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JEFFERSON, Thomas (1743-1826). Jefferson was the most outstanding American philosopher of the eighteenth century, the ideologist of the bourgeoisdemocratic tendency during the War of Independence of North America, 1775-83 ( q.v. ) and President of the U.S.A., 1801-09. He came from the circles of the land-owning aristocracy of Virginia, and received a broad education. In 1769 he was elected as a member of the legislative assembly of Virginia. After the congress had been dispersed by the English governor in 1775, he became a member of the illegal committees of correspondence. In 1774 he was outlawed for his pamphlet against George III. In 1775 he was elected to the second Continental Congress. In June 1776, on the commission of the Congress, he drew up the Declaration of Independence of the U.S.A. ( q.v. ). The paragraph censuring slavery and slave trade was rejected by the Congress. Between 1777 and 1779 he secured the acceptance of the laws directed toward the eradication of survivals of feudal land-ownership law in Virginia; on his recommendation the “statute on the establishment of religious freedom in Virginia” was accepted. The statute deprived the state Church of England of its privileges, and it exerted an influence on the subsequent separation of church and state in the U.S.A. Between 1779 and 1781 he was governor of Virginia. From 1785-89 he was the U.S. minister to France. Being already acquainted with the literature of French enlightenment, he became a friend of Condorcet and Cabanis ( q.v. ) and a frequenter of the salon of the widow of Helvetius. During 1790-93 he was Secretary of State of the U.S.A.

Jefferson greeted the French bourgeois revolution of the end of the eighteenth century and came forward with a proposal for giving diplomatic and material aid to France. The refusal by Washington’s ( q.v. ) government to follow this policy was the chief cause for his resignation. Not agreeing with certain positions taken by the reactionary Constitution of 1787, Jefferson in 1790-91 advocated a wide movement for introducing a bill of rights ( q.v. ) into the Constitution. He was the founder of the anti-Federalist (Republican) party.

In the background of a violent political struggle, in 1796 Jefferson was elected Vice President, but after the defeat of the Federalists ( q.v. ) in the election of 1800 he became President. In 1804 he was elected President for a second time. Jefferson overruled the reactionary laws introduced by his Federalist predecessor, John Adams ( q.v. ), which dealt with “aliens” and “sedition” and allowed the imprisonment of all “suspicious” people. He introduced several reforms of a bourgeois-democratic character, but he did not take any measures which would touch on the institution of slavery. In 1803 the government bought the state of Louisiana from Napoleonic France for a sum of fifteen million dollars. In 1808-09 diplomatic relations were established with Russia.

At the height of the war between France and England, Jefferson, wishing to prevent America’s entrance into the war and to cut short the seizures of American merchant ships by the warring nations, obtained the prohibition of marine trade between the U.S.A. on the one hand, and England and France on the other (Embargo Act of 1807). This measure met with strong opposition from the upper bourgeoisie , which did not want to yield its commercial profits. In the beginning of March, 1809, this embargo was repealed.