The Greatest President: Thomas Jefferson

Daniel Cowdrill

Ronald Reagan is no Thomas Jefferson. 

For Britain, maintaining her imperial control of the Americas came with an expensive price-tag. The Seven Years War plunged the British exchequer into the red, and Parliament imposed a series of taxes on the American colonists to improve the public finances. These included the Townsend Act, secured in Parliament on the 2nd of July 1767. This was a tax on consumption articles like tea and managed to rally a lot of pissed off American consumers to the cause of independence. 

A patriot organisation called ‘The Sons of Liberty’ argued that Americans were not represented in Parliament and therefore Westminster had no right to exhort taxes. In protest the Sons of Liberty threw tons of taxed tea into Boston harbour, an act of disobedience that became known as the Boston Tea Party. Outraged, the British Government were having none of it, and they legislated to bring the colonists into line. The Boston Port Act for example, closed the port until expenses in lost taxes had been paid to the British East India Company.

Thomas Jefferson, published his ‘Rights of British America’ in 1774. It justified the Boston Tea Party and argued that the British had no natural right to coerce the Americans. He can rightly be placed in the pantheon of Enlightenment writers with Thomas Paine and De Tocqueville at his side.   

On the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, Jefferson was appointed to the five-man committee which drafted a resolution of independence, latter becoming a declaration. Jefferson’s tract outlining his objection to the slave trade was drafted out, however his leading role in the declaration’s writing makes Jefferson more than a President, but the Architect of the American system of government and the author of America’s soul. 

Politically he founded the Democratic-Republican party which dominated American politics for a quarter of a century, during which time Jefferson himself occupied the Oval Office. He is consistently ranked by academic surveys as one of the top four greatest American Presidents. In my eyes he is the greatest because through his intellect and rejection of British claims, he laid the coping stones of America’s sense of itself and its purpose. It is worth reciting those famous lines penned by the President who I think deserves the title of the greatest of the US Presidents.

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles & organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness.

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3 thoughts on “The Greatest President: Thomas Jefferson

  1. “All men are created equal” – I suppose Jefferson’s owning of slaves makes this little excerpt a classic case of ‘do as I say, and not as I do’…

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