. He once said, "No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of a garden."

He delighted in experimenting with new things, and imported a large number of trees and shrubs to beautify the grounds of his home which he named "Monticello." He was as proud of being a successful farmer as he was of being a great lawyer.

Jefferson wrote the rules which he considered essential for a practical person to follow:

1. Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.
2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
3. Never spend your money before you have it.
4. Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap.
5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, or cold.
6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
8. How much pain we have suffered from the evils that never happened.
9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
10. When angry count ten before you speak: if very angry count a hundred.

His manners were plain and simple. When he was President of the United States, he did not stand aloof from the people, as other great men of the day did, but he encouraged everybody to be on familiar terms with him. He did not have the splendid parties and balls at the White House that other Presidents had, but lived quietly and without much display.

Jefferson's great fame lies in the fact that he wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was then thirty-three years of age, and one of the youngest members of the Continental Congress. It is among the greatest of our national documents. He secured legislation in Virginia, exempting taxation for the support of any church, and was the founder of the University of Virginia.

At "Monticello," he entertained with lavish hospitality, sometimes having as many as fifty guests in his house at one time. Some of these visitors stayed for months, imposing on his hospitality, with the result that in his old age he was much reduced in his circumstances.


Front Matter

Leif, the Lucky
Spaniards Conquer Mexico
Conquest of Peru
The Fountain of Youth
De Soto and the Mississippi
Sir Walter Raleigh
The Lost Colony
Adventures of John Smith
More about John Smith
Pilgrims and Puritans
Miles Standish
Building a Canoe
Roger Williams
Old Silver Leg
William Penn
The Charter Oak
Bloody Marsh
Saving of Hadley
Sir William Phips
Hannah Dustin
Israel Putnam
A Young Surveyor
Young Washington
Indians and Major Putnam
How Detroit was Saved
Blackbeard the Pirate
Daniel Boone
Sunday in the Colonies
The Salem Witches
Traveling by Stage-coach
King George and the Colonies
Patrick Henry
Paul Revere
Green Mountain Boys
Father of his Country
Nathan Hale
Elizabeth Zane
Capturing the Hessians
Lafayette Comes to America
Lydia Darrah
Captain Molly Pitcher
The Swamp Fox
Outwitting a Tory
Supporting the Colors
Nancy Hart
Mad Anthony
Execution of Major Andre
How Schuyler was Saved
An Indian Trick
Winning the Northwest
Benjamin Franklin
Nolichucky Jack
Eli Whitney
Thomas Jefferson
Burning of the Philadelphia
Lewis and Clark
Colter's Race for Life
Pike Explores Arkansas Valley
How Pumpkins Saved a Family
Old Ironsides
Star Spangled Banner
Traveling by Canal
Lafayette Returns
Osceola, Seminole Chief
Journey by Railroad
Old Hickory
Daniel Webster
Henry Clay
Plantation Christmas
John C. Calhoun
Heroes of the Alamo
Freedom for Texas
Electric Telegraph
Gold in California
Crossing Continent
The Pony Express
Boy Who Saved Village
Rescue of Jerry
Abraham Lincoln
Robert E. Lee
Stonewall Jackson
Stealing a Locomotive
Sam Davis
Escape from Prison
Running the Blockade
Heart of the South
Surrender of Lee
Laying the Atlantic Cable
The Telephone
Thomas A. Edison
Clara Barton
Hobson and the Merrimac
Dewey at Manila Bay
Conquering Yellow Fever
Sinking of Lusitania
Private Treptow
Frank Luke, Aviator
Sergeant York